In re the General Adjudication of All Rights to Use Water in the Big Horn River System (Big Horn I)

753 P.2d 76, affirmed sub nom. Wyoming v. United States, 492 U.S. 406, 109 S.Ct. 2994 (1988), 106 L.Ed.2d 342 (1989)

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In re the General Adjudication of All Rights to Use Water in the Big Horn River System (Big Horn I)

Wyoming Supreme Court
753 P.2d 76, affirmed sub nom. Wyoming v. United States, 492 U.S. 406, 109 S.Ct. 2994 (1988), 106 L.Ed.2d 342 (1989)

  • Written by Rose VanHofwegen, JD

Facts

The federal government established the Wind River Indian Reservation under an 1868 treaty that explicitly encouraged agricultural development, although other activities were allowed. In 1977, Wyoming (plaintiff) enacted legislation authorizing system-wide water rights adjudications. Two days later, Wyoming brought a water rights action against the United States and other parties (defendants) over water in the Big Horn River System. The court divided the lawsuit into three phases, with only Indian-reserved water rights decided here. The special master report found that the reservation’s purpose was to provide an Indian homeland and therefore recommended awarding a reserved water right for irrigation, stock watering, fisheries, wildlife and aesthetics, as well as mineral, industrial, domestic, commercial, and municipal uses. Multiple parties objected. The water judge approved only the award of reserved water rights for practicably irrigable acreage (PIA) within the reservation, rejecting the recommendations as to water rights for any uses other than agriculture. The parties appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning ()

Dissent (Hanscum, J.)

Dissent (Thomas, J.)

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