Range war

Range war

A range war (taken from the term "open range") is a type of (typically undeclared) conflict that occurs in agrarian or stockrearing societies. Typically fought over water rights or grazing rights to unfenced/unowned land, it could pit competing farmers or ranchers against each other. Range wars were known to occur in the American West, especially prior to the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 which regulated grazing allotments on public land.

The Johnson County Range War is one famous range war, fought between local tenants and gunmen hired by absentee landowners. Many other range wars in the United States were fought by representatives of different industries, especially between cattle ranchers with a fixed base of operations and the more migratory sheep ranchers.

Formal military involvement, other than to separate warring parties, is rare.

While in previous centuries violence may have been involved [For example, from the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society site cite web | author = CECILIA RASMUSSEN |url= [http://www.scvhistory.com/scvhistory/castaic-feud-041501.htm | title= Castaic Range War Left Up to 21 Dead | publisher= Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society | accessdate=2004-07-04 (sourced from the Los Angeles Times): "The violent, long-running Jenkins-Chormicle feud, which started in 1890 over a boundary dispute, is a colorful and cruel saga — part fact, part myth — of barn burnings, ambushes and gun battles on horseback. It lasted more than two decades." describes a Southern California range war that started in 1890.] , the term can also be used for non violent contention for scarce resources, perhaps between ranchers and environmentalists [For example, from the [http://www.cnr.uidaho.edu/range456/hot-topics/range-wars.htm U of Idaho Range Management site] telling of conflict in Idaho: " Range wars continue, just as they did a century ago, between those who have grazing rights and those who do not. Today these range wars pit ranchers, with state grazing leases, against the environmental groups that are trying to restore the grazing lease areas to a healthy and pristine land. The weapons have changed from the cold steel of a gun to the amount of cold hard cash a rancher or an environmental group will pay for a piece of land."] , or between ranchers and fans of wild horses [For example, from the [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6884764/site/newsweek/ MSNBC] site, telling of Bureau of Land Management policy changes and impacts: "The mustangs' current troubles come thanks in part to another Western icon: cattle ranchers. There are currently 37,000 mustangs sharing public rangelands with several million head of cattle. The result has been overgrazing, exacerbated by six years of drought. To restore the land, the BLM has cut the number of cattle allowed, and ranchers say the horses and burros have to be pared substantially. "If we don't receive relief, and soon, we'll be out of business," Lemoille, Nev., rancher Kenneth Jones" ] .

Range wars in literature and the arts

Range wars have been the subject of movies and stories. Some examples:

*"Range War" ( [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031838/ IMDB entry] ) is a 1939 movie (featuring Hopalong Cassidy) about a group of ranchers in conflict with a railway company.
*"Shane" is a 1953 movie (featuring Alan Ladd) that tells the story of a gunfighter taking the side of the farmers against cattlemen during a fictional range war loosely based on the Johnson County Range War.
*"The Virginian" a 1902 novel by Owen Wister; filmed four times, also based on the Johnson County Range War, but on the side of the large ranchers and depicting the lynchings as "frontier justice" for cattle rustling.
*"Open Range" (2003), in which free-grazers take on a cattle baron who tries to use hired assassins to steal their herd
*"To The Last Man: A Story of the Pleasant Valley War" is a novel by famous Western author Zane Grey concerning the Pleasant Valley War in 1880s Arizona
*"Oklahoma!" (1943 Broadway musical, 1955 film) Rogers & Hammerstein musical about a cowboy in love with a farm girl, complicated by a rivalry between local farmers and cowboys over fences and water rights.
*"El Dorado" is a 1967 movie about an aging gunfighter who goes straight to help his drunken lawman friend after a cattle baron hires him to intervene in a range war.

Usage in slang

A range war is also a slang term for a turf war or disagreement about proper hierarchy or relationship and is often used in a joking manner. The term can be used in politics [For example, the [http://irregulartimes.com/index.php/archives/2005/12/13/gillibrand-guller-duke-it-out/ Irregular Times] site describes a disagreement among Democratic Party regulars in upstate New York as a "range war". In this case the "unfenced territory" is an election district, and the hearts and minds of Democratic party regulars] , or business [For example, the [http://www.macobserver.com/article/2005/02/10.7.shtml-preview1743603291.shtml Mac Observer] site characterises the conflict between IBM and the SCO Group as a "range war". In this case, the "unfenced territory" is the Unix/Linux marketplace, and the hearts and minds of technical, purchase influencing, IT people.] .

Notes and references

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