Judge: Sovereign immunity bars plaintiff from suing

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit in which a rancher accused the U.S. Bureau of Land Management of unlawfully botching a land exchange.

The case stems from a planned exchange of about 400 acres in northeast Oregon between BLM and Burns Ranches. The federal agency was to transfer ownership of that land to Burns Ranches through a facilitator, Clear Water Land Exchange.

The ranch company was to buy up land along the John Day River and transfer it to the BLM through the same facilitator.

The ranch's complaint claimed the deal fell apart but Clearwater nonetheless retained ownership of the 400-acre parcel, which Burns Ranches traditionally used for grazing.

The ranch alleged that Clearwater wanted to build a road to the property and exclude grazing and demanded that BLM recover ownership of the parcel.

Allowing Clearwater to keep the land would violate a federal law that governs such exchanges, the complaint said.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman has now dismissed the lawsuit without ruling on the ranch's allegations.

Mosman held that the case is barred by sovereign immunity, which prevents plaintiffs from suing the federal government without its consent.

Burns Ranches had claimed the government had waived that right in this case, but the judge disagreed with the company's interpretation of the law.

-- Mateusz Perkowski

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