Liberty Matters News Service

August 21, 2003

Court Hands Control of Water to USFS

A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel decreed, last week, that the U.S. Forest Service in Washington state can close Methow Valley irrigation ditches to protect endangered fish. The ruling upheld that of U.S. District Court Judge Robert Whaley of Spokane, "who found that the case was about rights of way through federal land, not water rights." The Early Winters Ditch Company, along with other water users, argued that it was the state's responsibility to set in-flow stream requirements for fish, not the federal government. Michael Mayer, a lawyer with Sierra Club's Earthjustice, hailed the decision saying it "reaffirms the authority of the forest Service to put in place limitations and protect the land under its control." But the attorney for the irrigators, Russ Brooks of the Pacific Legal Foundation, said the court improperly handed control of stream flows to USFS. "To us it's clearly a case where the Forest Service is regulating water and not land. The Forest Service is not allowed to regulate the use of water." Mr. Brooks, indicating his clients will likely appeal said, "It (the decision) does not bode well for people west of the Mississippi."
Court Ruling Closes Ditches To Aid Fish

Let the Roundup Begin

Wyoming and the Bureau of Land Management came to an amicable agreement over the wild horse problem, an agreement that was applauded by state and federal representatives, but criticized by folks from the Fund for Animals. Wyoming was poised to sue the federal government over mismanagement of wild horse herds that were decimating forage for game animals and domestic livestock. But the parties negotiated a consent decree under which the BLM agreed to remove excess animals from the range. Optimum numbers of horses and burros in the 16 management areas should be between 2,490 and 3,725, but state officials say the numbers have ballooned to over 7,000 while the BLM failed to rectify the problems. The pact requires the Bureau to inventory the animals every three years, starting in 2005 and report to Wyoming's governor and attorney general. Andrea Lococo, of the Rocky Mountain Fund for Animals, accused the agency of carrying the water for livestock interests. "Wild horses are an easy scapegoat in the eyes of the ranch community," she said. Under the agreement, the horses will go to BLM sanctuaries or adopted by private parties; they will not be euthanized. However, if the horses remain on the range as the Animal Fund people demand, the government would continue to reduce rancher's livestock numbers accusing them of overgrazing instead of controlling the horse population as mandated by Congress.
State, Feds Reach Wild Horse Pact

Arizona's Pigmy Owls Not Endangered

A federal appeals court panel ruled last week that the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl in Arizona is significantly different from its Mexican counterparts. The decision was welcomed by the Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association that had fought the owl-habitat restrictions since 1997. Edward Taczonowsky, executive vice president of the association said the court's ruling will take some of the uncertainty out of future development plans and said he hoped it would pave the way to build affordable housing. The panel sent the case back to District Court with instructions "for further proceedings consistent with this opinion." That development provided hope to environmentalists that the listing could still be salvaged. But, Norm James, attorney for the Home builders said, "the District Court will have no choice but to set aside the current owl listing. Federal law and rules won't let the service revisit its 1997 decision based on information received since then."
Ruling Major Setback For Owl

Eco-terrorists Make News, Again

Animal Rights terrorists broke into the Sonoma Saveurs restaurant in Sonoma, California, last week, and trashed the inside of the new restaurant. The vandals "spray-painted walls .and poured dry concrete down the drains before leaving the water running, flooding the restaurant and two adjacent businesses." Police suspect the perps are the same who vandalized the homes of two of the owners last month, apparently because they are affiliated with the producer of foie gras, a goose liver delicacy. The damage was estimated at $50,000. Authorities believe the Animal Liberation Front has had a hand in other attacks on Sonoma County agricultural businesses, including arson fires at a Santa Rosa chicken processing plant, a meatpacking plant and an egg farm. Meanwhile, in San Diego, federal agents raided the home of animal rights activist, David Agranoff, as part of an on-going investigation into this month's $50 million arson fire that destroyed a high-dollar apartment complex. Agents with the FBI and the Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms spent three hours searching the house and took with them "a computer, documents and protest fliers." The agents were seeking a videotape of a speech by Rodney Coronado, well-known radical environmental activist, who coincidentally appeared in San Diego the day of the fire. Agranoff helped make arrangements for Coronado's appearance. This is not Agranoff's first brush with the law. He was ordered to submit fingerprints and other personal samples in connection with a grand jury investigation into a fire at an Indiana poultry plant last year. He had "received a suspended sentence for misdemeanor vandalism at the same plant nine years earlier."


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