As of July 24, 2015, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association has signed on to a lawsuit through Pacific Legal Foundation against the Environmental Protection Agency and their Waters of the United States rule. Waters of the United States, WOTUS, is a rule proposed by EPA and Army Corps of Engineers that, because of its broad language, has the potential to take water management on private property away from the landowner.

Nathan Jackson, a rancher from Douglas County, is concerned by the impending rule. He said that Oregon ranchers already practice responsible water usage and work hard to keep their lands thriving. “Everyday ranchers in Oregon are working to protect the quality and quantity of water we depend on, and that everybody in the state depends on, by being more efficient with our irrigation systems, by making sure that we are applying fertilizers at appropriate rates, by making sure that we’re managing runoff that enters the streams and by being good stewards of the land.”

Jackson serves as treasurer for OCA and said battling a rule like this is why the organization exists. “This rule directly affects our producer’s abilities to be profitable and sustainable and our job as the OCA is to protect them, advocate for them and make sure that they’re able to conduct their business without cumbersome regulation.”

Others also echo this sentiment. Sharon Livingston, a rancher from Grant County, believes EPA’s rule is overstepping the rights of residents in the state of Oregon. She said that as an Oregon rancher, she’s pleased to see OCA stepping up to protect ranchers. “EPA is usurping Oregon’s right to manage water in a sustainable way for the benefit of the state’s citizens. It is time to take the federal government to task for overstepping their authority.”

Curtis Martin, water committee chair for OCA, said he hopes that OCA joining what looks to be a multiplying number of lawsuits against EPA, will cause the agency to think twice about what they are trying to regulate. “This rule will negate the locally driven initiatives that utilize real, on the ground wisdom,” Martin said.

According to Jerome Rosa, executive director for OCA, 27 states already have pending suits against the WOTUS rule. He is optimistic that with this big of an outcry, the agency will be forced to reconsider. “The WOTUS rule in its current state should be withdrawn due to lack of quality assessment and biased rulemaking process,” Rosa said.

The immediate future may not present an obvious outcome of how the lawsuit will play out, but Oregon Cattlemen’s Association has made it clear the current rule is not acceptable. “We hope that the EPA will rescind the rule and re-write it with input from the industry and all stake holder groups,” Jackson said. “Clarification from the existing rule is definitely needed. This new rule doesn’t clarify anything.”

The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association was founded in 1913 and works to promote environmentally and socially sound industry practices, improve and strengthen the economics of the industry, and protect its industry communities and private property rights.

By Kayli Hanley

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