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Political Prisoner?

Wally Klump is fighting for freedom in Arizona’s penitentiary. His bank account has been seized by the Bureau of Land Management and his family holds hard to the land, trying to keep debts paid and options open.

By J. Zane Walley

Wally celebrates a pre-penitentiary birthday with grandkids, Jenna and Canyon Lee. Photo courtesy Klump family.

Luther Wallace "Wally" Klump recently marked his 70th birthday. He could not celebrate on the family ranch with his wife, children and grandchildren. The old rancher turned 70 in the cell of an Arizona penitentiary.

Klump is not in prison for murder, rape, drugs or any of the common offenses against society; his offense is one that astounds the most hardened and cynical criminals in the penal complex where he is housed. Klump’s "crime" boiled down to "trespassing" cows on Bureau of Land Management property in Arizona’s Dos Cabezas Mountains. His fellow inmates understood. For his birthday, they made a card with a picture of a grazing cow and a bold caption "BLM Sucks!"

The rawhide tough, tall old rancher has become a father figure and prison parson to many of the young detainees. One inmate said in a phone interview, "I thank God for saving me and having Wally here to guide me to a better life."

Wally rates respect with the prisoners because of his steadfast refusal to bow to what he believes is "an unreasonable authority," in this case Federal Judge John M. Roll, U.S. District Court, Tucson, who jailed Klump April 21, 2003 for contempt of court for "failing to follow the Court’s order prohibiting the unauthorized grazing of cattle on government allotments."

It is common knowledge among his fellow inmates that Wally can get out of jail at any time simply by having his family remove the "criminal cows" from BLM lands in the Dos Cabezas area. On this, Klump will not budge. He is firmly convinced that the lands belong to the family, not to the Bureau of Land Management. His kin were running cattle in the Dos Cabezas long before the Bureau existed.

Klump roots are deep in Arizona’s ranching history. In 1904, Wally’s grandfather and grandmother, John and Ruthie Klump and their children left the Black Mogollon Mountains of New Mexico to drive their homestead stakes into the Cimmerian earth of the Dos Cabezas, between the high, scorching Chihuahuan and even hotter Sonoran deserts. Wally’s father, John Sherman, staked his own homestead claim there at age 14.

The homestead was near the tough Cochise County, Dos Cabezas mining camp. Copper, lead, silver and gold mines were pouring steady streams of wealth from the earth, and the population hovered around 3,000, including the notable Big-Nose Kate (brothel madam and Doc Holliday’s woman).

The Klump family labored, prospered and grew. John Sherman married Delia Ellen. They built a four-room house and worked rough years raising livestock and hay in the dancing mirages and simmering heat. As their hard-earned successes grew, they began accumulating springs, water rights and private land. In 1934, after Congress passed the Taylor Grazing Act, John met with the U.S. Grazing Service (the BLM’s predecessor) and surveyed his allotments.

John and Delia had seven children, including Wally, and nurtured them as the strong, resilient citizens that survival in the harsh environment demanded. In 1967, John was covered in the sweet earth he so loved. Delia followed in ’73.

In large part, the sizable clan that began with John and Ruthie continued living on the land, and running their cattle on the desert flat and high in the mountains. Thirty-four brands registered to the Klumps attest to their time on the range.

"Life was good until about the late ’80s or early ’90s," observes Wally’s kid brother, Wayne, as he surveys a seemingly endless vista from their hunting cabin perched high on a bolder-strewn bench in the Dos Cabezas Mountains. "That’s when we began having trouble with the BLM. I think it all started because we closed access to their land across our private property."

He gestures to a jumble of arroyos and gulches below. "Some of our lands are patented mining claims with equipment like mining carts and such still on them. The public began vandalizing the old mines and stealing stuff, so we shut ’er down and that caused a real stir ’cause it also blocked the BLM from coming in."

Wayne is a lean, ropy man who seems to thrive on beef, bread, water and 16-hour workdays. He is equally sparse in his speech that usually revolves around cows, grass, water, his children and the BLM. He launched a mind-numbing narrative of the family’s troubles with BLM, including the imposition of impossible regulations on their grazing allotments, entrapment by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service undercover agents, fenced off water, water grabs, and more.

At one point BLM required them to ear-tag all their livestock on public lands. "That didn’t work!" he says. "Look around you. Our cows browse on mountain mahogany [a stiff -limbed brushy plant]. That pulled the tags out and still they charged us with trespass. We tried to comply, but it didn’t work. No matter, three trespasses and you lose your allotment."

Wayne sips tepid water from a well-used plastic gallon jug and continues, "We have gone to court with them. We didn’t have the funds for lawyers, so we acted in our own behalf, trying to save our water and grazing rights. We lost. Wally filed suit charging that the BLM took his ranch and water rights. He lost, of course." He pauses again to watch the sun set into distant peaks and then in a flat voice tinged with misery says, "A poor rancher can’t win against the kind of money the government has. All of this is what led up to Wally being in prison."

Wally’s ranch lies several miles of rough dirt road from his brother’s place. With Wally in prison, the work on the ranch continues unabated. Wally’s son, Levi, drives the two hours from his spread in New Mexico when he can spare time, but much of the constant work has fallen on Wayne and his children.

It is well before dawn, in the welcome cool of morning, when Wayne, 11-year-old Reba, Nicki, 16, and Matt, 13, hook up the gooseneck trailers to haul hay to Wally’s outfit. At 16, Nicki is seasoned at hauling long trailers through the winding mountain roads and down Interstate 10. She chauffeurs her rig with a sure hand to a local hay farm where her brother Matt and cousin Levi are already loading (a flatbed?).

By nine o’clock, the whole family is bucking tons of hay into Wally’s barn. By noon, the temperature inside the metal building is well over a hundred. Wally’s grandchildren, Logan, 5, and Heather, 3, happily play in a pile of bale ties with occasional attention from Reba.

An entry in Nicki’s diary describes Logan’s concern for his grandpa. "Logan was quietly riding in his car seat while we were hauling hay for our families. His father Levi and I were talking about Wally, and how he was in jail for illegally running cattle on BLM land. Suddenly Logan piped up, ‘When is Grandpa going to come home?’ I turned in my seat to see a little blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy looking crushed and confused. I looked at Levi as he told Logan he didn’t know how long it could be. Logan began to shoot off more questions about his missing grandpa. ‘Why won’t they let him go? Must have been bad cops that took him.’ The last thing Logan said made me choke up. ‘I miss Grandpa.’ With that, nothing else was said about Wally. I later learned that it wasn’t the first time Logan had asked about Grandpa. Sadly, I have to say it won’t be the last."

The BLM office in Safford, Ariz., that controls the Klump allotments is reserved about speaking on Wally’s situation. Assistant Manager Wayne King is a large man with a yellowing grey beard, longish hair and soft hands. When interviewed on Klump’s imprisonment he said, "We tried several things that didn’t work so we had to try something else."

The brief interview with King and public affairs specialist Diane Drobka produced four aerial photos that BLM contends show that the Klumps rolled back their fence to allow their cattle onto federal lands. The interview also produced inexact and electric dialogue.

JZW (admittedly in interrogation mode): "You put Wally in prison, seized his bank account and ordered his the bank to address the issue of improperly releasing the contents of his safe deposit box. What are you going to do with his ranch—seize it?

KING (leaning forward in his seat): "Well, well, we are in court and we really can’t talk about this. But there has been a lot of [land] titles swapped around in the family.

JZW: "I hear reports that Wally Klump has made threats against BLM personnel. To your knowledge, has he ever directly threatened you or your employees?"

KING: "He has never threatened me, but there are stories that he has."

A subsequent background check on Wally in Cochise County and a conversation with the under-sheriff produced no official record of threats. However, he did run an advertisement in the Wilcox, Ariz., Range News, stating that continued harassment by the BLM would warrant: "Exercising Second Amendment rights." Additionally, attendees at an Arizona-New Mexico Coalition of Counties meeting report that Wally publicly stated it was time to "start shootin’ BLM agents" (or words to that effect.)

These moves lost Klump the popular support of some, certainly not all, of the ranching community. His across-the-mountain neighbors, Pete and Carol Brunner, believe that the continuous BLM pressure pushed him over the line. "He is a good man and a good neighbor," said Pete. "The constant harassment by BLM made him say things that he really didn’t mean."

New Mexico rancher Welda McKinley Grider staunchly remains one of Wally’s supporters. In an e-mail to the New Mexico Cowbelles, she wrote, "This screams in the face of the recent victory of Hage vs. U.S. Wally is so strong in his belief that I think he knew something like this [going to jail] was going to happen. I think he was prepared for it. He surely is a lot stronger than me. In past times, the government has been able to pick us off one at a time. Those times are gone. Ranchers and concerned agriculture people are no longer willing to watch silently while one of us goes under."

Has Wally failed the law? Or has the law failed Wally? Unlike the hardened felons he is in prison with, he was denied a court-appointed attorney. The fines levied against him for illegal grazing exceed $300,000 and continue to climb by about $5,000 each day. The Department of Justice has seized his bank account and likely will take his home. Wally’s wife, Charlene, worries that the feds will take her personal assets because of Arizona’s common property law.

Wally remains unrepentant, defiant and in protest. From his cell, he states, "I am 70 years old and in good health. I reckon that I will live to be 90. My cows will stay on the land, and I will stay in prison until my property rights are restored and the United States agrees to stop forcefully taking any more of my property."

In a recent hand-written letter to President Bush, the old cowboy spells out his beliefs and problems. "I am in prison because of my determination to protect my freedom. My formula for freedom is private property rights for the person who is doing the work on the land. For over 10 years I have been in every court in the land trying to protect my property rights against the U.S. Government but their BLM is too big and I have always lost. In your world quest for freedom, please start with, or at least include, America. Please give me a deed to the surface rights of this land."

J. Zane Walley is the executive director of The Environmental Conservation Organization, Inc., 1200 North White Sands Boulevard, #110, Alamogordo, New Mexico 88310, 505-434-8998. Tennessee office 731-986-0099 <eco.freedom.org>.

Connecting Wildlands

Wally Klump’s land is in the middle. Is he imprisoned for the Wildlands Project?

By J. Zane Walley
(Jason: Plus this sidebar)

Connecting Wildlands

View from the Klump family’s hunting cabin in the high country. Brother Wayne Klump says, "A poor rancher can’t win against the kind of money the government has. All of this is what led up to Wally being in prison." Photo © J. Zane Walley

Wally Klump is in prison for "trespassing" cows on Bureau of Land Management property in Arizona’s Dos Cabezas Mountains.

The Klump lands and grazing allotments in the Dos Cabezas have been the subject of concentrated scrutiny in past years. The family has been subjected to ever-increasing pressure from the BLM.

New Mexico rancher Levi Klump has studied the mounting problems. "It’s simple," he sadly reckons. "They want to force us from our land. Run us off."

Levi’s brief summation is deeply rooted in documented fact, much of it coming from international forces. Few places in the West are as coveted, sought after, and "protected" as the remote highlands where the Klumps’ cattle graze.

Their private lands show as stark white spaces on the BLM surface management map of the Dos Cabezas. The Klumps’ widely scattered islands of private lands in Cochise and Graham Counties are situated in a long roundabout sequence of national forests, wildernesses, monuments, memorials and parks. Their properties are strewn over a substantial area between, and bordering, the Coronado National Forest, Coronado National Memorial, Chiricahua National Monument, the Dos Cabezas and Chiricahua Wildernesses.

All these areas were identified as United Nations Protected Areas in 1997. A fact that obviously, did not escape Sky Island Alliance (SIA), a fixated gang of pro-wilderness, anti-ranching campaigners.

SIA directors include former Earthfirst!ers Rod Mondt and Nancy Zierenberg. Mondt, a former employee of the U.S. Forest Service and Park Service, stated in a 1998 speech to the New Mexico Quivira Coalition, "They [cattle] cause excessive damage to the land, they eat native flora that would otherwise be eaten by native fauna."

SIA Director Lainie Levick (a former USDA Agricultural Research Service employee) is a member of the rabidly anti-grazing RangeNet. He stated that, "I believe that livestock grazing is completely inappropriate on our public lands. The damage caused by ranching and associated activities is enormous and must not be allowed to continue."

Presently, SIA is active in attempting to "rewild" the Dos Cabezas. In their summer, 2001 Newsletter, under the "Rewilding Program," SIA issued a call for action to their members. "Connecting the vast Chiricahua Mountains to the towering Pinalenos, the Dos Cabezas are an important wildlife corridor. Help us inventory the existing wilderness for expansion."

SIA has proposed a confounding conservation plan, the Sky Islands Wildlands Network that would encompass about 17.3 million acres of the Southwest and Mexico. The plan includes a provision that "Key private lands, in-holdings and grazing allotments need to be purchased by conservation groups or conservation-friendly individuals." At the center of the region, covering about 9.9 million acres, are the Sky Islands, including the Dos Cabezas Mountains and the Klumps’ private lands.

SIA’s plan is not an original. It is a duplicate of, and directly supported by, the Wildlands Project, a well-known, gargantuan plan that calls for the establishment of systems of core wilderness areas where human activity is prohibited. A syndicate of deep ecology, deep-pocket international environmental groups and foundations support the Wildlands Project (see story, starting page 36).

A national map constructed from core, buffer, and corridor area parameters from the Wildlands Project by Dr. Michael Coffman (Discerning the Times Digest), shows that Dos Cabezas is destined for "rewilding." A separate map, produced by The Wildlands Project, indicates that the Klump lands are in Project 20, the Sky Islands Wildlands Network.

Are federal land agencies, including Wally Klump’s chief antagonist, the Bureau of Land Management, involved in implementing the Wildlands Project? Scott Riebel, Director of Environmental Affairs, United Four Wheel Drive Associations, points to the 2001 USDA report, "Linkage Habitat," published by Bill Ruediger, U.S. Forest Service, Endangered Species Program Leader, Missoula, Mont., as proof positive.

"If there were ever any questions about the federal government implementing the Wildlands Project, this report should put the questions to rest," wrote Riebel. "This report follows quite precisely, recommendations found in Section 13 of the Global Biodiversity Assessment, the 1140-page instruction book for implementing the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity." The Global Biodiversity Assessment is viewed by knowledgeable scholars of environmental law as the "blueprint" for the Wildlands Project. Further adding to the Klumps’ international woes was the 1997 ESA listing of the jaguar (Panthera onca). That fueled additional anti-grazing, anti-rancher sentiment among litigation-drunk greens.

The Jaguar Conservation Team, (JAGCT) a binational partnership of government agencies, private and non-governmental organizations identified Dos Cabezas as jaguar habitat with interconnecting travel corridors.

JAGCT was reinforced by the formation of Bordercats Working Group, a bloc of environmental organizations with lengthy records of ESA lawsuits against land agencies. A prominent member of Bordercats, Defenders of Wildlife bluntly declared, "The most urgent conservation issue is the current intolerance of ranchers for jaguars. Much of the suitable habitat in the United States has been degraded by development, agriculture and livestock grazing."

Bordercats (financed in part by a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service grant) linked with the IUCN (a.k.a. The World Conservation Union) based in Switzerland. IUCN is the primary source of most all international environmental treaties and laws.

The IUCN placed Panthera onca on their "Red List Programme" of species facing global extinction. The big cat roams free on the Klumps’ lands.

Wally Klump remains in prison.

Fall 2003 Contents

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