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Rancher in jail for a year over water rights

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Arcli9ht, May 9, 2004.

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  1. Arcli9ht

    Arcli9ht Member

    Feb 8, 2003
  2. carpettbaggerr

    carpettbaggerr Member

    Nov 13, 2003
    WILLCOX, Ariz., May 4 — "Sometimes a man has to die for what he believes in before anyone knowed he truly believed it," said Wally Klump, a 70-year-old rancher who sits in jail because he refuses to remove some cows from federal land.

    Mr. Klump has spent the last year behind bars for repeatedly thumbing his nose at a judge's order to remove 28 cows from the Dos Cabezas mountain range here in southwest Arizona, land owned by the Bureau of Land Management but ranched by the Klump clan for 100 years.

    Last week, Judge John Roll of Federal District Court summoned Mr. Klump from solitary confinement and asked him again if he had had a change of heart. Mr. Klump said he had not and was returned to jail. Now Mr. Klump promises to spend the rest of his natural days behind bars in canvas shoes instead of on the open range in cowboy boots.

    "It's a land grab and a water grab," Mr. Klump said. "The government's trying to steal my land."

    Mr. Klump acknowledges, however, that he and his family do not own most of the land, but have the common-law claim to the use of nearly 500 square miles of it. He said he believed he would lose his claims to the coveted groundwater if he did not have cattle drinking it.

    At the heart of the dispute, Mr. Klump says, are liberty, water and preservation of the Western life that he will not idly watch evaporate.

    "I want to show the American people how to live," he said in the visitors' room of a private jail in Florence, a two-hour drive northwest of his ranch near Willcox. The Klumps own about 50 square miles of land.

    Government agents have decided not to round up Mr. Klump's livestock as they have done in the past, since he has threatened to shoot them dead. While this is impossible from behind bars, his family remains on the land and the government prefers not to provoke them.

    Mr. Klump said he had never been in jail before. He has never been to New York or Los Angeles or even Amarillo, Tex., for that matter. He is tall, his body without a trace of excess. His face is severe, his hands soft from disuse, and he walked about the jail with a defeated shuffle.

    "Ownership by the government is tyranny," he said. "Ownership by the rich is feudalism. The people become slaves. I'm talking about land and liberty. I'm doing this for the people. Not for me."

    And here he wept, drew a laborious breath, wiped his nose in disgust at himself and said, "Shoot."

    Without enough private land to raise a profitable amount of livestock, ranchers have long leased adjacent land owned by the government. The arrangement for decades was friendly, even when the government rearranged the process in 1934 to stop desperate cattlemen of the Dust Bowl from killing each other.

    Mr. Klump said the government even helped his father put a barbed wire fence around his allotment. Ranchers used the allotted land pretty much as they saw fit until the mid-70's when environmental regulations severely curtailed agricultural operations and grazing rights. It is these grazing rights Mr. Klump is charged with violating.

    At the same time, agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service staked claims to water that had been claimed by ranchers decades ago, in case the ranchers should ever abandon their properties or forfeit them.

    The West is growing at a pace that has it tapping every water source. The population of Arizona, for instance, is expected to grow by 40 percent in the next 20 years.

    Despite spending $5 billion on an aqueduct to deliver Colorado River water 2,400 feet up and 335 miles across the state, Arizona still draws about 45 percent of its water from the ground. Every year the subterranean water is depleted by 2.5 million acre feet and officials wonder where the future's water will come from. Recycled toilet water is one idea. The retirement of ranchers is another.

    "Anyone whose livelihood depends on the water is feeling the pinch," said John Lavelle, a spokesman with the Arizona Department of Water Resources. "You can't blame a man like that for feeling threatened."

    About 20,000 ranchers have their cattle grazing on federal land in the West, and how the land and water regulations are being enforced is the key to their survival or death.
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