Case Summary

Farmers and ranchers lease federally managed land to raise their flocks and herds, and ultimately to feed millions of Americans. They pay large sums of money to lease those grazing lands. Some American Indian tribe members are claiming the right to hunt on the land the government leases to farmers and ranchers in the state of Wyoming, even though it’s a clear violation of their tribal treaty with the United States.

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United States Supreme Court

Case History

Farmers and ranchers are the backbone of this country and deserve to have a voice at the highest court in the nation.

This case, Hererra v. Wyoming, hinges on a long legal history involving Indian hunting rights. Specifically, the Crow Tribe treaty of 1868 reserved the right of tribe members to hunt on the unoccupied lands of the United States. 

Mountain States Legal Foundation filed an amicus brief, arguing that federally managed lands that are legally used by farmers and ranchers through agreements with the United States are inherently occupied and therefore not subject to the Crow Tribe’s treaty hunting right. 

MSLF’s argument is based on the plain meaning of the term “occupied” as understood today and in 1868, as well as the intent of both the tribe and the United States when signing and ratifying the treaty. 

“We are not seeking to overturn the hunting rights the Crow Tribe reserved in their treaty with the United States,” said MSLF attorney Cody Wisniewski. “Quite the contrary, we are just asking the Court to treat the right as the both the tribe and United States understood it in 1868.” 

Farmers and ranchers put leased federal lands to a beneficial use, and do so in partnership with the federal agencies that manage the lands. It is important that farmers and ranchers are able to protect their property interest in the lands they pay the United States to use, and that they do not have unknown parties hunting on those lands. 

MSLF filed the brief on behalf of the following associations: Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, Wyoming Wool Growers Association, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, Utah Farm Bureau Federation, Colorado Farm Bureau Federation, and South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association. 

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Standing Up for Southwestern Ranchers

Tom Paterson of Spur Ranch Cattle Company is one of many southwestern ranchers now endangered by environmentalist litigation trying to end grazing on federally managed lands in Arizona and New Mexico. MSLF is determined to protect them.

Wyoming Ranchers and Farmers Now Endangered, Not the Grizzlies

Keeping a family farm, sheep or cattle ranch profitable is a difficult enough without special interest groups making it harder. The grizzly bear was once an endangered species, but in 2017 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzly population exceeded scientists’ minimum goals for the powerful predator. It had fully recovered. The agency tried to remove the animal from the endangered list, but was sued in Crow Indian Tribe v. United States of America. More recently, environmental groups also got involved trying to prevent delisting of the grizzly.

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