Establishing Management Under the Taylor Grazing Act
It's a great pleasure to me to be here because I think this is the first opportunity that I have had since I left that service in 1938 to really talk to people who are interested in what went on in those days, I warn you young fellows of one thing. If you live a long time, then the things that happened when you were a boy become historical and people like to hear about them. But at the time, they will all seem very commonplace to you and you won't think much about them. So store up what you can. If you can, get a few photographs or a few things to quote. Preserve a few little mementoes to prove where you've been because when you get up in the 60's and 70 years of age, people think you are a "has been" and you ought to shuffle off the stage. If you want to stay on as long as you can, have something to prove it with.
Now today I am going to re-enact something that happened nearly thirty years ago in this country, and it was an historic thing. Very few of us at the time realized the impact it was having on the history of the United States. The history of the United States is that of a great democratic people seeking to govern themselves in the way history had never recorded before.
When I was a student in law school I met an old doctor that lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts and he used to have on the back of his door a map of North America and along in the course of a talk with him, he would suddenly open that door and reveal to you this North American Continent. It was in black. I can still see it. And then he would say "Why, why, was this continent kept from the eyes of man from the beginning of civilization until about the seventeenth century?" Well, I didn't have the answer, but along that same line I want to say something to you in regards to the North American Continent. It was never given to the eyes of the white man to do anything with until the time came for the settlement of the country. I don't know why but you young fellows are going to have to contribute your part to the answer of that question. This continent started on a clean slate. We had all the prejudices, all the hatreds, all the jealousies, all the memories stored up in Europe. All little principalities hating the next principality as you would hate a principality which conquered you and enslaved you and perhaps killed your people. All those memories when they came out to this country to settle over here on the eastern seaboard came too--these were Frenchmen, Hollanders, and other nationalities. But something happened when they came here. They were in a new land. Here was a country where a young fellow could take his ax and go out and cut off a little forest and make a little home of his own. That did something to those people. There are a number of evidences of what it did. I can't go all over it because it would cover the entire history of the United States. We all talk about the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta was a bench mark in individual liberties but the people that enacted the Magna -Carta were not common people--they were the masters and lords that were trying to limit the powers of the sovereign. But when the people of this continent enacted a Constitution, they did away with the old country classes. They did away with titles of nobility. You and I were raised without that and some of the things that were done by our ancestors has made a new people here. And now in the year of 1962 the old world is coming back to these people that started out on a clean slate and were not handicapped with the prejudices and memories of the people that remained in the old country. They are saying to the people of the United States, "What are you going to do with it?" "What did you learn from it?" Is there a purpose in this country or are we just another Switzerland, Germany, Russia or something else going on? Is there anything here, any new definition of the word freedom that doesn't exist across the water? The answer will be worked out by you and millions more like you in the years to come. But don't forget it. You're on the spot. When I was a boy your age, I wasn't on the spot. We had the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other side, and Teddy Roosevelt had the great white fleet that he sent around the world. Other nations didn't dare think about attacking us. How could they land on our beaches? It took two great wars to realize the fact that we were going to have to defend this nation and water power disappeared with the airplane. And now we're only a few hours and few seconds by rocket from the rest of the world.
So after having lived here 3 or 4 hundred years, in this wonderful, lone atmosphere of peace, we now face all these people. We, with two-thirds of the world's wealth, face the other three-fourths of the world's people who only have one-third of the world's wealth. But we had a chance for a clean slate and we've written a new definition of freedom and we stand ready to defend it.
Well now that's just background and now we're going to talk about public land. This was all public land when we started. When these people landed here, the only prestige of legal right they had was a grant from European royalty. Well, Queen Elizabeth gave people hunks of land in this continent which she had never seen. These were very tenuous claims as they proved to be later after our Revolution when we threw off our bonds and became an independent country. But we started off by being a public land country, where the people could own land if they would take the land and do something with it. Now in brief, the idea that people who could do something with their land should have it, was enacted in 1862 under President Lincoln into the Homestead Act. The Act said that anybody who will get out there and live on 160 acres of land for 5 years can get a title to it. That looks like a real grant. Well, I can tell you that homesteading is the hardest way to get land there is. You don't get 10 cents a day for your time on your land when you get the land, it's just about worth the value of the improvements that you put on it. The land itself is worth nothing and you had to wait a long time for land values to increase. But this country, starting on the eastern seaboard and expanding west, was settled up by people who conquered the land and took over and then as they came. Railroad grants, grants to the State governments, took this land and blocked it off so that there was no land left in the east in 100 years. As the tide of settlement went west it went very slowly. The real rush didn't begin until '49 when gold was discovered--it's been a lure for mankind since the beginning of the world--and people began to cross here to go to California for gold. That opened up this country.
Now this country goes by rainfall. In the east you've got 30 to 40 inches and down in the south you've got 50 to 60 inches. So it goes until you get into the west and it begins to get drier. The 100th meridian runs north and south through Nebraska and Kansas and the Texas Panhandle. That's the drop from 30 inches of rainfall to 20 inches of rainfall. Farther west of this is the country where there is very light rainfall. Rainfall is the outstanding physical fact of his continent.
The homesteaders and the railroad grants and the state lands and any other reservations in the National Forest, National Parks, National monuments, took little bites of the western land but two-thirds of it was left--public domain. Well the public domain was a natural pasture, there was nothing out there but a little grass, a little sagebrush, a little browse and people began using it.
The Federal Government started in to use the public lands to get money by selling them. The main idea at that time was to dispose of it. It was no good. It paid no taxes--get rid of it. And then they found that they couldn't get much money for it. The people that wanted free land were not wealthy people. They were the hard-up settlers that had been closed out by the sheriff and were trying to get a new start. The only way they could do so was to enact the Homestead Act. The settlers went out and settled up this country where you and I live. But they only settled up a part of it. In Nevada, they only had one acre out of 50 and most of that you couldn't make a living on. So the Congress of the United States went on with the policy of disposition of the public lands. They started in with a homestead of 160 acres and when they got out here west of the 100th meridian, the folks couldn't make a living out of 160 acres so they passed in 1909 what they called the Enlarged Homestead act. You could get 320 for dry farming and putting an eighth of it under cultivation. When the homesteaders came to the Rocky Mountains and the areas between the Cascades, Sierra Nevadas and the Rockies in what we call the Intermountain Basin, it was too dry to make it on 320. So then on the last day of the year of 1916, they passed the Stock Raising Homestead Act. You could get a section--640 acres. And still the homesteaders couldn't make a living on this land. Then grazing started on the public domain. These were mostly sheep people who were nomads. They'd get a loan on a bunch of sheep and start off with an old battered up jalopy and wander all over. There was no regulation of the public domain. The reason there wasn't is that Congress was embarked on a policy of disposition. Now they didn't have to regulate the pasture lands in the east because in a little while, somebody farmed or homesteaded and so the land disappeared from public ownership. So they had no problem there and the majority of our legislators come from that side of the meridian. They didn't understand the western conditions. Besides it was the historical thing to do. They kept on with the policy of disposition of the land.
It wasn't until the year 1934 that the western states faced a crisis and the crisis came on pretty much in the conflict between the cattle and sheep interests. We had no way of keeping a sheep man off the cow range. He could move in and settle around the water with all his dogs and his wagon and the cows wouldn't go near it. The cattlemen had to move out. Well, we didn't move out peaceably and so we had range wars all over. The law officers said nothing and nearly every western state tried some kind of law to regulate range use. We had a law in Colorado whereby we could go to court and have an adjudication of our ranges for cattle and sheep. But as soon as we did it, some sheep man would get his herd to going and file a homestead in the middle of our land. We couldn't do anything about it because the Federal Government gave him the 640 under the homestead laws. So the states were unable to handle the problem. That was the origin of the Taylor Grazing Act.
The Act was a tremendous turn in policy whereby the Federal Government said, "No longer will we try to dispose of this land. Nobody wants it because it's too dry and too worthless to pay taxes on. We're going to do three things with it: (1) we'll sell the isolated tracts; (2) we'll lease the little pieces that won't fall naturally into a grazing district; and (3) then we'll form grazing districts." This act was a tremendous surprise and was very antagonistically received in the West. Utah was the only State that welcomed a cooperative use of the public land because the Utah people by training, by religion and by practice are cooperatively minded to the degree beyond any other State. But the Act had an example in something that had been done in the State of Montana. That was a cooperative effort by stockmen in Montana who took state land, private land and government land and formed a cooperative association and administered it under partial state rule and in a cooperative way. It was quite a remarkable thing.
Montana has been a leader in two great cooperative efforts. One was the grazing district idea. The other their cooperation in forming the great National Dairy Association with 4 other states.
The Taylor Grazing Act said the government would sell the isolated tracts, lease tracts that were not big enough to go into districts and then would set up grazing districts for the rest of the public domain. That's about all they said. They wrote finis to it, passed it, Roosevelt signed it and there it was. The secretary of the Interior, Mr. Ickes, was an eastern man. He didn't know which end of a cow got up first. He didn't know anything about the west and he didn't know what to do with the Taylor Grazing Act. Through a series of circumstances I won't take time to tell about, they put the crown on me and said, "Go out there and set those grazing districts up." There were no appropriations for it. They loaned me a few fellows out of the Geological Survey and some out of the Bureau of Investigations and a couple of geodetic surveyors--17 men all together and we started out. There were about 142,000,000 acres of land and that's a lot of land. So when they gave me the job, I went to the General Land Office. Now the General Land Office is older than the Department of Interior. They had been operating 175 years and you'd think they would have known where the lands were. I went to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, only to find out they had no maps that would tell me where the public lands were. Why? Every day people were filing homesteads, buying isolated tracts and taking up timber applications. States were trading state land for other land called lieu land. The Forest Service was expanding their boundaries and taking more. There were 22 Land Offices in the western states and every day, every minute, every hour somebody comes in and takes a piece of land. How could there be a map of it? So I didn't know where the land was. There wasn't anybody in the State of Montana knew where the state lands were.
I knew there was only one way to find out. So I put up notices in all these public land states that we were going to call meetings. Anybody that wanted to get a bite of this public grazing land had better be at the meeting because we were going to hand it out. Well, you don't have to say that twice. It's just like a free meal at the church. Everybody showed up at these meetings. I knew of the jealousy between the cattlemen and the sheepmen. I also knew that they didn't want things the way the Forest Service handled it. In those days the Forest Service took the attitude that "papa knows best" and papa will tell you what to do. Well I knew a lot of stockmen and the battles with the Forest Service. I came to the job with a prejudice against that "papa knows best" stuff. I didn't think it was good American principles. I knew it was poor public relations with the stockmen and I didn't want to get into something where I had to be the guy that said "papa knows best". So here was the job, gentlemen, and here were 142,000,000 acres of land. Where was it and how were we going to put it under supervision and get a fee for it? Now you know, nobody likes to pay a fee or a tax. We would go out there and the stockmen would ask, "What kind of fee? We've always grazed for nothing. My father came to this country in a covered wagon and he fought his way out and settled a little ranch here and improved it." He's used all the public land that lies adjacent to his place. That's as good as owning it and now you're coming out here and telling us we've got to pay 8 cents a head a month for a fee. How come?"
Well, there wasn't any explaining to them. I said, "Boys, the Congress has let you have it as long as you could for nothing and now they've got a collar and you've got to stick your head through it. If you don't stick your head through it, another fellow will stick his head through it and we'll please him and let him have the range." You couldn't go out to the range country and ask these fellows to be nice citizens and be cooperative and show a Christian-like attitude. They had no intention of showing a Christian-like attitude. They had the land and they were going to keep it and they weren't going to pay for it.
It was a rough old battle and the way that it was handled at the meetings was this: First of all we got the amount of public land that was in each state; then we got the township tracts from the local District Land Offices. These township tracts had the private land marked off.
Everybody showed up. All of the cowboys were in this section, all sheepherders were over here. They wouldn't speak to each other, Each wanted to get everything there was and push the other fellow off. That was the game and we knew it. We called the meeting to order and said "Well boys, the good old days are over and there's no use crying about it. Congress is going to set these grazing districts up. You're going to have to get a permit to use them. You're going to have to pay a fee for it. Now the question is, how are we going to do it? Are you going to have a smart guy come here to run it, and write all your rules and regulations like Mr. Pinchot did on the forest? You know that Pinchot didn't know what end of a cow got up first. He didn't know anything about the stock business. Do you want that or do you boys want to help do this?"
Well, of course, they wanted to help do it, if they could help themselves a little bit. So I said, "Well I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll explain the set-up. We'll answer questions. At the close of the meeting you cowboys go over here and you'll elect 10 advisors and you sheepherders go over there and you'll elect 10 advisors. I'm not going to let either one of you have a downhill pull on the other. I'll leave a Federal man here in this state to work with your advisors and we'll set up the first provisional rules and regulations and issue permits." And so they did just that.
The advisors did just that and, gentlemen, you would be amazed today to know that the boundaries they put on their grazing districts are practically what those fellows did right then and there. They knew their barriers, they knew where the public lands were and it was from their initial work at the official meeting that the grazing districts exist today.
We took the maps back to Washington and the head of the Geological Survey--a grand old man--took a look at them and said, "My goodness, do you know what's happened to the United States? Do you realize there are 7 great deserts in the United States and that these grazing district boundaries pretty much follow the boundaries of those deserts?"
I wonder how many of you can name the 7 great deserts? Well, you don't know the United States until you know your deserts.
As the emigrants crossed the western states, they went over one desert after another and they gave names to them. I am going to show you roughly where the 7 great American deserts are. Starting in Wyoming,you have the Red Desert--in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado. In Idaho, you run into the Owyhee desert. In the south of Oregon, there is the High Desert. Then the whole state of Nevada is desert. In California and Arizona you get the Mojave Desert. In Utah there is the Great Salt Lake Desert. The stockmen divide this desert into the East desert and the West Desert, depending on which side of the Wasatch you are on.
Anyway a lot of problems had to be solved if we were going to make any grazing district rules and regulations. Now, to go back to our first meeting of advisors, I set the first meeting at Grand Junction, Colorado. The chairmen of each group sad they didn't care to sit down in the room with the other guys. So at noon I got the upstairs of the Fire Department in Rifle, Colorado for the sheep boys and a room at the Winchester Hotel in Rifle for the cowboys. I took my office in the Chamber of Commerce. The sheep boys would come over and they'd say they thought one year's use of the range should give a prior right. The cowboys sent somebody over and they said they thought anybody that used this range twenty years ago had a better right. The woolies weren't there twenty years ago, so they had no right. After a lot of traveling between my office and the two meeting rooms by fellows from the two groups I finally said, "You just can't get along that way."
So I went to a restaurant and got a table for 21 people. I took the names of the 10 cowboys and the 10 sheepherders and by using place cards, I fixed it so that sheepherders and cowboys would sit next to each other. I invited them as my guests to the dinner that night. They walked in kind of sheepishly and sat down. Each one found that the fellow next to him used a fork, too, and was half-way human. That was the last of the separation of those boys. I told them they couldn't operate individually. They were going to draw lines for livestock use and the Federal Government was going to police it. I made it clear that if we gave an allotment to cows, the sheep boys didn't need to think they could fudge over on it the way they had been fudging over on our private land. If it was sheep territory we weren't going to let a cow wander over on it. So we got them together. That was the start of the amalgamation of the two livestock industries to handle the grazing districts. Who was to get each permit? That's what they wanted to know. We looked at the law and there wasn't very much to say. A lawyer spotted the clause which was a dependable clause. Preference in the acreage of grazing permits should go to those having property in or near the public grazing land. But how near was near? Did they have to have land in the grazing district or if it was near, how near did it have to be?
Now the cattle business is a stabilized industry and they kept their stock near their holdings. The sheep industry is a migratory industry so the battle was on. How near is near? Well, my idea of near was adjoining, adjacent, contingent, handy--all those kind of definitions. The sheepmen said that had nothing in the world to do with it. "Near" means that you have operated from your summer to your winter range and connected the two and if you've done it that's "near". We get our forest permits in summer and we go down and winter on the East Desert--The Great Salt Lake Desert. We travel 150 to 200 miles. Well, that was the first problem. I spent many anguished days and nights trying to solve how near was near. Mind you, the fellows that were near were going to get the first whack at it. There wasn't enough grass to dish up to everybody and nobody was going to give up any rights he had if he could possibly defend them.
One funny thing I found was that the drier the land is and the more worthless it is, the harder stockmen fight for it. Just why that is, I don't know, but they do. I have had them fight over land on which 640 acres wouldn't support a nightcrawler. They'd fight over that until grim death. These were a bouncy bunch of boys--these stockmen. The ordinary stockman is a pretty tough guy to handle but the range stockmen had been pitched around all his life. He'd been fighting for that public land against the other fellow, and he was a little bit tougher than the ordinary stockman. We had to deal with these tough old customers.
So how near was near? Well I asked them to come up to the Federal Courtroom and I got a jury of federal people--reclamation people, Forest Service people, etc., and I put them in a jury box and I said, "We'll hear arguments all day long on how near is near." They were all there and at the close of it our number-one lawyer handed me 37 definitions of near as he got them out of a legal textbook. I felt that I was Moses and The Secretary had told me to be the big shot and I was just going to give a decision that would just hop them in the creek. We all get this exalted idea of our ability once in awhile and I was suffering under that. But I had a Forest Service man who was a good guy with me, name of Earnest Winkler. I got the Forest Service to furnish me two great forest grazing men, Ed Cavanaugh from Oregon and Earnest Winkler from Utah. Anyway, Winkler wanted to know if we had to decide this today. "Oh no", I said, "Nobody is making me decide today but what's the use of going to the next meeting if we haven't decided anything and go all through this argument again? Now, we were put in here because we're experts and extra smart and know all about everything and so we'll just make a decision." And he said, "That's where you're a damn fool. In the Government we have just one rule--never decide anything until you have to." Well, I didn't have to so I agreed with him. We went to Bakersfield, California and immediately the sheep boys wanted to know how near is near. I told them we'd discussed that in Colorado and it looked like an easy day's driving distance of 3 or 4 days, or 100 or 150 miles would be nearer. But these sheepmen went 1000 miles and ended up at Yellow Lake in the grape fields around Bakersfield. A thousand miles is near.
Pretty soon,I began to see that near is everywhere. Near was anywhere they started from and got into the grazing district. Now we spent a lot of time solving how near was near and we solved it by the use of semantics, that is, words. It wasn't really solved but we kind of satisfied people.
When you can't solve anything, if you can invent some words that they can't answer they'll sit down and take it and they'll think it's solved. I'll give you an example of this. First, we started at 100 miles near, then we got 1000 miles as near and we were all at sea. I got up to Idaho where there was a young lawyer got up to argue and he said, "How near is near? I just finished arguing a divorce case, and I want to know how dear is dear in a divorce case." I got over into California and there was a lawyer got up and he said, "I can tell you how near is near. We have a great question in this state what is near beer and what is beer. What is beer and what is near beer?" And then he went off and argued on that. Well you had all these funny things that came up and lent a little color to the argument but in the end we still had to solve how near was near. After nearly a year's arguments, we settled it this way: In the issuance of grazing permits, the first permits would go to those who are nearest, the next permits would go to those that are nearer and the last would go to those that are near. Everybody in the room was near. They couldn't answer that at all, cause it was just a fool thing. It didn't mean a thing but they had started off and hired their lawyers to have their property declared near. Everybody in the United States was near. They might be in Delaware and have a little lawn you could graze sheep on and that was near as far as we were concerned.
So we issued the first permits to the ones that were nearest, and then the ones that were nearer and then the ones that were near with differences made as to cattle or sheep. When you get up against these things you have to solve them or pretend to solve them or get a solution that will make them sit down in their seats and take it. And that's the way nearer was solved.
How would you decide who to give a permit to? I'll take just one district as an example. It's a district in Utah and we had 2,500,000 acres of open public land and 300 people that wanted to run on there. Roughly calculating the carrying capacity of the range, we'll say it will carry 2500 cattle and 65,000 sheep. We have applications for 5 times that much. Who are you going to open the gate for and who are you going to kick in the ear when his application comes up and say, "Go somewhere else and buy yourself a filling station or go into some other business." It's a tough thing to do and the Act wasn't much help to us but the Act said that the people within the district and with property were to be considered. The Forest Service people had a rule called the rule of commensurability. Now if you are in the livestock business, unless you're just running steers, you are in a twelve month's business and you don't have any business asking Uncle Sam to let you have some pasture unless you have the facilities to operate at home when the public range is closed. If we had summer range--six month summer range--in a country where they feed six months, the operator had to show that he had hay or roughage feed for his stock to live on the six months they weren't on the public domain. We finally decided to adopt a rule of commensurability and so we wrote the rule. The man who has feed to take care of his livestock for the time of the year when the public range is not used will be the man with the commensurability that will get the first crack at the public range. Well that sounds easy doesn't it? Some came in and said, "I've got 100 tons of hay, 100 head of cattle and it takes a ton to the head to winter, I want range enough for 100 head of cattle." Well that was simple. But whenever you write a rule, the boys get smart right away and they find all the ways around it. There was a fellow in southern Utah and he didn't raise any hay, and he didn't have any roughage. He had been out there and his father had been out there before him and he came across the plains in a covered wagon and by gosh he thought he owned it. He used it exclusively. Ever since he could remember they didn't have any hay. Our boys said, "No". The rule said he had to have roughage feed for his cattle for 2 months in the year and then we would give him a permit for 10 months. But he said he never raised any hay and so they denied him. Then he took an appeal which came up to me. I said we had to do something for that fellow. Don't start in applying these rules, start in doing what should be done and let the darn rule sit. Well this was kind of a new theory with the government boys. But I said that's the way this thing is going to go. So I went down to see that stockman and I asked how he could use the range and not raise any hay. He said, "I've got a big trade in cantaloupe. I can make more money off my little irrigated land raising cantaloupe than I can hay. With this little dab of land that I've got I can raise enough cantaloupe to buy 70 tons of hay, whereas if I put it in hay, I can only raise 10 tons of hay." Now what are you going to do with him. He didn't come within the rules but he had always been using it. We changed the rules. The man who raises something which he customarily changes for roughage for his livestock would qualify for commensurability. Then we had every imaginable kind of commensurability. Here was a sheepman who had a forest permit for 2 bands of sheep. He wanted to use that as the basis as the right to run on the winter range for 2000 head of sheep. Would you give him that permit? Is the Forest Service range a good jumping stone to get rights on the other federal lands? What do you think? Can you jump off one federal permit and get another federal permit and base it on that? Or do you have to say to heck with the forest permit, we don't recognize the forest permits. Well you can't say either one. You've got to start in and adjust that. How did you get your forest permit? What was your reason for your forest permit? What part of the year do you sustain on private property? How much taxes do you pay to keep up the economics of this country where you live? You've got to look that fellow up and size him up all the way around and then you've got to make the rules to fit that kind of a picture.
I've grown up in the northern states. Commensurability was fairly easy to figure but when we got down to Albuquerque and Phoenix and I began talking about those that had feed to take care of their stock for the time when they are not on the ranges, they looked at me like I was a "bull with a batch of calves". They said, "What are you talking about--what do you mean? We don't feed any time or part of the year."
There wasn't anything in the Act about water. Here was a fellow by the name of Lee, and by the way, he was a wonderful character. He's the fellow that made Billy the Kid put his guns away. That's quite a story. Lee said, "What I control on this range here in this valley, I've controlled for 9 years. I've drawn water on it." Now if you don't believe that some of these old boys weren't mad. One character put in a 12-inch pipeline and put on a hydrant and built a corral around it. He gave permits and charged 25 cents a head to run stock to water there. If he didn't get his money, stock didn't get in that corral. So this guy says, "You think this land belongs to the government? Well I think it belongs to me. I developed that, I put my money into those pipelines. All these fellows come to me for permission to use Uncle Sam's land. What are you going to do about it?" Well of course, that was easy. He was a tough guy but he didn't even have the right to put the water on the public land. I said, "Brother, don't talk that way to us cause we can put you clear out of business. But if you want to talk turkey with us, why we're going to recognize some of your rights. We'll buy some of these waterholes from you if we can use them". We had to work out that proposition. The man who controls the water controls the range. The commensurability clause should use water not feed.
Well water, water, water. I thought I knew something about water but about all I know about water was that it was wet. I didn't realize that there are all kinds of water. There is perpetual water, that's grade A; there is seasonal water, that's grade B; there is temporary water, that's grade C. A big rain storm which they have every 6 or 7years in Nevada fills up a few sink holes and they have temporary water. There are many of them that are closer to the hills where there are little runs up to about June 15 and they have part-time water and they make little reservoirs; and once in a while you will find a spring for perpetual water. Now you must give the man with perpetual water, year around water--the first rights on the range. We found that out very soon. How much right on the range would he get? How would you solve that? Each one wanted as much range to go with his water as could possibly be used.. And each of them showed me he had a perpetual stream. And they said I control everything here for 10 miles around. Don't let anybody have that because I've got the only water. Well that old cow can't walk 20 miles to water every day. "No, she doesn't walk every day. She only comes down there twice a week and tanks up like a camel and goes back out and stays 3 days without water." That was a new one to me. But don't think that doesn't happen. These cowboys, these sheepherders--they have learned how to use these free resources in every kind of a wav and they only raise a calf every other year. They never wean their calves, they leave them on until the cow kicks them off. But that was the system and we had to go along with then.. We adopted the rule that no cow would have to walk over 4 miles to water. I thought that was quite a long way to walk for water. I was in favor for 1 mile limit but those boys on the desert have a lot of expanse and they wanted to have 5 miles.
So the water rule of commensurability was used south of the snowline. The snowline is southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. Stock run 12 months of the year and those fellows have to be treated differently. Well that looks simple. But here is a guy who writes me a letter and says, "They didn't give me a permit. I want out on that range. My father ran it before me. The way I got my water, the Santa Fe Railroad ran right through my range and I have the railroad bring in 5 water tank cars every year and then I had a truck and I went to those water tank cars and I filled enough water to water the stock. When those water tank cars were exhausted I filled and reused them again. Would you give him a permit? Can you buy water? Is it fair to let a man with a little money hire cars from the Santa Fe Railroad and take up a public range? Those are not easy questions to answer. We had to answer them. Were we going to give him a right to that range or not? There were other people clamoring for that land. But they had no water themselves, but they couldn1t use the range unless they did the same thing, and they said they'd do it. Well what are you going to tell them? No you can't say we're going to stand with the big fellows and kick the little guys in the jaw. And you can't do it the other way. You've got to meet and solve that problem. I'm not going to give you the answer to this. You can just chew it over and think about it.
Here's another one. Out on the Mojave Desert there was a great big pipeline going across this desert taking water to the city of Los Angeles. The city had taken all the water for the city people. There were great big beautiful houses with orchards all brown and dying--not a drop of water because it was all taken into Los Angeles. The ranchers were paid with more money than they had ever seen before. They put it in the bank and when the bank went broke, they lost their money. When I got there they said, "We want the range back and will start over." But a sheepman had gone to the city of Los Angeles and said, "Now along your pipeline you have great man-holes here that are 8 feet in diameter. Now I want to use that range and I'll pay you well for the water. If you'll give me a key to those manholes, I'll put siphons in there and put in troughs to water my sheep and I'll agree that I'll only take so much--so many gallons of water. You can have a man out there to regulate me." He got the right to tap every manhole for 75 miles and he had a truck fixed so he could jack up the wheels of this truck, and siphon off the water. Then he made troughs so the whole band of sheep could water at once. It was really a marvelous sight to see. Well he claimed a prior right of commensurability to that desert. Would you give it to him? Would you give other fellows a chance to get on it or what would you do with it? The other people said, "If you give it to him, you just sold out to these big boys; these sons of guns with a little bit of money have been copping everything and you're in their favor and what chance does a poor man have? My father came to this country, he could take 160 acres up and now I can't do anything but go on relief. And you fellows are putting me down." How are you going to answer them?
Well we had just thousands of problems like this on commensurability. And to get over the first hurdle you couldn't talk about a permit until you had commensurability. Now, of course, this is what happened. The smaller stockmen who didn't have commensurability were itinerant sheepmen. There were other fellows that were loaded down with real estate taxes, paying for the schools, and paying for the roads and trying to raise families. The fellow who was living on the public range had his assets piled in the bank a receipt of a note at the bank and that was all. He made money because he had no overhead and he and his wife and the children herded the sheep and they paid nothing for the pastures. If you weren't there, they got in on your pasture and munched that too. They were the successful range people. When we came along they went right out and began buying ranches.
Then we came to the real problem--what about prior rights? Here is a Spot in Idaho. When I came to that meeting the Idaho wool growers were a well-organized bunch and they had Forest Service permits for 40,000 sheep They wanted a permit to run 40,000 sheep on the public domain. Now the little fellows in the Snake River Valley had a system there--they'd raise alfalfa two or three years, then they put it in barley and then they put it back in alfalfa. And when the range was bad, the sheepmen would come along and buy their hay for $5 a ton. They were the only customers the farmers had and the sheepmen made big money because they used the forest for their own pasture and they only bought hay when they had to. The little farmers in the valley hated their guts. There was a county agent down there by the name of Hale who was a real politician. He went up and down the Snake River and organized all of these fellows and said, "Boys the day of morning is here. The United States has said that the public range shall go out to the people with commensurate property and you and I have that property. These big sheepmen haven't got the property and we're going to take the range over." He was their spokesman and he said, "You're not going to hand over all this public range in the State of Idaho to these fellows who have robbed us and stole all our hay for all these years. We've paid our taxes, our assessments are bigger than theirs. We support the schools and we're going to have our share of that range and we're going to have it all and we'd like to kick then all into eternity." That was the battle and there we were. What were we going to do? Were we going to turn the established sheep industry out the front door and put a new bunch in? Well fortunately or unfortunately the Act contained a clause that said we should respect prior rights. What were prior rights? Prior rights were previous use of the range. These sheepmen had the range for 20 years. Maybe some operator had just bought an outfit the year before. So all the fellows that had been on 5 years voted for 5 years. All the fellows that had only been on 1 year voted for 1 year. Each fellow was voting so that he got on. What were you going to do? What was going to be the role of prior rights. How much prior use of the range did you have to have in order to submit your commensurability right and get a permit? I didn't know what to say. So the first year we said, "Now we'll tell you how we are going to do this. The Board meets and your 10 representative sheepmen are there, your 10 representative cowboys are there and you're going to have to agree by 2/3 majority on some rule for prior use of the range and that first year that rule will apply to that district. And every district will vote their own rule and then we'll all get together in Salt Lake City at the Hotel Utah in the ballroom and we'll fight it out and we'll have one rule for the United States."
So then they started out. Here was a district that was largely all old time operators, and they had no trouble voting the rule that you had to show 20 years continuous use of the range. Well then some of them found out they hadn't used it continuously. So they said 15 out of 20 years gives you a prior right. There were other sections of the range for one reason or another had just been opened up. These operators said anybody using it last year should have prior rights. The Act went in effect June 28, 1934, so anybody using it in 1933 should have the prior rights. Well it sounded pretty good but then a man came in and said, "My wife had a stroke that year and I had to move down to Arizona. I let my neighbors use that range and I didn't use the range in 1933 but I've been here all my life. Are you going to kick me out?" Well we couldn't go that way. So the really hot battle in setting up the regulations of the Taylor Act was what was prior use of the range. And we were close to 3 years solving it. After we solved it for the north, it wouldn't go in the south because of the water rights. In the south it didn't matter how long you had used the range, if you didn't have water rights you couldn't continue to use it.
So we had to reach a conclusion. After many, many battles this is what they finally decided. The rule was finally worked out that anyone who in the 5 years immediately preceding the passage of the Taylor Act had used the range in connection with his land, either continuously for 2 years or any 3 years in that period had prior use rights. Now some people were in and out and they used it one year and didn't use it the next year and some used it 2 continuous years. Anytime that you can show any 2 years of continuous use or any 3 years of casual use, you then have priority. That rule was successful. That barred some people that should have had priority but it took in the great majority and in this country when we make a rule we're a majority country. We live by compromise. When it was all decided the smart boys got out and bought properties that had been used in connection with the range. Now it wasn't that you were the individual that had used it but it was whether the property that you owned was connected by use of the range. Maybe you bought a ranch in 1934 when the Taylor Act passed but that ranch had been used in connection with the public range so many years, had been used 2 continuous years of the previous 5 years preceding the passage of the Act or it had been used at least 3 years in that 5 years. The priority right went not to you as an individual but went to your property. Now your property was over here and you had to show a connection between that farm and that piece of range. How did we establish that? Well the operator had to come in and sign an affidavit that he had used it and that as near as he could remember the dates he had used it and the number of cattle that he had used it for.
Now when a fellow is getting a favor from the government, he has very loose ideas of ethics. His idea is to get as much as possible. He approaches it the same way that you approach making up your income tax. If there is any doubt about it, resolve the doubt in your favor and see if they pick it up when they examine it. So the stockmen in applying for range rights used the same system. How could a few little federal employees administering the Act say "No, you didn't have a 150 head out on that range. That's the year you went out of business and you shipped everything and sold to Johnny Jones. And anyway you never did have over 25 head of cattle, you always used your neighbor's bull and you weren't really a legitimate operator. How were we going to find out? Well this is the way we found out. The District Grazier called the board in and among the members of the board there was somebody that knew the operators and it was his business to say, "No that fellow never had that many head. He never ran over 35 head. So we cut that down to 35 head and with the collective cross section brains of the leaders of the industry we were able to take these hundreds of applications. and make some sense out of them.
Then the fun began. You sent a notice to the fellow. Your application has been approved for 35 head. You applied for 150. If you are dissatisfied with that come and make an appeal to the Board and explain the circumstances. If you are dissatisfied with the Board's action, take your appeal to the Regional Grazier. If you are still dissatisfied with that action, take your appeal to the Director and if you are still not satisfied go to the Secretary of the Interior. And if you still dissatisfied with that action, go to hell. Now it's a funny thing about the American people. They love to appeal. If you're beaten, your lawyer sold out on you and you know you didn't get a square deal, but you immediately announce you are going to make an appeal. So I figured that way we would take care of these boys was that we would give them so many appeals that we would really wear them out. But they liked appealing. In making the first appeal, they didn't go to the government people that made the decisions. The first appeal really took the salt out. He had to come and face his neighbors on the Board. Here was a man that saw him drive up and down the road with exactly what he had. And when he came in that fellow said, "Hi Bill, we had to put you back. I guess you've been running about 35 head. You know, I was the assessor in that county and so I know about what you had." So what was the appellant going to say? He wasn't going to say anything. He said, "Well I think that's very nice, thank you very much," and he goes out the door. 90% of the appeals were dismissed right then arid there when the fellows appeared before the Boards. The other 10% went on to the District Grazier and before it was all done everything was worked out.
When we made a mistake, we admitted it, and it had an electrical effect on the American people. They had never heard of a government employee say "I made a mistake and I was a damn fool and I am going to change it." It just isn't done that way. You understand we weren't figuratively a governmental service and we were going to get along with the stockmen and to give them faith in the Bureau that administered their lands. We weren't trying to pamper them but we were trying to keep public relations on a basis where they would recognize they were getting a fair American deal.
They could put in for anything they wanted and we told them what we thought they had coming. If they didn't like it, then they could appeal to an independent tribunal. That system worked. But that system was so very disliked in Washington that I hadn't operated over a year or maybe 18 months and I found I just didn't have a job. I was in Albuquerque one day and got a letter from the Secretary, telling me to appear in his office for a hearing at 1 o'clock on Monday. I went into his office at 1 o'clock on Monday. He had the Solicitor General and a bunch of other top men sitting around. He handed me a sheet with 12 charges against me. One of them was because I told some fellows to haul their own salt out on government range. Well, that was against the law. Then there were all kinds of other fake charges on me. The Secretary fired me right then and there. Getting a fired gives you a funny feeling. Well, the ranchers out on the range created disturbance. These boys had their advisory boards and they pointed out they liked this way of doing things. They thought it was better than the way the Forest Service had handled them. They just rained the telegrams in on Franklin D. and he called Harold Ickes and told him he had better take that son of a gun back. There was an election coming up in a little while. So back I went Harold didn't love me after that. He'd fourfoot me everytime I went by if he could do it but if you go into government service that's what you have to face.
Uncle Sam is the biggest landowner on this continent. These lands are distributed among various bureaus. There's better than 142,000,000 acres in the Bureau of Land Management. When his was public domain any government bureau could apply for some of it. The Secretary of some department could go to the Secretary of Interior. For example, the Secretary of the Army could say, "The Army wants land for bombing." Well, I'd give them a bunch of desert where nobody lived. It would be a little patch of 100 square miles or so to drop bombs on to see how they exploded. So then they would try to exclude livestock because they were going to drop bombs. Well, you can t exclude livestock. They'd get out on that range anyway and if there's a little water they're going to get in for sure.
Then here's the Navy. And they decide that some day there's going to be a shortage of oil and none of their ships can navigate. But there is a tremendous supply of oil shale in western Utah, Colorado and some in Wyoming and so they ask the Secretary of Interior to reserve all the oil shale for the naval oil reserves. So right in the middle of our grazing districts is 500,000 acres of oil shale reserves with a Lt. Commander in charge of it. Now he doesn't know which end of a cow gets up first and knows nothing about the livestock business. And you say to him, "Well now Commander, would you like us to regulate grazing Out there?" Well he doesn't know anything about it and you've got to go to headquarters to get him to make a cooperative agreement. He doesn't know it, but cattle and sheep are all over his petroleum reserve already. If you deny a permit to somebody, you're in real trouble.
Here is a couple hundred thousand acres in some pretty good land that's an ammunition dump; Whenever they get a torpedo or something that doesn't explode and they don't know what to do with it, they take it out and put it on the ammunition dump. So this area is all filled with unexploded shells. Of course the cattle didn't mind whether it exploded or not, nor the sheep either. They went right.on grazing. Well you've got to make a cooperative agreement to manage grazing on that area.
Then you get the wildlife people. Here was a fellow by the name of Ding Darling. Ding had been a great cartoonist in Des Moines, Iowa. He also was a wildlife enthusiast, an ardent Democrat and had boosted for Franklin Roosevelt's election. So nothing would be more natural than he be appointed head of what they called then, the Biological Survey. Ding was what we call a robin's egg conservationist. You know what a robin1s egg conservationist is? Well if you're a robin's egg conservationist you are really a conservationist. He believed that the world was made to preserve whooping swan. That's a swan that gives an unusual whoop and he. wanted to preserve it and there was only one bunch left. He came to me and said he had to have some land. This wonderful whooping swan was going to go out of existence and with it would go all our hopes for the preservation of nature and the set of values that have kept this nation great. He had to have a little piece of land up there in Oregon around a lake for the whooping swans. Ding was a very resourceful guy and he knew how to play his cards. He couldn't get that reservation without the sanction of the Department of the Interior so he went to the Secretary and said, "Mr. Secretary, the whooping swans are going out of existence and we have to preserve them." Well Ickes thought it was a good idea too. Ding said, "I'd like to go over and see the President." Well the Secretary arranged an interview for him with the President.
Then Ding did a smart thing. He took a map of the whole United States. When you get a map of that size, a point about as big as a pin prick is about 10,000 acres. So Ding went over to see Franklin D. and he told Franklin that he was going to preserve wildlife that was disappearing and that he needed some land used by stockmen. He said these stockmen were pirates on the range. They were only interested in overgrazing it If they overgrazed it with the cattle, and couldn't get the rest of it, they brought the sheep in because they could nibble closer. When the sheep went off it, they put the goats on as the goats got all the shrubs off and after that they turned the horses in. The President kept nodding and saying, "That's right", but that's all he knew about it. So after all this long speech, Ding said, "Now Mr. President, I want a few little reservations for wildlife to keep them from disappearing. I just want a little around where these little spots are. You can hardly see them on the map. Of course Franklin fell for it and he wrote on the margins of this map. "Harold, do not let any of these be put into grazing districts until you hear from me." FDR. Ding marches back, hands this to Harold.
Whenever you have anything from the White House, you just double up and make bows. Harold just passed it down on to me. When Ding sat down on the corner of my desk I said, "You son of a gun, do you know how much land you asked for? You got 7,000,000 acres of land for the damn whooping crane. Well you get outjockeyed once in awhile and you have to make the best of it. I could see that Ding was smarter than I was and that he was getting ahead of me and I thought, "If you can't lick them, then join then." So I said, "Now Ding, we're having a meeting down in Salt Lake City and I am having in these wicked stockmen to decide on the range use rules. I want you to come down there and meet with us. We'll have a special committee with representatives of the 56 grazing districts of the 10 western land states. These fellows control the land where most of the wildlife is and if you can get along with those boys they can do more for you than he President of the United States, the Congress of the U.S. or all of then put together. That is, if you can cooperate. So Ding came to Sal: Lake. Now we had some very distinguished men on our advisory councils. One of them was the Lt. Governor of Montana and later on the Governor of Montana. We had district judges, state senators and former congressmen. The people of the districts elected their responsible leaders. We appointed a very distinguished committee to work with Ding. Believe me they worked with him. They got him in a very amiable frame of mind and then the stockmen volunteered to keep some of the remaining bands of buffalo that were down on the lower Colorado River. They told him about the bands of game that he didn't know about and neither did his Biological Survey. We agreed that we would have one wildlife man on every advisory board in the U. S. and then started off with a great cooperative effort between the wIldlife people and the stockmen. There's no need to have trouble and opposition. It could all be worked out and it was worked out. Those 7,000,000 acres are still in wildlife reserves but stockmen are allowed to graze on it. They have a temporary permit for grazing. Of course we told and showed Ding where the reservation was meant for waterfowl and birds, and it was better to have the land grazed so the fire danger would be down.
We did the same thing with the War Department. I remember one time I wanted to get in on one of these bombing ranges. They hadn't dropped a bomb on their acreage for 6 or 7 years. Now no government agency ever gets a piece of land and then gives it up. There's just one answer when you go to then and you say "You're not using this land. We would like you to turn it back to the Department of Interior so we can put it to a good use. The stockmen can make a little money by grazing it and pay the taxes that support you sons of guns." No, that land would leave them over their dead bodies. They'll just hold on to it forever and ever. They're just like the Russians are when they deal. What's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable. Now that's the rule so if we wanted to use that property I knew there was no need to go over there and ask them to give it back. I started in with the Secretary of War. That was Mr. Dern, the former Governor of Utah. I was lucky to have a man that knew which end of a cow got up first. I had a talk with him. I said, "Now Governor, these generals and all these guys under you here don't know anything about the livestock business. You have a block of land out there that is a bombing area and it hasn't been used for 8 years. You may want to use it again, but until you do, would you let us go in there under an annual renewable license and graze that? We'll take care of that for you. We'll build some stock watering reservoirs in there and we'll build some corrals so the boys can handLe this stock better. We'll do it at no expense to you and turn the land back to you anytime you want it." Well, that's a pretty good deal and he said, "All right, I'll do that. Now you go see General So and So." Then I knew the trouble was starting. General So-and-So was Chief of Staff. So I ran around to his office. I had a little note from the Secretary and I said, "The Secretary told me to see General So-and-So, Chief of Staff."
Well, the General was in conference. I've never tried to see a big man that he wasn't always in conference. I don't know if they do anything or not but they're always in conference. That is to impress you with the fact that he is so big that he is constantly conferring with somebody all the time. You have to wait a little while to see him. I sat down to cool my heels. I went in to see the General. He looked with disfavor upon the Secretary's rule because he was a civilian~and a political appointee. So I said, "Now General, you haven't used this land. I have talked it over with the Secretary and he thinks maybe it will be nice if you let us in on this bombing area under annual renewable license. We'll take good care it.
you want to bomb, we'll move everything all off." His answer was just like the rest of them--"No". Well, I thought about going back to the Secretary and have the Secretary outrank this fellow. What was I going to do? I sized this guy up. I said, "General, do you know what's going on there today? There's some foreigners on there with sheep and they're eating that out by the roots. They don't care about you or the military or anything. They're there and if you ever dropped a bomb on them, they'd sue in the Court of Claims for millions of dollars. The only people that can keep them off is the Division of Grazing. If we handle that land, we'll keep them off when you want them off." I can see him yet. "You mean to say that those fellows on there are doing dirt to me?" I said, "Yes General that's just what they are doing," So he gave orders to turn this land over to us. And that was that. I didn't know where I was at. I walked out of the room and sent a wire to the head Grazier in Salt Lake City to issue permits in there. General So-and-So sent a telegram right away to the Department Commander in San Francisco saying that the Department of Grazing would handle all the grazing land. That's he way it's done. That's the human relations story.
Now I want to just say a word before we leave here about government structures and government bureaus and about this government of ours that we are depending on. The idea of a Coordination of federal and local authorities origined during the Civil War. During the Civil War this country was in dire straits. President Lincoln submitted and Congress passed a Draft Act whereby the Provost Marshal could go around and seize citizens and impress them in the Army of the United States. That didn't go. The Provost Marshal went into New York City, arrested some conscripts and marched them down the street. They had a bloody riot and they about killed everybody. The federal government had repealed the writ of habeous corpus and had autocratic power, but it had to quit trying to conscript people. We never did conscript over about 324,000 men in the whole Civil War. We learned that you cannot handle people that way. In the first World war they passed the Draft act which said that the sheriff, the county physician and the county clerk of each county in the
U.S. should be in charge of the Draft Act and they should be the boys to say which men fight the war. The great armies of the first World War and the second World War and the present army are still done on that coordinated system. Now that was where I had the precedent to set up these advisory groups. So great has been the movement sanctioning and approving what they've done that Congress passed a statute some years ago and provided that the National Forest should have elective advisory boards. If you have an elective board they'll stand up and talk for what they want. Congress has said on all the public lands there will be advisory boards who are elected.
Now like all other organizations of government many of these stockmen don't use this elective process. Every now and then I meet somebody and they say, "All our grazing districts are all gone to pot and the federals have taken over and we don't have anything to say." I say, "That's your fault. You were given a ballot. Did you vote for the last director?" "No, I was too busy." I tell them, "You don't deserve any freedom if you don't go to the polls and vote for it." That sets them back and then they'll elect a new man on the board and he gets in there and sees that the thing is done right. That is the system of democracy, what we call the democratic process. You can give people freedom but if they won't fight to keep it, they won't keep it. And that is the position we are in today. They talk about our creeping socialism and all these things that are being taken away from us. They are being taken away from us for two reasons: 1. Because we want somebody to do everything for us and 2. Because we are not willing to make a fight for democracy. This puts the bee on the stockmen in the handling of his ranges. He can have any kind of administration he wants if he takes an interest in it.