Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Commentary: ‘Grass March’ slated to free Nevadans

In 1930 Gandhi began the Salt March that eventually gained freedom for the citizens of India. On May 26, 2014, a Grass March will begin in Elko, Nevada, to free the people of Nevada.

In 1964 the federal government forced the ranchers on Mount Lewis to cut their cattle and sheep grazing by 50 percent even though the government only owned one half of the land and none of the water on the mountain. The ranchers had been grazing their cattle on the mountain from 1862, before Nevada became a state.

In the 1980s the State of Nevada bought out the Tomera Ranches in Elko County to build the South Fork Reservoir for recreation. The Pete Tomera family then bought the diminished Marvel and Horn ranches that included the water rights on Mount Lewis. Along with three Filippini families, a sheep grazing right owned by Ellison Ranching and a few others with grazing rights, the Tomera cattle have been grazing the mountain since their purchase.

The Tomeras own 80 percent of the grazing rights and most of the water on the mountain. The Tomeras own the water to over 80 springs, 12 wells and 183 miles of streams. The Tomeras and their neighbors have always paid the grazing fees imposed by the government and made all changes demanded by the government even though the government owns only half of the land and none of the water.

In February the government, by phone, informed the Tomeras that the government was cutting all of the grazing on Mount Lewis by 100 percent for 2014. As a result the three Tomera families have no place to go with 1,800 head of cattle. In an attempt to convince the government to allow them to graze on Mount Lewis this year the Tomeras built, at the suggestion of the government, a 16-mile fence at a cost of over $80,000. But when they completed it the government still refused to budge.

As the attorney for the Tomeras on another matter I learned about the great wrong being visited on the Tomeras and their neighbors. I told the Tomeras that to file suit against the government to force the government to relent and let them graze their cattle this year would be impossible. It would take a long time to even get before a BLM administrative judge and during that time the Tomeras and their neighbors would be prevented from grazing. And rather than be able to go into a real court they would be forced to go into an administrative court before a judge hired by the Bureau of Land Management. Eventually they would be able to appeal an unfavorable decision by the BLM administrative court to a real court. But by that time they would have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and missed years of grazing on the mountain. The actions of the BLM last year and so far this year have already cost the Tomera family over $300,000.

After anguishing and praying over this problem I concluded that perhaps public opinion and our elected officials could cause the Battle Mountain BLM manager, Doug Furtado, to relent. So my sons and I volunteered, for free, to do all we could to bring the issue to the knowledge of the public and our elected officials. We are working with several others, most notably John Carpenter, who also recognize the great injustice being imposed on the Tomeras and their neighbors.

On May 26 I am going to begin a Grass March, horseback, from Elko to Battle Mountain. When I proposed this project to my family my son, Dallas, said it was similar to Gandhi’s Salt March in India in the 1930s that eventually led to the citizens of India gaining their freedom from the dictatorial rule of the British government. The British government had a total monopoly on all salt. A citizen of India was even prevented from distilling a little salt from ocean water for his family. All salt had to be bought from the British government. In Nevada the federal government has a monopoly on Nevada land and the grass. The government owns 87 percent of the land, but also exercises total control over much of the private land as well. The effective control of the government exceeds 92 percent of the grass in Nevada.

We believe that it is the inalienable right of Nevadans to have freedom and to enjoy the fruits of their toil. We believe also that since the agencies of the federal government are depriving Nevadans of their rights and oppressing them that the control of the federal lands must be transferred to the State of Nevada for the protection of the citizens of Nevada. If any government deprives a people of their rights and oppresses them the people have a right to alter that government or abolish it. The British government in India not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but was ruining India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually. The same thing is happening in Nevada.

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