The political landscape in Boise, Idaho has been significantly impacted by changes to state and federal laws in the past five years. Recently, officials have been seeking to invalidate Idaho laws that allow ranchers to take control of federal public lands through a state-approved forfeiture procedure. The Idaho Legislature has filed court documents to intervene in the case, which could have statewide ramifications for millions of acres of land in Idaho administered by the U. S.
Department of Justice. The Department of Justice has argued that the state's forfeiture procedure violates U. law, which establishes that federal law takes precedence over state law. They also claim that the laws violate parts of the Idaho Constitution. The Idaho attorney general's office has responded that state laws are valid and enforceable, and the court has yet to rule on whether the Idaho Legislature can intervene. Idaho officials and ranchers have interpreted a ruling to mean that the federal government cannot maintain water rights because it does not make beneficial use of water.
However, the federal government maintains that it does make beneficial use of water by issuing grazing permits to ranchers who graze livestock that drink the water. Thousands of river water rights involving ranchers on federal public grazing land have been decided by court. The Joyce Livestock Company, in Owyhee County, refused to accept an agreement that would give it water just before approval by the federal government and went through an expensive process to determine water rights in the river. This eventually led to a decision by the Idaho Supreme Court. Idaho's recently enacted water rights forfeiture laws create a state process in which ranchers can gain control of federal water rights already decided by court. Farmers have begun to use this process and multiple actions were initiated by Idaho Department of Water Resources against water rights claimed by federal government this year.
The Department of Justice responded with a lawsuit now being processed in federal court which seeks to overturn state laws on which process is based. On a broader scale, this case reflects a change in U. S., where Forest Service and Office of Land Management are adopting multi-use strategies for public lands considering recreation and wildlife rather than just grazing livestock; especially true for fast-growing states like Idaho where many newcomers find vast federal public lands an opportunity to explore wild places. Some activities such as walking, driving off-road vehicles, hunting and shooting, fishing, camping and other activities on public land where livestock graze can interfere with livestock operations. Ranchers - some families who have grazed livestock on same federal lands for generations - are also facing pressure from conservation groups alleging possible violations of environmental laws by challenging grazing permits issued by Forest Service and Office of Land Management. Securing water rights to these grazing plots is seen by some ranchers as protection against deprivation or grazing rights in changing political landscape; Western Watersheds Project based in Idaho - which aims to eliminate adverse ecological impacts of grazing on public lands - is one such group challenging grazing permits. The State of Idaho is committed to providing equal employment opportunities and prohibiting discrimination against people who qualify because their status as protected veterans or people with disabilities; also prohibiting discrimination against all people based on race, color, religion, political affiliation or beliefs, sex, national origin, genetics or any other condition protected by applicable federal, state or local laws.