A Wyoming rancher threatened by the Environmental Agency with $16 million fines for getting a state permit and building a stock pond on his ranch has reached a settlement that will have the fines go away and he’ll keep his stock pond.
WND reported in 2015 on a lawsuit filed on behalf of Fort Bridger, Wyoming, rancher Andy Johnson by officialsl with the Pacific Legal Foundation seeking to vindicate his property rights.
The lawsuit explained federal law clearly exempts stock ponds from the rules of the EPA, which had filed a compliance order against him threatening $37,500 in fines per day – which already at the time of the filing had passed $16 million.
Now, officials the PLF has announced the federal government has agreed to resolve the case, and a federal court has approved.
“Importantly, under the settlement, the Johnson family’s pond will remain; they won’t pay any fines; they don’t concede any federal jurisdiction to regulate their pond; and the government won’t pursue any further enforcement actions based on the pond’s construction,” the legal team revealed.
“This is a victory for common sense and the environment, and it brings an end to all the uncertainty and fear that the Johnson family faced,” said Jonathan Wood, a staff attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation.
The fight began in 2013 when Johnson, under a legitimate state permit, built the stock pond to provide safer, more reliable access to water for his small herd.
Ray Kagel, a former federal regulator, explained how the pond proved to be a benefit to the environment. It created wetlands, habitat for fish and wildlife, and cleans the water that passes through it.
The federal government responded with its threats of fines.
Johnson tried to reason with the government, without success, so he filed the action that points out “stock ponds” are expressly exempted from the Clean Water Act.
“This settlement is a win for the Johnson family, and a win for the environment,” said Wood. “Under it, the Johnsons will pay no fine. They will not lose their property. They will not have to agree to federal jurisdiction or a federal permit, which would have surely entailed onerous conditions. In effect, the government will treat the pond as an exempt stock pond, in exchange for Andy further improving on the environmental benefits he has already created.
“The settlement provides that Andy will plant willows around the pond and temporarily fence off part of it from livestock. Of course, there is some irony in this last provision: The EPA insists this isn’t a stock pond, while their chief concern is how livestock reach it.”
Johnson, in a statement released by PLF, said, “This is a huge victory for us as well as private property owners across the country. The next family that finds itself in our situation, facing ominous threats from EPA, can take heart in knowing that many of these threats will not come to pass. If, like us, you stand up to the overreaching bureaucrats, they may very well back down.”