Wednesday, January 6, 2016

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Supreme Court justice Dan Eismann addresses the Reversing the Tide water conference on Wednesday--Putnam photo

Reversing the Tide conference draws big crowd

Boise--More than 80 concerned farmers, ranchers and Idahoans attended the Idaho Farm Bureaus Reversing the Tide conference Wednesday at the Red Lion Riverside in Boise.

In one of his first duties at Idaho Farm Bureau President, Bryan Searle of Shelley welcomed the crowd and urged those attending to know their property rights and to protect them.

The Honorable Dan Eismann of the Idaho Supreme Court gave insight into the thought and reasoning behind the landmark Joyce Livestock water rights case.

It started as bad dream for ranchers Paul Nettleton and Tim Lowry more than a decade ago when the Bureau of Land Management hauled the two Owyhee County ranchers into state court to determine who owned the water rights on grazing allotments used by the ranches since 1864. 

"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," said Eismann.

"Bottomline those water rights are pertinent to the deeded land and those rights go with the land unless they're expressively reserved and the Federal government did not own the water rights," said Eismann. "They couldn't prove that they'd put the water to beneficial use."

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.

Eismann told the crowd that water rights were recognized long before there was statutory recognition of water rights in Idaho.

Randy Parker, the CEO of the Utah Farm Bureau brought a wealth of experience to the conference working on water right cases is Utah for decades. He warned "It is Forest Service policy to claim water rights and they're aggressively going after it. I would argue that they’re dismantling the US cattle industry; they’re doing it by going for the water rights," he said.

Parker says Utah codified the Joyce water rights decision in that state years ago and urged Idaho to do the same adding another level of water rights protection to ranchers.

Ramona Hage Morrison told the Reversing the Tide conference about the famous Wayne Hage public lands case.

 "We had hundreds of titled documents showing pre-existing water rights, we had to prove we were not trespassers! Every property has to prove their water right, they must work their title, Id argue its more important than commissioning a range study. When we don't establish that we were there first in time, in terms of water rights we forfeit first time right, its vitally important," said Morrison.

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