Snake River Ranch Enters Settlement Agreement to Resolve Cattle Trespass and Encroachment on Federal Lands
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Washington
Pomeroy, WA – Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington (EDWA), announced today that Rileys’ River Ranch and rancher Walter “Sonny” Riley have entered into a Settlement Agreement & Consent Decree providing for the full resolution of the federal lawsuit against the Ranch and its operators for the unlawful use of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) environmentally sensitive federal lands along the lower Snake River for the Rileys’ River Ranch commercial cattle and livestock ranching operations.
Under the terms of the Court-approved Settlement Agreement and Consent Decree, the Ranch agreed to permanently prevent all future cattle and livestock trespasses and associated encroachments on the subject federal lands, which are located at the Central Ferry Habitat Management Unit. These lands are adjacent to property privately owned by the Ranch on the lower Snake River near Pomeroy, Washington. The Corps’ land was designated and has been managed as sensitive habitat land under the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan and mitigates the impact resulting from the construction of the lower Snake River dams (Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite).
In exchange for the Ranch’s commitment to permanently prevent future livestock trespasses and other encroachments, the Corps agreed to administratively dispose of approximately one third of one acre of federal land adjacent to the Ranch’s property. The land transfer, for which the Ranch will cover the administrative costs - estimated to be approximately $50,000 - will cure long-term encroachments by the Ranch, including the construction of a building that is partially on federal land.
The Ranch also agreed to the removal of numerous other ranching encroachments, including gates, feeders, unused fence posts, wire, hay bales, manure piles and a large animal carcass pit, which were unlawfully used and left on the Corps-managed federal lands. The Settlement Agreement also requires the Ranch to environmentally mitigate and obliterate a gravel road that was established and used for its access to and operations on the federal land.
As detailed in Court documents, since at least 2011, Rileys’ River Ranch used federal property as part of its winter cattle feeding and calving operations without seeking permission of the Corps. This unauthorized use destroyed environmentally sensitive native vegetation, encouraged growth of invasive weeds, and left large manure piles. The Ranch’s operations profited from this unauthorized use of federal land for its private commercial activities. In turn, the Ranch’s private operations also discouraged public recreation on the federal lands for hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing and other public activities. The Settlement Agreement requires the Ranch to permanently keep its cattle and other livestock off federal property and to remove ranching equipment, fences, and a road from the land.
“We are committed to preserving and protecting public lands so everyone can enjoy the environmental beauty and recreational opportunities of Eastern Washington. The Corps maintains lands overlooking the Snake River to protect our waters and natural habitat and offer space for the public for hiking, hunting and other public recreation activities. This settlement agreement enables the Corps to fulfill its duty to maintain and protect these public lands and the environment as a whole,” said U.S. Attorney Vanessa Waldref.
Lieutenant Colonel ShaiLin Y. KingSlack, Walla Walla District (Corps) Commander, stated, “I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington and my District’s attorneys and staff for negotiating a settlement that prevents future livestock trespasses and associated encroachment of materials and equipment on federal lands managed by the Corps. As stewards of federal lands, the Walla Walla District will continue to exercise our obligation to manage these lands under our jurisdiction for congressionally authorized purposes and in the public interest.”
Assistant United States Attorneys Timothy Durkin and Derek Taylor handled this matter on behalf of the United States with support from the Corps’ Walla Walla District Counsel Tyler Moore and Assistant District Counsel Robert Eskildsen and Evan Carden. The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.
Case No: 2:18-cv-00024-SAB (E.D. Wash.)
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Updated December 22, 2022