By Michael Howell
At a meeting on Tuesday, October 15, the County Commissioners decided to set up a special fund that residents could contribute to that would be used to pay a Wyoming attorney to provide them with a template for objecting to water rights applications by the federal government.
The agenda for the meeting stated the aim was “to visit with Civil Counsel to discuss and decide on the water objections to DNRC.” Civil Counsel was not present at the meeting. The issue discussed did not directly concern the recent objections that the county filed against the Forest Service water rights applications on Blodgett and Laird Creeks. Those objections were dismissed by DNRC due to the county’s lack of standing. DNRC rules only allow people with potentially affected water rights to object to a new application and the county owns no water rights.
The discussion was actually about future water rights applications that the Forest Service plans to make in a continuing series of claims. Commissioner Ron Stoltz said that he had received a call from an attorney in Wyoming named Karen Budd-Falen, who told him she had received calls from some Ravalli County residents who were concerned about the pending applications. He said Budd-Falen told him that some residents were willing to donate money for her to help the county out in future proceedings.
Stoltz said that Budd-Falen had lots of experience with these types of cases and was willing to “help tighten things up and provide a good template” for objecting to the upcoming water right applications.
Commissioner J.R. Iman, who filed a personal objection to the water rights applications on Blodgett Creek, said, “Our civil counsel doesn’t have the specialized knowledge to handle things like this.”
On a 4 to 0 vote, with Commissioner Suzy Foss absent, it was agreed to set up a fund that county citizens could donate to and to hire Budd-Falen.
The only public comment was from Chris Hockman. He said that he believed the issue concerned irrigators and water users on the creeks and not the county as a whole. He said the private irrigators and ditch companies involved should get together and make a fund for objecting to these applications if they want, but the county should not be doing it since it doesn’t involve the huge majority of the citizens.
On its web page the twenty year old law firm Budd-Falen Law Offices LLC claims expertise in battling federal agencies over issues involving “endangered species, clean water, private property ownership and use, federal lands, and local government involvement, local zoning and property rights.”
“Budd-Falen Law Offices zealously defends private property owners against government overreaching,” it states on the web site.
The law office also specializes in the issues of “coordination” that the County Commissioners first signed on to when they contracted with American Stewards of Liberty.
“There is no doubt that American businesses, private property owners, rural tax bases and federal/public lands users are under attack by small, vocal and radical environmental groups and by a federal bureaucracy who uses its power to write rules, regulations, policy memorandums, handbooks and manuals to control every aspect of our lives… While landowners, businesses and local governments have not been as rambunctious at filing petitions and litigation (or getting paid to file petitions and litigation against the federal government), we have to change that mind set to survive,” it states on the web site. “To respond to this regulatory onslaught, I believe that we need to start filing petitions to bring reality, common sense and science into federal agency decisions, petitions to stop the government from requiring that nature cannot ‘take its course,’ and petitions to the stop the government from elevating reptiles, invertebrates and other species above human beings,” wrote Budd-Falen.