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I say again that we have already bought and paid for these lands. These range rights, while intangible, are pretty well fixed and in many cases fairly certain as to boundaries, but many of them are interlocking, interwoven; that is, many men use all or a part of a given country and at different seasons. To segregate these rights is the difficult problem.
These range rights, by the customs of usage, have been based pretty much upon prior use, provided it was a use acquired according to the custom of the locality and this has been fairly uniform. The ownership of land has been
and should be an important factor in determining range rights, and in this determination both range and ranch lands should be considered.
The fact is, that the right to the use of the range has followed the right to the use of water for irrigation and mining, which was but an accepted custom or practice. To-day the only difference is that the right to the use of water has been acknowledged by the courts, the States, and the United States, while the right to the use of the range has not been so approved. It has not been legalized.
Water rights have been legalized and are well settled under pretty thoroughly defined and fixed laws.
The range rights should now be determined under these same laws of prior use and occupancy, in so far as applicable, and these rights acknowledged, to he transferred only by the owner, to be reduced only for range protection, and lost only by nonuse.
Any law of Congress or rule or regulation of a governmental department which does not recognize this principle will be wrong and out of harmony with the principles of this Government.
A greater injustice would not be done if the water was taken back and sold or put under supervision.. There is no difference. The water falls upon the Government land. The feed grows upon it.
The great big-hearted American policy has recognized the rights to the range and to the use of water and the Government can not go back and say, "This is mine." They can not be "Indian_givers.”
I know and you know this is right. Lets stay with it. We have had enough of this thing of being trespassers under a mere privilege. These range rights are the basis of the livestock business of the West.
Having determined this question, we can now look with an open mind and business judgment as to whether these lands shall be sold, leased, or put under supervision.
There is one very potent deciding factor arises here. It is the fact that livestock can not be grazed and find feed on the same land every year. One year there may be good feed in one locality in the spring and nothing there the next year. This is peculiarly true on the winter ranges.
One winter the snow is just the right depth; the next winter there is no snow there and no water, or the snow may be so deep that it is impossible for stock to get there or live if they were there. Or the snow may be just right to-day and the feed good, and to-morrow the snow be all gone and no water; or worse yet, be covered with a depth of snow so deep that nothing can live.
This condition is so true and so certain to happen on the winter ranges and the resulting loss, if one could not go to another locality, is so disastrous that this particular angle of the situation must have careful consideration. This is nothing for a novice to fool with.
Let us suppose you own 10,000 ewes. You buy or lease a certain area for winter range. You drift down to that land and there is no water there and no snow there; or worse yet, the snow is so deep you can not get there. Nothing can live there. You can not go to another locality. All the other land will be owned or leased by others.
Death of sheep and ruination tells the whole story.
So true is this and so certain to happen, that I believe whatever is done, the winter ranges should be left as they are. They should be excepted.
There are many angles to this question of leasing or buying, other than the difficulty of obtaining the money. In considering either buying or leasing, we must ever keep in mind "State taxes" as the lease is an interest or estate in lands and is taxable.
Now passing on to governmental supervision of these ranges we are confronted with the peculiar situation touched upon at the beginning. That it is not the people that want to do anything with the public domain. Government department heads.
It is the
Colonel Greeley, Chief Forester, says they have been trying to do this for several years and that now a wise public policy demands that it be done, and that it is for the public good. What is meant by this wise public policy and the public good? These are terms used by politicians to help their side of the argument.
Now, lets not be fooled. These governmental heads are not any better citizens than we are, and they don't love the people or the public any more or as much as we do. It is money they are after. This is too plainly shown by their actions the last few years crystalized into the Rachford report and called "Value of the Grass." They admit that the cattlemen can not afford to pay what they say the grass is worth to the cattlemen.
Let me tell you something right here. Our outfit pays $2,000 a year for its forest permit. Under the Rachford report that will be $4,000. We are on the reserve three months and nine months off, or three times as long off as on; therefore the fee for fall, winter, and spring pasture would be three times four, or $12,000, plus the summer fee of $4,000, or $16,000 for the year. You laugh and say that is absurd, and so it is, but so is the Rachford scheme.
And they not only ask us to accept the Rachford report but ask us to look pleasant. I would like to see a stock outfit pay for the year-round feed on the Rachford basis and then look pleasant. But they will say: "Oh! No! We don't propose that." I say again: "Don't be fooled. We heard that before." The only safe way is to write the cost into the bill. Lets put it in there. Now, what about the range lands owned by the stockmen. Once the domain is supervised they are of no value. In some places supervision can not be satisfactory with these lands in private ownership.
The fair thing is for the Government to buy them back at the price paid by the owner, and pay for them either in cash or allocation of fees.
Lets write this in the bill also. There are going to be many troublesome questions. Who is going to decide them, the stockman or the forest officer? No party should decide his own case. Let us have an impartial tribunal do that. We want a court to make the final decision, and we want that court to sit in the West. Not in Washington, London, or Europe.
If the domain is to be administered, then who is to do it? The Secretary of the Interior wants to do it, and the Secretary of Agriculture wants it under his forest department, and the Forest Department wants it bad. They are the only ones that seem to realize its true worth and money-making possibilities. The Forest Department is the best equipped. They have the organization. They claim they have done more good than harm in their supervision of the forests. And I think this is true. I agree with them, but the margin is small. These forest officials are not bad men. In fact, they are good men and getting better. Their trouble is, first, the lack of practical stockman knowledge.
They are like a man down in Nevada, a land-office man, who went into the sheep business with some Basques, and in the spring when they were lambing they told him they had lost some ewes, so he went out there to help find them. He found one, ran it around a couple of miles, finally got it caught and loaded in his car, and took it back to the camp. When he got out, he said, "Here you fellows, I got one of those lost ewes. She hasn't got our brand on, but she must be ours. You take her out to the lambing bunch. She is going to have twins, and she will raise them, too." One of the Basques stepped up, took a look, and said: "You got a buck."
So the first objection to the Forest Department is their lack of stock knowledge. I do not want one of their dentists supervising our winter range.
The second objection is that they are thinking wrong. Their thoughts are all wrong. Socialism, the idea of taking from one and giving to the other, can have no place in our Government, and their idea of getting the last penny must be discarded. Let them apportion out their salaries if they want to, but leave our range rights alone.
Now, let's put these principles into the law of the public range, including the forests.
I propose we write four fundamental principles in the bill:
First. Legalize range rights under the law of prior use, transferable only by the owner, to be lost only by nonuse and to be reduced only for range protection.
Second. That a court sitting in the West be provided to determine all questions of range rights.
Third. Fix fees at the cost of administration, plus improvements, over and above amounts paid to the States.
Fourth. The Government buy back the range lands at the price paid by the owner, either in cash or allocation of fees.
Write these principles into the bill, and it is little matter whether it is leased or supervised or whether it is the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture who is the supervisor.
It should not be in two departments, but should be in one. The Forest Department seems to be best qualified.
I say let's put it under the Forest Department, to be governed by the above principles. If these forest officials, these hired men of ours for that is all they are get mean and ugly about it, let's say to them: "Here is the balance of your wages; you are fired; get your feet down off that desk and get out of here."
If they seem to be not quite so ugly, but are not willing to accept this policy, we will say to them: "Here is the balance of your salary; we request your resignation at your earliest convenience."
PROCEEDINGS OF THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE OF THE IDAHO WOOL GROWERS' ASSOCIATION, TWIN FALLS, IDAHO, MAY 10, 1925
Meeting called to order at 11.45 a. m. by President T. C. Bacon. Present: All committeemen except Mr. F. S. Gedney, of Mount Home. Visitors: A. H. Brailsford, Hagerman, Idaho; W. R. Barber, Rupert, Idaho; Grover Newman, Jerome, Idaho; James Farmer, Bliss, Idoha; Ben Darrah, Shoshone, Idaho; Henry Lane, Richfield, Idaho; and John Noh, A. L. Houghtelin, D. F. Sweet, T. C. Bacon, and Donald McLean, Twin Falls, Idaho.
DISCUSSION OF METHOD FOR HANDLING PUBLIC LANDS-TURN BACK TO STATES
Mr. FARMER. I would not be in favor of the public domain going back to the State and take a chance on leasing it from the State and having them allot it. I would rather take a chance on the forestry people alloting the land if they would take it and handle it in connection with their reserves and only charge the actual cost of handling.
A MEMBER. It should not cost any more than it does now.
Mr. FARMER. It should cost but little more.
Mr. RICH. The only possibe advantage I can see in having the land turned over to and handled by the Government would be if there is a possibility that we are running too many sheep on the domain during the dry years. If we are, and the Forest Service would conserve the range, that consideration is the only thing that would make it worth while. I sometimes think that the amount of sheep in the country is pretty well controlled by the Forest Service anyway. A man might try to run sheep, but unless he has pretty good summer range he can not stay in the business very long under present high expenses.
Mr. FARMER. To my notion, when the forests are practically filled up, that is pretty near enough sheep for any State.
Mr. BACON. That is all the forests will handle.
Mr. FARMER. When the forests are filled up that is enough sheep to fill the fall and spring range. It seems to me that whenever there is a big increase in sheep, it lowers the price and we get no more dollars and cents out of our business than we did with less. The buyers are telling us we have too many lambs, and the packers think that we have the biggest crop of lambs in years; in reality, I believe we are 25 per cent short.
Mr. BACON. Mr. Barber, what was your idea regarding handling by the State that you spoke of?
Mr. BARBER. I have a proposition of my own, but would like to hear the older men give their views first, but I will give my views now if it is in order. Mr. BACON. It is in order.
Mr. BARBER. Personally, I feel in this way about this question of control of our ranges:
The forest reserve ranges to remain under such control as they now are, qualified by certain changes obviously necessary to the justice of the stockman; the open range to remain as it is. But as the present policy of the public lands is undoubtedly going to be discontinued and some policy of control of the entire public domain established, it is of course the best business of the
stockman to form this new policy, as much as possible to his own advantage. So I have taken time to put on paper in order to better get them before you, some observations of my own regarding the public domain as affecting the sheepman. I do not claim that I know it all, and I can easily understand that older men in the business, doubtless have sounder views than I might have.
But through a younger man in the sheep business for himself, I do lay claim to a considerable knowledge of actual working range conditions. I do not believe there is another sheepman in this State who started any closer to the bottom. My first job for a sheepman 14 years ago was the task of working two weeks for my board, splitting a huge pile of pine knots, several years' accumulation of unchopped slabs. And I hope my own observations may be of some value in directing the shaping of this new public land policy.
I want first to make some observations of a principle, which seems to me to be the most vital principle of any public-land policy as affecting the stockman. That principle is this: The recognition that the western grazing interests constitute an established industry of long standing entitled by virtue of their priority, and vital significance in the prosperity of this country, to rights equal to that of any other established industry-that the grazing interests shall not hereafter be subversive to the rights of any other industry in this country.
You may think that seems quite beside any degree of importance. You may say that principle is already recognized. It is not recognized. It has never been recognized. And unless the grazing interests insist on it at this opportune time it never will be recognized,
Ask a schoolboy what are the industries of Idaho. He will name threefarming, mining, and lumbering. Ask him if he has not forgotten stock raising and he will say that comes under farming. There are not three chief industries of Idaho; there are four-farming, lumbering, mining, and grazing. In the order of their appearance in the development of this country they were: Mining, grazing, farming, and lumbering. So far as the surface of the ground is concerned, they were: Grazing, farming, lumbering. After the first rush of mining was over, grazing was the chief industry of the State. The grazing industry in Idaho or in any of these Western States has behind it a long-established priority. Yet, can you name for me any basic industry of Idaho which has not subverted to its use the grazing industry? When a miner staked out a mining claim, he said to the stockman, "Get off and stay off." When a man filed upon a homestead, he said to the stockman, "Get off and stay off." And somewhat later he said, "Get off and stay off and stay 2 miles off." When the forest reserves were established, the Government said to the stockman, "Do as we say or get off."
You can not get around this fact, that all through the development of this country the rights of the grazing man have been kicked around from pillar to post. He never has had any rights. Whenever anyone wanted anything the stockman was using he simply took it, and the Federal Government stood behind him to back him up.
But it is a long road that has no turning, and it is a long dog that has no tail. The stockman's day has arrived if he only has the gumption to see it and to take advantage of it.
I would not have anyone construe me as believing this whole western country should have been left for the stockman, but the time has come, the time is some years past, when the rights of any other industry were superior to the rights of grazing upon the balance of the public domain. It is generally conceded by public opinion, it is a fact supported by the diminishing business of the public land offices, that the balance of the public domain is good only for grazing purposes. Yet there is no law which prevents any citizen not a stockman from appropriating a strategic portion of this grazing land. There is no law, nor does the Constitution of the United States forbid the enactment of a law, which would prevent the stockman from being put off these grazing lands altogether.
We have this situation: There remains a portion of the public domain good only for grazing purposes. There exists for its use an industry of long-established priority, an industry closely connected with the prosperity of this country, an industry which has never heretofore had any recognized rights to its means of existence.
Now is the time for the stockmen to step forward and say: "I have made continued use of this domain for a great many years. I have not made use of it through sufferance of you or of anyone else. I have made use of it because
it was here when I came and no one prior to me was using it. I have used it under the American principle that prevailed in the development of the West, that of first come first served. I have made a good and beneficial use of it, for through its use you have been provided with food and clothing in quantities you were not able to produce elsewhere to your needs. The continued existence of my business requires the continued use of this land, and I therefore assert that I have acquired a right to use this domain as valid, as indisputable, as unimpeachable as any right which has ever been written into the organic law of the land, and I therefore demand that my grazing rights in the balance of the public domain shall not hereafter be subverted and shall hereafter be superior to the interests of any other industry."
That is what I believe must be the foundation principle of any public-land policy as affecting the grazing interests.
Secondly, if the balance of the public domain is going to be put under control there arises the question, Under what and whose control shall it be.
In the recent public lands bulletin put out by this association, four tentative methods of handling these lands are suggested: (1) Turn back to the States; (2) Government system of leasing or sale; (3) under supervision of the Department of the Interior; (4) under supervision of the Department of Agriculture.
It may not have been the intention of the compiler of this bulletin to favor either of the four suggested ways, but my impression remained that all methods suggested were discarded in favor of control by the Department of Agriculture.
I can not imagine any sheepman who has suffered under years of control by the Forest Service advocating control of his spring and fall range by the Forest Service; and in view of the indictment of the Forest Service by the stockmen through years of abuse, uncertainty, and ignorance of his problems, it would seem nothing less than idiotic to deliver all of his range into the hands of his enemies.
I infer, however, that promise of control of the balance of the public domain may be used as a lever to obtain reforms in that service. Control of 100 per cent of your range by a bureau at Washington under promise of reform of that bureau is a dear and uncertain price to pay for these reforms. It would be the same idea as putting a dime through a hole in your pocket with the hope that the dime was larger than the whole.
There are several reasons why I think it would be very bad policy to put your spring and fall ranges into the control of the Forest Service. First of these reasons is the record of the Forest Service in the treatment of the stockman in the past. The arbitrary manner of adjusting fees, the uncertain tenure of his permits, the maintenance in office and in jobs of men who know nothing of practical range problems confronting the stockman, the numerous injustices arbitrarily perpetrated in the name of the Federal Government and national conservation; in short, the arbitrary subverting of the stockman's interests and rights to any other interests which may occupy the political fancy, all these are too familiar to you to need any elaboration.
I want to read you a few lines from the transcript of the last meeting at Pocatello:
"Mr. Gedney speaking: In the matter of the policy of the Forestry Department. I think I can see that a good many cattle ranchers are going to be converted into sheep outfits. It seems to be the trend of conditions and the forest officers are now attempting to adopt a policy whereby sheep allotments are made over in that case.
"Here is the thing in a nut shell. Down our way they have given the high lands to sheep and the lower to cattle. The low lands are grass and the high are weeds and brush. To convert into a sheep outfit they allow him five sheep for one cow and then they will give him range to the top of the hill. In other words, they take a part of the sheepman's range and give it to the cattleman's range and give a part of that cattleman's range to the sheep allotment, which means that they are going to break into our allotments. I believe that that is a bad idea for us, and when that question comes to be prepared to oppose it. Now, in talking with the supervisor in Nevada, he said that one fellow had made an application to convert to sheep and wanted us to get from the canyon to the top of the hill and intimated that they were going to insist on that, and I think this is something that we should watch, and I believe we ought to be thinking about the opposition when it comes up.