Rancher, feds settle Snake River case
Last updated 12/29/2022 at 12:56pm
CENTRAL FERRY — The U.S. government has reached an agreement with a rancher accused of allowing his cattle to trespass on federally managed lands along the Snake River.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington approved the settlement of case no, 2:18-cv-00024-SAB (E.D. Wash.), involving conflict between federal managers of the Central Ferry Habitat Management Unit adjacent and Riley’s River Ranch.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington Vanessa R. Waldreff said the settlement agreement between Riley’s River Ranch, rancher Walter “Sonny” Riley and the U.S. Army Cory of Engineers permanently prevents future livestock incursions on “environmentally sensitive” lands managed by the federal government.
The settlement agreement also requires the federal government to transfer a third-acre of land to the ranch to cover administrative costs, estimated to be about $50,000, which includes construction of a building partially on federally managed lands.
Under the agreement, the rancher will remove gates, unused fence posts, wire, hay bales, manure piles and a large animal carcass pit on the federally managed land.
A gravel road will also be established to access the land, under the agreement.
Court records show that for at least the last 11 years, Rileys’ River Ranch used federal property as part of its winter cattle feeding and calving operations without permission of the federal government.
Records show the rancher’s private operations discouraged public recreation on the taxpayer-owned land, including hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing and other activities.
“We are committed to preserving and protecting public lands so everyone can enjoy the environmental beauty and recreational opportunities of Eastern Washington,” Waldref said. “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.”
Waldreff said the land was set aside under the Snake River Compensation Plan to help mitigate construction of Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams on the lower Snake River.