A little-known group of ranchers in northern Arizona have filed a class action lawsuit claiming that ranchers at a dozen other roleyttes have been violating federal and state environmental laws.
The lawsuit claims the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) has not done enough to protect the water quality and habitat for their land, as well as the health of the water supply for thousands of residents in the region.
“Our government’s inaction has put our family and our cattle at risk,” Robert Lewis, who is also the rancher and owner of RY’s Ranch, told Next Big Futures.
“We are asking the court to order the agency to act to protect our rights.”
In a statement, DFW said it is “committed to working with the ranchers to find a way forward.”
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Arizona on behalf of the Lewis family, was filed on May 13, 2017, and was filed as a class-action by the Center for Biological Diversity.
The group is represented by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which has previously filed a similar lawsuit against the state of Texas in 2014.
The plaintiffs are all farmers who live in the Pima and Navajo regions of Arizona and live in a large, ranching community called RY Ranch.RY’s is a sprawling, 1,800-acre property that is home to more than 200 animals, including horses, sheep, and cows.
It is home mostly to RY family members and family members of other ranchers, and is part of a sprawling cattle ranch system.
“When I first moved here, we lived at this small piece of land, but now it’s bigger than any one person,” said RY Lewis.
“It’s a very large ranch, and we all live here.”
Ranching is the primary way in which ranchers sell their cattle, but in the past few years, RYs ranch has become an agricultural operation that is growing and raising animals on a large scale.
The Lewis family claims that in the last few years RY ranch has been operating in a manner that is not compliant with federal, state, and tribal laws, which prohibit the sale of wildlife without an environmental assessment.
The lawsuit claims that RY has been doing the same things that other ranches do and has been using chemicals to clear their land.
The suit also alleges that Rys ranch is an “unlicensed” operation, as they have been allowed to sell their animals for food, but have not been properly inspected and are not required to obtain permits.
The complaint also claims that rancher Robert Lewis has been the subject of multiple lawsuits, ranging from trespassing to trespass on public land, and that the state has failed to take action against his ranch.
The Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into the matter, but has not yet reached a conclusion.
The Lewis family is requesting a jury trial.