Printed on: December 24, 2012

Landowners sue over east Idaho refuge

BOISE (AP) -- A lawsuit has been filed against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by seven individuals and corporations seeking to take back thousands of acres that form the core of Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Idaho.

The Idaho Business Review reports in a story published Tuesday that the lawsuit contends the federal government failed to hold up its end of an agreement signed in 1965.

In that contract, landowners conveyed control of about 13,000 acres of Grays Lake to the Wildlife Service for the wildlife refuge. In return, the federal agency agreed to build a watertight dike around the refuge. But the dike was never completed.

"The (U.S Department of the Interior) constructed only a small portion of the dike that served only to exacerbate spring flooding on (landowners' property)," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit seeks to have the Wildlife Service leave the land and take any buildings or infrastructure with it. The lawsuit also seeks an unspecified amount in damages for the lost cattle feed and crops over the intervening years.

The 19,400-acre refuge, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, is the largest hardstem bulrush marsh in North America and is surrounded mostly by wet meadows and grasslands.