Monday, May 12, 2008

Farm Bureau Vows to Help Lowry and Nettleton

Paul Nettleton (Photo by Jake Putnam)
BOISE – The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation kicked off a fundraiser this week for two Owyhee County ranchers who went through a 10-year court battle initiated by a federal agency, won, and then got stuck with over a million dollars in legal fees.

It started as bad dream for Paul Nettleton and Tim Lowry. Nearly a decade ago the Bureau of Land Management hauled the two Owyhee County ranchers into state court to determine who owned the water rights on grazing allotments utilized by the ranches since the late 1800’s. The U.S. Grazing Service, which eventually became the BLM, was not established until 1934. This turned out to be a key factor in the court decision.

Eventually, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled for the ranchers nullifying the attack on state water rights by the BLM. While the fight was successful, the legal defense of the ranchers cost a small fortune and they were denied reimbursement of legal fees.

The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation is kicking off a fundraising effort with a 16 minute documentary telling the ranchers’ story. The two families won victories against an army of federal lawyers and against long odds. The outcome of this case sets a precedent that protects stock water rights throughout the West.

“It was just a concerted effort to get that water back out of the private hands and into the hands of the federal government, it was just going after and as far as I’m concerned extortion type tactics to steal a private property right from individuals,” said Tim Lowry.

“It’s time that we help these families because they helped us,” said Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley. “We want to pass the hat for these ranchers. What they did took a lot of courage and their example will continue to protect our way of life.”

The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation produced the video
And a website telling the ranchers 10-year struggle with the federal government and the lawyers that vowed break them:

“Their victory is a victory for all of us. All agricultural, mining and recreation users that utilize water on federal lands now have more secure rights based on this important legal case,” added Priestley.

· The ranchers own state water rights on federally administered lands
· The priority dates of the water rights date back to when the water was first put to beneficial use
·The state water rights are appurtenant to the ranch property and need not be specifically listed on the deed
· The U.S. government does not own and cannot hold stock water rights.
Order a video from the website ((, view it, and then pass it on to friends. Donate as much as you can afford to:
Agricultural and Environmental Research Foundation, C/O Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, 275 Tierra Vista Drive, Pocatello, ID 83201

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