MEDICAL LAKE, Wash. — Last August, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that rancher Joe Lemire was required to fence land along Pataha Creek to protect it from his cattle.
The decision was the culmination of a 9-year battle with the state Department of Ecology. Since then, Lemire, 70, has decided to plant a hay or wheat crop in the contested 47 acres and move on, he told fellow ranchers at a recent meeting.
“The cattle aren’t on the creek or near the creek anymore, so the potential (to pollute) is removed,” Lemire, of Dayton, Wash., said. “We’re not standing back, licking our wounds. We’re really positive about it.”
Lemire said he was taken aback by the 8-1 ruling.
“Don’t miss the deadline when you get a piece of paper, don’t throw it in the wastebasket — respond to everything,” Lemire said, becoming emotional as he recalled a quote he recently came across. “It says, ‘It’s a dangerous place to be when you’re right and the government’s wrong.’”
“We’re not giving up, we are going to be using the land for planting rather than grazing,” said Margaret McVicker, Lemire’s longtime companion. “That, in our situation, is going to be about the best we can do.”
McVicker said Lemire’s case was a pilot for Ecology.
“They started with us to see just how far they could go,” she said. “Then they could move on to different areas and push their agenda in different waterways.”
McVicker also stressed meeting all deadlines.
“Respond, even if it’s with, ‘I’m not doing anything wrong,’” she said.
Fencing Lemire’s land “is not possible with the way the highway sits,” his attorney, Toni Meacham, said. “(Ecology) said, ‘We don’t care.’ They would not compromise, would not listen.”
Brook Beeler, communications director for the Washington Department of Ecology Eastern Region office, said the court affirmed Ecology’s original order to Lemire, which means it needs to be followed.
“Obviously the order is out of date so we will work with Mr. Lemire to establish reasonable expectations and timelines,” she said.