Case Summary

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, without obtaining a permit, and over the objections of a hydrological expert, diverted a stream that flowed through the land owned by a small church, headed by Pastor Victor Fuentes. The resulting flooding destroyed the property, and the bureaucrats who did this think no one will hold them accountable.

Case History

Pastor Victor Fuentes knows first hand of the dreadful religious persecution in Castro’s Cuba. Almost three decades ago, he swam nearly 7 miles from Santiago, Cuba to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, seeking freedom.

Granted political asylum in early 1991, he was exposed for the first time to Christianity, became a Christian, and became an ordained minister. He witnessed with his personal story to troubled youth on the mean streets of Las Vegas.

Pastor Fuentes came up with an idea to help those youth. His church purchased a 40-acre parcel near the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Church members called it Patch of Heaven because a spring-fed stream irrigated the trees and shrubs, provided water for a tranquil pond.

The church hosted retreats, Christian camps, and baptisms. Most importantly, it was an escape for youth from Las Vegas—Sin City. For adults suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, it was a chance to dry out in a desert oasis.

The church spent over $700,000 to repair buildings, restore septic systems, and realize needed improvements.

After the federal government diverted the stream, the newly re-routed waterway jumped its banks, sent a torrent of mud and water across Patch of Heaven, and did over $90,000 worth of damage.

Flood waters came again three more times. Today, the damage totals $225,000. With the threat of annual flooding, repairs are futile, the church grounds and buildings are virtually useless, and a dusty mini-Grand Canyon cuts through what was once lush wetlands.

The inner-city kids who used to enjoy this retreat now have nowhere to go. It is clear that the government abused its power and forcing the church off its land near the Wildlife Refuge may have been the plan of environmentalist bureaucrats all along.

With Mountain States Legal Foundation providing free legal representation, Pastor Fuentes’ church is in a federal court in Washington, D.C. demanding justice.

At MSLF, we stand with Pastor Fuentes and his church’s right to use the land it owns.

Case Documents
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