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Rancher Wins Final Battle in Precedent-Setting Grazing Land Water Rights "Taking" Case (November 10, 2009)

San Francisco, CA (Nov. 10, 2009) – Ending a nearly two-decade battle by a Nevada rancher and his heirs in a precedent-setting, grazing land water rights case, the United States Court of Federal Claims denied a motion by the federal government seeking to have the court reduce the $4.2 million, plus attorney's fees and interest, it awarded to the estate of ranchers Wayne and Jean Hage last year. 

"The court's ruling is not only a victory for Wayne and Jean Hage and their children, but for ranchers across the West," stated Hanson Bridgett attorney Ladd Bedford, who has represented the Hage family since the inception of the case. "It sends a strong message to the federal government that it may not take away access to water rights and range improvements without paying just compensation." 

In the case of Hage v. United States, the court found that the federal government's motion for a partial reconsideration was without merit and declined to reconsider the $1.365 million it awarded the Hage estate in June 2008 as compensation for the value of improvements it had made to Nevada grazing land. In its ruling November 3, the court also increased the award for the value of the improvements by $151,924 to $1.517 million to include compensation for ditches and pipelines the rancher constructed on federal grazing allotments. The court had previously awarded the Hage estate $2.855 million for the taking of water rights. The total award now stands at $4.372 million plus attorney's fees and interest payments to cover an 18-year period. The rate of interest to be applied to the award amount remains to be determined by the court. 

The precedent-setting, Fifth Amendment "takings" case stems from the federal government's attempts to deny the rancher access to water rights established for the ranch as far back as 1866 and for the confiscation of his cattle, which began in 1991. Following years of legal battling, the court ruled on June 6, 2008, that the Hages owned the water rights and the 1866 ditch rights of ways on federal grazing allotments, and the range improvements the Hages constructed on the federal lands. The court ruled that although the government has the right to authorize grazing and cancel grazing permits, it does not have the right to prevent the ranchers from accessing their water rights on federal land. It found that regulatory and physical taking occurred, and that the government owed the estates of Wayne and Jean Hage just compensation in the amount of $4.2 million plus attorney's fees plus interest. The original award included $2.855 million for the taking of water rights and $1.365 million for range improvements. Wayne Hage died in 2006, and his wife Jean Hage passed away in 1996. 

"While Wayne Hage did not live to see this very significant victory, he has won it for all ranchers by standing up against the full might of the U.S. government," stated Hanson Bridgett attorney Michael Van Zandt. 

Mr. Bedford and Mr. Van Zandt are partners in Hanson Bridgett LLP, where they specialize in the areas of real estate, land use, water, and natural resources law. They joined Hanson Bridgett in 2008 along with 10 additional lawyers from McQuaid, Bedford & Van Zandt LLP. 

About Hanson Bridgett 

A law firm established in 1958, Hanson Bridgett is a Northern California mainstay. Our clients range from multinational Fortune 500 corporations to individuals, including a number of public agencies in California. We understand our clients' businesses and practice law in a way that reflects that understanding. Hanson Bridgett has more than 150 attorneys located in offices in San Francisco, the North Bay, Sacramento and Silicon Valley. 

Hanson Bridgett Public Relations: 

P: 415-995-5075, F: 415-541-9366 

To receive future Hanson Bridgett Press Releases by email or hard copy please email mklopp@hansonbridgett.com.

Hanson Bridgett is a law firm with more than 150 attorneys in offices in San Francisco, Sacramento, the North Bay, Silicon Valley and the East Bay. Serving clients since 1958, we are well known in Northern California and have earned a national reputation in many of our practice areas.

Our diverse client list includes large national and global companies as well as many governmental entities, regional businesses and individuals. While we keep true to our California roots, our work increasingly takes us across state and national borders.

Michelle Klopp
Hanson Bridgett LLP
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