Las Vegas, NV — A family has lost their fight with the federal government to keep their land near the mysterious Area 51 in Nevada. The 400-acre Groom Mine property belonging to the Sheehan family was condemned by the U.S. Air Force after the family rejected a buyout which they felt was unfair.
A federal judge then signed the “order for immediate delivery of possession” through eminent domain, seizing the property in the interest of top-secret military operations.
The property had been in the Sheehan family since the 1870s, and still contains valuable minerals that can be mined. It also contains the remains of deceased family members dating to the 19th century.
As the military-industrial complex assumed its might after World War II, a vast government buffer zone termed the Nevada Test and Training Range developed around the Sheehan’s property. Groom Mine overlooks the Groom Lake dry bed, better known as Area 51, which has long been a testing ground for highly advanced aerial vehicles.
The family has been silent about their experience with the federal government until negotiations turned sour. Now they tell a tale of harassment and subterfuge.
Family members continued to work at the mine—which produced lead, silver and copper—until 1954 when atomic tests became overbearing. The government “accidentally” destroyed a mill that was used to process ore, shutting down mine production. Grandparents of the current owners went bankrupt trying to fight the government in court.
The campaign against the Sheehans has been relentless.
“They have driven away prospective business partners and told them, “If you buy the place or try to operate, we are going to condemn it, and you’re going lose your money,” said co-owner Dan Sheehan.
“They held people at gunpoint. They withdrew 89,000 acres of land, surrounded our property and made us an island,” said Joe Sheehan.
“We’ve been illegally searched. I was threatened to be arrested on a trip when I was going out one time to get on our land, our own privately owned land,” said Barbara Sheehan-Manning. “But six years before that, they placed a security shack on the road that our grandfather built for access to our own property and started requiring us to go through their checkpoints in order to gain access.”
Faced with the full weight of the federal government, the Sheehans must now abandon their property and accept the compensation, which will be determined in court. The Air Force values the land at $1.5 million but made a final offer of $5.2 million.
The family estimates the value of their 21 mineral claims alone to be at least $10 million, and they also say that indignities they suffered over decades must be considered. This includes buildings being strafed by military planes and radiation from nuclear testing in the 50s and 60s.
When the Sheehans began negotiating with the government for the property, they were unaware that the Air Force had already received congressional approval to condemn the land. They may also be forced to sign an inadvertent disclosure agreement that would prevent them from discussing visits to their property.
The seizure of the Sheehan’s property, the last piece of land in an enormous area of top-secret activity, represents the triumph of war and secrecy over the rights of citizens. Nothing is sacred when it comes to government advancing the cause of militarization.