Friday, December 19, 2008

Lowry-Nettleton Fundraiser

Jake Putnam photo
Lowry-Nettleton Fundraiser Progresses
BOISE – The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation reports that a fundraiser launched last May for the two Owyhee County ranchers is progressing and could one day reach the million dollar goal.

Tim Lowry and Paul Nettleton beat the BLM in every court battle they faced against the agency that unsuccessfully tried to wrestle water rights away from them. But the 10-year battle didn't come without blood sweat and tears. The ranchers were stuck with a million dollars legal fee bill.

A documentary film, press releases and a website outlining the dispute coupled with an impassioned word of mouth campaign brought in $66,000 in just 7 months. But the fight is far from over; an education campaign continues to tell public land owners about the court victories that secured their water rights.

"Its a compelling story," said producer Steve Ritter. "When you consider the fact that these two ranchers stood up to a Federal agency bent on destroying them and stealing their water, it's a story of courage against long odds."

Fundraising efforts are planned for the coming months. "We want to get that DVD in the hands of the new Administration and the new Secretary of the Interior," added Ritter.

Since the spring of '08, envelopes filled with checks and words of encouragement have quietly filtered in from farmers, ranchers and county Farm Bureaus in Idaho and throughout the nation.
The following organizations donated $1,000 or more to the cause: Illinois Farm Bureau, Canyon County Farm Bureau, Ada County Farm Bureau, Idaho County Farm Bureau, Bonner County Farm Bureau, Kootenai Shoshone County Farm Bureau, Owyhee, Valley-Adams and Twin Falls county Farm Bureaus, Texas Farm Bureau, Idaho Farm Bureau, and the Ag and Environmental Research Foundation.

"The generosity of the grassroot organizations warms the heart. Its obvious that they could see the sacrifice by the families and the importance of the cause," said the documentaries writer Jake Putnam. "We just want to thank all the folks that gave money and believe in the cause and urge them to tell their neighbors, share the DVD and visit the website, we want to retire this debt once and for all."

What started as a nightmare, ended up one of the greatest triumphs of their lives Tim Lowry and Paul Nettleton of Owyhee County. 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 two ranches ended up fighting the government in state court after the Bureau of Land Management challenged their stock watering rights during the Snake River Basin Adjudication. During the SRBA, the U.S. filed overlapping claims to Idaho ranchers’ stock water rights. While the fight was successful, the legal defense of the ranchers cost a small fortune and they were denied reimbursement of legal fees.

Tim Lowry serves as the Owyhee County Farm Bureau President, he addressed the Farm Bureau's Annual Meeting December 4th to give thanks.

“It’s difficult for me to express what all of you have done,” Lowry told the banquet crowd. I read once that simple truths have great explanations, but great truths have great silences, that's kind of the way I feel right now. I can’t come up with the words to express it; all I can do is just thank you all.”

The outcome of the case benefits every Western Farmer and Rancher, every ATV owner, every hunter and set a precedent that protects stock water rights throughout the West. “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.

“It's 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 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.”

How to get involved:
Send donations to: Agricultural and Environmental Research Foundation, C/O Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, 275 Tierra Vista Drive, Pocatello, ID 83201, Individuals can also request a free DVD from the same address and even book a speaker from the Federation to address your group on the issue. Interested parties can also visit the website and read up on the landmark case:
or see Tim Lowry's remarks on YouTube on the net:

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