Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Water war continues despite court “settlement”

When environmentalists and Wyoming ranchers agreed on Aug. 11 to end their two-year legal fight over whether a field worker trespassed when measuring water pollution on public grazing allotments, both sides proclaimed victory. “Trespassing to stop under settlement,” the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association trumpeted in a press release supporting the rancher plaintiffs. “Frivolous Wyoming trespass lawsuit finally dropped,” announced the defendant – Western Watersheds Project. In fact, the “settlement” between the 17 Wyoming ranchers who brought the lawsuit and Western Watersheds, the Idaho-based environmental watchdog, is like a ceasefire in Syria — more posturing than fact — rather than an actual end to hostilities. Indeed, the fight over water quality in Wyoming continues, perhaps with the rules of engagement slightly better defined as the result of the settlement: Ranchers can now easily seek a court fine — $2,500 for the first trespass and $5,000 for subsequent ones. The sides agreed which roads through certain private properties have easements allowing Western Watersheds to pass. The state DEQ has meanwhile rolled out its revised plan for reclassifying — some say downgrading — waterways after the federal government said the state’s first attempt lacked public notice and a proper record of public involvement. Wyoming now seeks to list for higher protection about 5,000 more miles of streams and creeks than originally planned — partly due to accepting a federal request to maintain protection under two different labels for key pristine streams. But the real conflict, both sides agree, was never really as much about “trespassing” as it was about who was trespassing. Most ranchers, plaintiff’s attorney Karen Budd-Falen said, are tolerant when it comes to recreational visitors and even hunters crossing their property to get to public land. The ranchers she represents, said Budd-Falen, “generally are fine with the general public crossing their property.” But when someone shows up with a water testing kit that could possibly affect their grazing business they draw the line. “We brought the case because Western Watersheds abused the system,” she said. Western Watersheds says abuse comes from stock growers, heaped on the public-lands environment to the detriment of wildlife...more

1 comment:

Dave Pickel said...

I was backpacking up Noble Creek Canyon to spend the night at Noble Lake in Alpine County, CA once. It was, and is, an active grazing allotment. I had a powerful dry after reaching the lake and I drank profusely from an incoming stream. Little did I know that it was littered w/ cow turds and such. I survived w/o effect, so will ya'll.