BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- Montana ranchers are asking a state court to review a Department of Natural Resources and Conservation ruling that said homes built in rural areas can be exempted from water permit rules.

Four ranchers and a conservation group, the Clark Fork Coalition, were named in the lawsuit.

It was filed Tuesday in Lewis and Clark County, and says the DNRC was wrong to uphold well exemptions in an August decision.

More than 70,000 permit exemptions have been granted in recent decades, allowing developers to drill wells despite senior rights held by other water users.

Critics say the exemptions could strain aquifers beyond capacity. The DNRC said in August that it would craft new rules for exempt wells, but it is uncertain when those would be completed.

Copyright 2010 The AP.

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