The U.S. Air Force is giving an ultimatum to the owners of a remote Nevada property that over time has been surrounded by a vast bombing range including the super-secret Area 51.
The Sheahan family is being told to take a $5.2 million "last best offer" for their property by Thursday — or the government will seize it through condemnation.
The owners include descendants of a couple who lost their hardscrabble mining enterprise after the Air Force moved in in the 1940s. Nuclear tests then began in 1951, their mine mill mysteriously exploded in 1954 and they ran out of money to seek reparations from the government in 1959.
In this April 10, 2002, file photo, a car moves along the Extraterrestrial Highway near Rachel, Nev, the closest town to Area 51. The U.S. Air Force is giving an ultimatum to owners of the remote Nevada property: Take a $5.2 million �last best offer� by Thursday,, Sept. 10, 2015, for their property now surrounded by a vast bombing range including the super-secret Area 51, or the government will seize it. (AP/Laura Rauch)
Family representatives say they'll reject the deal — at least for now. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported this is because they simply "want to keep our property."
Here's more on the family's back story from the newspaper:
[Joe Sheahan, 54, and his] cousins Ben Sheahan, 56, Danny Sheahan, 58, and Barbara Sheahan Manning, 59, — all from Henderson — said their stake in the combined 400 acres of property and unpatented mining claims is worth considerably more, not counting the reparations they say they are owed by the Air Force and Department of Energy for "abuses and atrocities" that date back to the early 1950s. That's when they said their ore processing mill was fire-bombed by a military jet and their property was showered by radioactive fallout from numerous above-ground nuclear weapons tests.
Most recently, when some family members visited the property in the restricted area 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas — as the Air Force has allowed them to do about once a month — guards held them at gunpoint, including a 7-year-old girl who was "traumatized" by the show of force, Danny Sheahan said.
"It seems like machine guns solve anything on the property out there. That's not the American way," he said.
The Review-Journal reported a Nellis Air Force Base spokesman saying there was no evidence to support this accusation and noted that the Air Force is insisting that the family sell the property because they have apparently interfered with testing operations. Air Force officials consider it a matter of national security.
In a news release, Nellis Air Force Base said that the family and the military's operations at the Nevada Test and Training Range "have become less and less compatible."
"The Air Force has worked hard to be a responsible neighbor by actively working with the landowners and local neighbors to ensure our evolving missions and communities grew in a compatible, mutually beneficial manner," Col. Thomas Dempsey, commander of the Nevada Test and Training Range Wing, said in a statement. "But in this case, the Air Force has exhausted all reasonable options to reach a settlement with the land owners."
The family, however, discredits the claim that they've been disruptive.
"We're interrupting their operations? Really?" Joe Sheahan told the Review-Journal. "We didn't parachute into their backyard. They parachuted into our backyard."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.