livestock are entitled to graze such livestock for free. Specifically, the Taylor Grazing Act, 43
U.S.C. §315(d) provides that:
The Secretary of the Interior shall
permit, under regulations to be
prescribed by him, the free grazing
within such districts of livestock
kept for domestic purposes.
C.F.R. §4130.5 provides further details:
A free-use grazing permit shall
be issued to any applicant whose
residence is adjacent to public lands
within grazing districts and who
needs these public lands to support
those domestic livestock owned by
Id. (emphasis added).
Thus, even as the United States was suing and representing to courts that Bundy must
pay the federal government for grazing, its agents were well aware that Bundy qualified for
free grazing of livestock in the district, under federal statutes.
The Ninth Circuit’s decision in United States v. Wharton, 514 F.2d 406 (1975) is
directly on point. Where a descendant of a person who had originally settled on public land
approached government officials to determine what his family could do to gain title to land
and those government officials misrepresented that there was no way to gain title (at a time
when it was still possible to gain title by filing a new desert-entry application), estoppel
would be applied against the United States. This was true even though the rancher acted in
bad faith or otherwise imperfectly. Id.