Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rancher wins legal battle with state

A rancher northeast of Dayton says it will take him awhile to feel like his ranch is his again after winning a lawsuit with the Washington state Department of Ecology. "I'd like to pursue what I started in 1990, to have a nice herd of cattle and enjoy my retirement," said Joe Lemire, 68, while noting he has more issues to raise if Ecology appeals. "I hope they leave us alone," he said. "We're not doing anything wrong, never have." Columbia County Superior Court Judge William D. Acey heard arguments July 7 and found insufficient evidence for Ecology to have issued an order in 2009 claiming Lemire's cattle had "substantial potential to pollute" Pataha Creek and ordering that he fence it off, said Toni Meacham, Lemire's attorney. Ecology officials alleged the creek was polluted above and below Lemire's ranch and that they've found manure next to the creek, uncontrolled cattle access, overgrazing and erosion near the creek, all putting Lemire in violation of state law. Lemire disputed Ecology's allegations, saying he follows best management practices, recognized by state and federal agencies, including keeping water troughs, feeding areas and salt licks away from the creek. He said he's careful not to allow overgrazing and has used some fencing to direct cattle away from steeper creek banks. The judge declared Ecology's order null and void, saying it was based on just five site visits in four years which was insufficient to reach the conclusions it reached, Meacham said...more

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