BRUNEAU—While Idaho ranchers are struggling this summer with heat and drought issues, Ace Black Ranches in is not only dealing with the drought. But a few weeks ago five armed US Marshals and EPA agents with search warrants showed up to inspect their property on Bureau river.
“The Marshalls were good,” said Terry Black of Ace Black Ranch. “They were heavily armed but were good guys and thought this was a waste of time too. But the Environmentalists were sour.”
The pristine Bruneau River runs through the ranch, and the Ace Black is one of the oldest in ranches in Idaho:
“This has been in the family since 1875, different branches of the family my grandpa bought it in 1967, and then my Dad started buying from him thereafter and we started buying from him shortly thereafter,” said Terry Black.
And after 14 decades of operations the ranch went to pivot irrigation, a more efficient use of scarce water on the arid land:
“If we don’t take care of it, it washes out the fields into CJ Strike and dumps it washes out all the farm ground and that's why we take care of it, We have to take care of the land because there isn’t any more farm ground,” added Black.
The Black had always dealt with the Corp of Engineers, then they had to deal with an Agency they’d never dealt with before.
“We’d just like to know what they were looking for and their response was the EPA is sending you some questions in the next day or two if you answer their questions, that answer our questions. So what I see there is that their mind was made up, EPA was taking the lead from the Corp of Engineers before the Corp even talked to us,” said Telby Black.
Unannounced the EPA showed up at Ace-Black ranch’s front gate the morning of June 14th.
“The main focus seemed to be anything near or around the river channel, where gravel, dirt or anything that's been disturbed any piles, anything. They took samples, soil samples in the river bed. They measured anything that was a pile around it. They took river profiles, they measured river profiles in different spots,” added Telby Black.
After almost three days of the EPAs search, the inspectors abruptly packed up and left. They didn’t say what they found, or what warranted the search. On July 23rd the case was in Federal District Court in Boise. The Blacks were never told what they were charged with, but they have an idea.
“Ace Black Ranches has changed our irrigation. We went from flood irrigation to center pivots, so that’s required us to change our roads. That's required us to do a little more gravel work to fill those roads and tracks to make our irrigation system work,” said Telby Black.
The Ace Black Ranch is now getting their last of the hay in, soon they’ll bring the cattle in from the summer range, but the armed search by the EPA has rattled them. For decades the ranch has survived, depressions, drought, fire, and even attacks, but nothing like this.