“The Corps and EPA are not trying to micromanage farmers, they are trying to stop farmers from farming their fields. They’re trying to turn our farmland into habitat preservation. They’re simply trying to chase us off of our land.” ~John Duarte~
by Marjorie Haun
Rural America swept President Trump into office last November, to a great degree for his promises to end government overreach and overreaction in matters where water, lands, and resources have been regulated to death by federal bureaucrats. One of President Trump’s first acts was his executive order (EO) initiating a review of of the economically-devastating Obama-era EPA rule, Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS), which puts everything from seasonal pools in California, to mud puddles in Montana, to rain-filled ruts in Utah under the regulatory control of Washington D.C. On February 28 the White House released its WOTUS press release, which reads, in part:
(b) The Administrator, the Assistant Secretary, and the heads of all executive departments and agencies shall review all orders, rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies implementing or enforcing the final rule listed in subsection (a) of this section for consistency with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order and shall rescind or revise, or publish for notice and comment proposed rules rescinding or revising, those issuances, as appropriate and consistent with law and with any changes made as a result of a rulemaking proceeding undertaken pursuant to subsection (a) of this section.
(c) With respect to any litigation before the Federal courts related to the final rule listed in subsection (a) of this section, the Administrator and the Assistant Secretary shall promptly notify the Attorney General of the pending review under subsection (b) of this section so that the Attorney General may, as he deems appropriate, inform any court of such review and take such measures as he deems appropriate concerning any such litigation pending the completion of further administrative proceedings related to the rule.
Despite the litigation provisions in the Trump EO, on April 3, just days prior to the confirmation of Colorado Jurist, Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ignored Trump’s executive order, and chose to hear a prior WOTUS case involving private industry and environmentalist special interests. With the SCOTUS ruling, federal prosecution of ‘offenders’ continued to go forward. As a result, the property rights of thousands of ranchers, farmers, landowners, manufacturers and other private citizens now hang in the balance. John Duarte, a farmer and horticulturalist from California, has been fighting the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers for years against charges brought under ‘Clean Water’ regulations. He is one whose freedom and property are at risk.
On May 24, Tim Pearce of Daily Caller News Foundation reported:
John Duarte, a farmer in Tehama County, California, is facing a $2.8 million fine and a federal trial for plowing his field without a permit.
One of Duerte’s lawyers, Anthony Francois, told USA Today the case could establish a precedent requiring farmers to obtain costly permits to plant crops on privately-owned land.
Duarte’s troubles began in 2012 when he hired a worker to plow 450 acres of land he’d just purchased. The contractor plowed the land, hitting some vernal pools that existed on it, causing minimal damage to the pools themselves, Duarte told USA Today.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, vernal pools are classified as wetlands and thus protected by the Clean Water Act from “the discharge of dredged or fill material into the waters of the United States.”
A permit from the Army Corps of Engineers is usually required before any action that risks polluting U.S. waters can be taken. Farming is exempted from this, however.
Even so, the Army Corps of Engineers sent a cease and desist order to Duarte in 2013, alleging he “discharged dredge or fill material into … waters of the United States,” according to court documents.
Duarte sued the Army Corps of Engineers for violating his right to due process. The act sparked a counter suit by the Army of Engineers against Duarte and a legal battle that Francois believes may be settled in the Supreme Court.
The Duarte case has become a case study for EPA assaults on private property rights, and has gotten of the attention of farming, and private property advocates across the country. In January of 2016, Farm Bureau TV posted the following synopsis of the Duarte battle:
Duarte’s case is not the only one which should be swiftly reviewed and dismissed, if Americans are to feel secure in their rights to own, improve, use and profit from their own property. Being granted full and unconditional clemency by President Trump in cases where law-abiding people have been convicted and imprisoned for management of improvements to their own property, is the only just outcome. These are just two of such cases.
Joe Robertson, a 78 year-old United States Navy Veteran, currently languishes in federal prison on a conviction related to his improvements to a pond on his rural Montana property.
Dwight and Steven Hammond, father and son ranchers from rugged southeastern Oregon, are currently serving time in federal prison for their convictions under federal ‘terrorism’ statutes. Terrorism charges were brought against the ranchers when, on two occasions within a ten-year span, they set prescriptive fires in order to control noxious weeds and renew the soil on their grazing allotments, and the fires accidentally spread to BLM-managed lands, leaving minimal damage to vegetation and virtually no damage to buildings or other federal properties.
Free Range Report