From the March 2001 Idaho Observer:

Okanogan county notices federal government it intends to sue for damages under ESA

County residents claim non-scientific federal policy ruining livelihoods, lives

OROVILLE, Wash. -- A group of Okanogan county residents and Okanogan county are claiming that federal land use policies present on-going injuries to citizens. The group forwarded copies of a 24-page letter to six federal officials February 5, 2001. The letter serves as a 60-day notice to the federal government that they intend to sue for injuries suffered as a result of the Endangered Species Act.

"Pursuant to 16 U.S.C. § 1540(g), this letter provides the Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Commerce, National Marine Fisheries Service ("NMFS"), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("FWS"), and U.S. Forest Service ("USFS") with a Notice of Intent to File Suit regarding Endangered Species Act ("ESA") violations that have occurred or are reasonably and imminently certain to occur because of biological opinions issued by NMFS and FWS that establish target flows or ESA flows in the Methow River Basin of Washington State and because of ensuing enforcement actions by the USFS, NMFS, and FWS. Each of the notified agencies and officials has authorized the enforcement of target/ESA flows through biological opinions, suspension of special use permits, conditioning of special use permits, enforcement orders, and ESA Section 7(d) determinations, the letter stated.

Okanogan county in the high desert in northeastern Washington on the Canadian Border has been hard hit by federal land use policies. Last year the federal government threatened to deny Methow Basin farmers access to irrigation water. Many area businesses have been forced to close as the traditional farming/ranching/logging and mining economy has been regulated nearly out of existence.

The group claims Okanogan county is responsible for watershed management and planning and that under state law, "the county and its constituents are owners and users of water resources that are essential to the regional economy and quality of life in the County."

The letter also states that, "Consistent with the intent and purpose of the citizen suit provision of the ESA, this notice satisfies any jurisdictional requirements of the ESA and provides the federal agencies with an opportunity to correct the legal defects set forth in this notice. Because the parties seek a complete resolution of the legal issues surrounding target/ESA flow enforcement in the Methow Basin, the claims set forth in this notice are broader than the scope of claims requiring notice under the ESA citizen suit provision. As such, this notice should not be construed as a statement that the claims set forth are only actionable under the citizen suit provision of the ESA and can not be brought without this notice."

This county action being brought against the federal government for its demonstrably non-scientific land use policies is symptomatic of increasing opposition to such policies. Citizens, as supported by local governments throughout the western U.S., are able to prove that industry and livelihoods are being unnecessarily ruined by federal mismanagement of lands and natural resources.

An electronic copy of the 24-page letter in Acrobat (PDF) format can be found at:

To see more examples of how local governments are standing up with citizens against often absurd and non-scientifically discompassionate federal policies, visit the County Action News website at:

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