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United States v. State Eng'r

Citation: 32 ELR 20028
No. No. 32740, 27 P.3d 51/(Nev., 07/24/2001)

The court holds that Nevada's state engineer improperly denied the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM's) applications for state water appropriation permits that would allow livestock to be watered on public lands in Douglas County, Nevada. The state regulation at issue allows the state engineer to issue permits only if the applicant is legally entitled to place the livestock on the public lands for which the permit is sought. The BLM does not own or have a proprietary interest in any livestock that would be benefitted by a water permit. Instead, the BLM sought the permits so it could grant water rights to individuals seeking to obtain grazing permits from the BLM. The state engineer denied the BLM's applications, concluding that because the BLM does not possess a grazing permit or lease, it is not a person who is authorized to graze livestock on public lands and, thus, is not a qualified applicant for the permits. The court first holds that as the owner of the BLM land, the United States is entitled, and Congress has authorized, the grazing of livestock on the public lands managed by the BLM. To say that the United States, the owner of the land, must issue itself a permit to lease or graze livestock on its land is an illogical and unreasonable construction of the statutory language. The phrase "legally entitled to place the livestock on the public lands for which the permit is sought" simply requires an applicant to have a legal right to graze livestock on the public land.

The full text of this decision is available from ELR (23 pp., ELR Order No. L-389).

Counsel for Appellant
Andrew C. Mergen
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Counsel for Respondent
Marta A. Adams, Deputy Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
Capitol Complex
100 N. Carson St., Carson City NV 89701
(775) 687-4170