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Ace Black Ranches responds to EPA lawsuit

[The following news release by Ace Black Ranches is in response to a lawsuit filed by the EPA Feb. 27 that alleges the operation violated the Clean Water Act. Idaho Farm Bureau Federation has produced three videos over the past few years following Ace Black Ranches’ dealings with the EPA on this issue.]

Ace Black Ranches news release

BRUNEAU, Idaho – Ace Black Ranches is deeply disappointed by the actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in bringing this lawsuit. The claims are unfounded and we are confident that a fair examination of the law will vindicate our position.

We will cooperate fully throughout this unnecessary process and defend our positions in the litigation to ensure a swift and just resolution. 

Ace Black Ranches’ long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship is unwavering. EPA’s misguided attempts to expand its jurisdiction and reach over agricultural farm and ranch activities are bound to fail, based on the facts and the law in this case.

Ace Black Ranches is a 150-year-old traditional farm and ranch operation. It is not a mining or industrial operation. The 800-acre property, which lies on both sides of the Bruneau River, has been irrigated with water from the river since the 1870s, as evidenced by the decreed water rights that it holds from the state of Idaho. 

Recently, Ace Black Ranches has sought to improve the efficiency of its irrigation system and implement agricultural Best Management Practices, by converting from traditional flood irrigation to modern center-pivot sprinkler irrigation, a practice often promoted by the federal government itself. 

EPA now claims that Ace Black Ranches’ conversion to sprinkler irrigation destroyed jurisdictional wetlands on the ranch.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in the recent Idaho case of Sackett v. EPA, has made clear that only wetlands with a continuous surface water connection to the river, such that the wetlands and the river are indistinguishable from one another, fall under the federal government’s jurisdiction as “waters of the United States.” 

There is no such continuous surface water connection in this case and the alleged wetlands on the property are distinguishable from the river. There is no basis for the EPA’s claim of jurisdiction over wetlands. 

The collection and use of gravel on farms for things like pivot tracks and farm roads are common agricultural practices. Ace Black Ranches’ lawful agricultural activities do not require a Clean Water Act permit and the EPA has no basis for its claims to the contrary.