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WWP settles with landowners in trespass case

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jodywy
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WWP settles with landowners in trespass case

Postby jodywy » Thu Sep 01, 2016 10:15 pm

"Every once in a while, I’m overwhelmed by the feeling that I’ve done something REALLY STUPID." -Hank (Hank the Cow Dog ,John R. Erickson)

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Mike
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Re: WWP settles with landowners in trespass case

Postby Mike » Thu Sep 01, 2016 10:32 pm

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY:

August 19, 2016
Online Messenger #337

In 2014, anti-WWP attorney Karen Budd Falen and a small cell of Wyoming ranchers attempted to undermine Western Watersheds Project and severely restrict our opportunities to do field work in the state. They brought a frivolous lawsuit that alleged trespass, sullied our reputation in the media, and hoped to force WWP to pay untold amounts of money in punitive damages for driving on roads in Wyoming. This was all retaliation for having revealed water pollution levels many times higher than the state allows.

Budd Falen and her clients failed. They were thwarted by the reality that WWP did not intentionally trespass, did no harm to private property, and was well within the presumed right-of-way or easements to access public lands. Because WWP’s actions caused no damages to the plaintiffs, the court ruled last spring that no punitive damages would be awarded and the ranchers quickly looked to settle the case before racking up more legal bills.

To get this case off our docket, WWP has now signed a settlement agreement with the ranchers admitting minor, incidental, and inadvertent trespass on roads where ownership boundaries were unclear. WWP didn’t pay a dime to the plaintiffs nor did we disclose sensitive financial data. Ultimately, the ranchers got nothing more than an agreement that WWP won’t access public lands through restricted private acreage – the same rules that apply to every other person driving in the West.

WWP has known all along that this lawsuit wasn’t about any real harm done, but just an attempt to silence our successes at demonstrating the impacts of private livestock on public lands. Karen Budd-Falen very nearly admitted that this was the true intention when she said, in an interview last year with Livestock Times, that the lawsuit was “one of the funniest things she was doing” and admitted that accessing WWP’s financial data was one of the goals of seeking punitive damages.

We don’t think it is funny. We think it was a blatant attempt to suppress speech and transparency about matters of public safety and environmental stewardship, but WWP will not be silent when it comes to the impacts of livestock on public lands and waterways.

Many thanks due to our stellar legal team who spent countless hours fighting back against this attack on our organization. Special thanks due to WWP’s Wyoming Director Jonathan Ratner, who was targeted personally and professionally, and to former Executive Director Travis Bruner who never balked in defending our work.

And finally, thanks to all the members and allies who encouraged us to “keep on keepin’ on” along the way. Your support has helped buoy our spirits and continue the fight against these distorted legal claims.

Legal Victories, Online Messenger
I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

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Re: WWP settles with landowners in trespass case

Postby GoWyo » Fri Sep 02, 2016 3:32 pm

There is no other side to the story. Western Wathersheds Project is trying to spin it into a victory, but the facts are clear that they repeatedly trespassed after being warned to cease trespassing. In order to avoid a week of trial showing that they repeatedly trespassed, they consented to a permanent injunction against them entering any of the Plaintiff's private lands again, and if they are caught, they will pay liquidated damages of $2500 for the first trespass and $5000 for each subsequent trespass. The only slight victory they achieved was successfully defending against the claim for punitive damages, which are extremely difficult to obtain. Otherwise they lost on every single issue in the case.

This was an important case for landowners in Wyoming because our criminal trespass statutes require marking property boundaries or giving a trespasser a free pass until they are caught the first time and at least verbally notified. This case obtained an injunction against WWP for trespasses on over 50,000 acres of private lands that are often very remote and interspersed with probably close to a million acres of federal and state land.

The WWP employee who caused this case has a high school education and no other credentials for conducting water quality sampling or range vegetation monitoring. He admitted in his deposition that he used a home made water quality sample incubator and that all of his "training" is from self-study. Because of our discovery that he did not follow an approved sampling and analysis plan and the appropriate protocol, all of the data he has submitted over the past few years was determined to be unreliable by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and removed from its previous reports of impaired water bodies. This man has caused a lot of damage to Wyoming ranching families with his "paper monkey wrenching." We have front footed him for the time being and are making him play by the rules. His work will be under the highest scrutiny as will his travel routes.

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Re: WWP settles with landowners in trespass case

Postby mrj » Sat Sep 03, 2016 3:30 pm

Thanks for sharing the link, jodywy. Too often such victories for ranchers don't get distributed very well. Typical of WWP to claim they won!

Thanks, too, GoWyo, for your additions to the information. It is good to hear of another 'win' for private property rights in WY (re.the dam in the n.e. corner of the state where the land owner was recently found to be in the right).

Our family has long been impressed with Karen Budd Falen for her stand with land owners and private property rights. Not sure if we have met the lady, or not, but have mutual acquaintances/friends and appreciate her work.

We are very thankful our families did not go any further west 'back in the day' when they were seeking land to establish businesses and raise their families. In fact, one of them came east from Lewiston, ID/Clarkston, WA area starting by 1890 and staying near the brand new town of Midland, SD by 1892! SD became a state in 1890 and aside from land 'reserved' for Native Americans, much was available to anyone to 'settle' or 'homestead' upon. It seems to us the 'best' use of most land is for people to establish homes, business, and families upon. Makes for pretty darn good stability for many years, in many examples we have witnessed across the country. Doesn't mean it stays with one family forever, but gives them opportunity to direct their own destiny, and that seems what a society should offer citizens, imo. Too much 'government land' leads to tyranny, or the opportunity for it, too often, again, imo.

mrj

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Re: WWP settles with landowners in trespass case

Postby GoWyo » Sat Sep 03, 2016 7:42 pm

Andy Johnson, the fellow with the stock pond in SW Wyoming, is my client. I represented him from the outset. I represented Frank Ranches, which was the lead plaintiff in the WWP trespass litigation. Karen represented the other plaintiffs.

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Re: WWP settles with landowners in trespass case

Postby mrj » Sun Sep 04, 2016 6:02 pm

Great job! In both cases, GoWyo. btw, I wasn't implying KBF was the atty for the pond deal, but that any 'win' for private property rights is a blessing to what this country was built on and stands for: the effects of private property rights on building families and the best of our nation.

mrj
Last edited by mrj on Mon Sep 05, 2016 9:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: WWP settles with landowners in trespass case

Postby GoWyo » Sun Sep 04, 2016 8:06 pm

Thanks mrj. Karen was one of the local counsel along with me when Pacific Legal Foundation took on filing the lawsuit on the stock pond case. I also worked with Harriet Hageman, who originally referred the case to me and Mountain States Legal Foundation in setting up that case as well as Ray Kagel of Kagel Environmental for the technical expertise on Section 404 permitting. As a solo practitioner it has been a joy to team up with other very capable counsel and technical professionals on these important natural resources cases. It really does take teamwork to take a run at the federal government.

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jodywy
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Re: WWP settles with landowners in trespass case

Postby jodywy » Mon Sep 05, 2016 9:42 am

used to drink beer with Karen in the union beer garden back in college
"Every once in a while, I’m overwhelmed by the feeling that I’ve done something REALLY STUPID." -Hank (Hank the Cow Dog ,John R. Erickson)

mrj
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Re: WWP settles with landowners in trespass case

Postby mrj » Mon Sep 05, 2016 10:20 am

Congratulations, GoWyo! Our family appreciates good stock dams, and the RIGHT to build them on private property, as well as those like yourself who are willing to defend that right. And plenty of 'public' property would be the better for having good systems of small dams, too, imo. While we do have good coverage by water lines we built, fed by rural water systems, for our cattle, we believe dams still have great benefits both for cattle and to keep more water on the land instead of filling the creeks and rivers any time we get a decent rain.

jodywy, I sure didn't realize what I was missing by passing up college! That four year or more head start on building our cow business has both plusses and minuses. Maybe no less beer consumption, and surely in some less 'lofty' premises than a 'union beer garden', but fun with friends just the same.

BTW, I noticed in writing the above sentence, that is is very difficult for me to write 'beer', instead of 'beef'. Guess that reflects what my major interest is......now!

mrj

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jodywy
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Re: WWP settles with landowners in trespass case

Postby jodywy » Mon Sep 05, 2016 1:10 pm

mrj, think that time spent in college also added up to some of the boards I on or spent time on. Seem the friends from college are much closer then those from High School.
"Every once in a while, I’m overwhelmed by the feeling that I’ve done something REALLY STUPID." -Hank (Hank the Cow Dog ,John R. Erickson)


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