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Pony Up, Cattlemen!

Investigative Report by Debbie Coffey from the PPJ Gazette

Live Link to the PPJ Gazette

When I first heard the term “grazing lease” I assumed the lease was for grazing.

After hearing that the Bureau of Land Management will be rounding up the wild horses in the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area (California and Nevada) because there’s not enough water for them, I looked at the BLM Eagle Lake (California) Field Office website and noticed the projects they had listed.

I was surprised to see grazing lease transfers. You can transfer (give) your grazing lease to somebody else, and then THEY can transfer (give) it to somebody else. However, the “somebodys” aren’t always people or ranches.

I saw a couple of ranches like 3-Dot Ranch and 5-Dot Land & Cattle, then (right when I thought I was seeing spots before my eyes) I happened to see Project number CA-350-2009-33 for the North Fort Sage Allotment and Winter Range, NV. This was a grazing lease transfer from V&B Liability to Vidler LLC to Jared Brackenbury (whose name was misspelled). I couldn’t find any information about V&B Liability, but it sounds like it might be an insurance company.

Why would an insurance company need a grazing permit? Anyhow, whoever they are, they transferred the grazing permit to Vidler LLC, which is Vidler Water Company.

George Knapp of wrote of Vidler Water Company “the huge operation they’ve put together in western states, including Nevada, has come to rival entire governments, both in expertise and resources.”

Vidler transferred the grazing permit to Jared Brackenbury.

Who is Jared Brackenbury? I expected him to be some big rancher. Jared Brackenbury seems to be in his mid- 20’s, has done some branding at the Fish Springs Ranch (owned by Vidler Water), and sold a cow, according to May 19, 2010 sales results listed by Nevada Livestock Marketing of Fallon, Nevada. He listed his address as Reno, Nevada.

Why would a big water company transfer a grazing lease to Jared Brackenbury?

Vidler purchased Fish Springs Ranch in 2000. In 2005, the Washoe County Commission voted to give Vidler a Special-Use Permit for a 28 mile pipeline to import 8,000 acre feet of water annually from the Honey Lake Basin to areas north of Reno.

In May, 2006, the BLM granted Fish Springs Ranch a right-of-way grant (N-76800) for the pipline on private and public land.

When the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe objected to the importation of water because it could actually be as much as 13,000 acre feet per year, Vidler cut a deal with the tribe and gave them $500,000 for signing an agreement and the deeds to 6,214 acres of Nevada real estate.

Vidler’s website states that Fish Springs Ranch “possesses significant, high-quality, sustainable groundwater resources” and that its goal is to “convert and deliver these agricultural water rights into municipal uses in the growing Truckee Meadows.” So, they’re “converting” (taking away) agricultural water rights. Are the “sustainable groundwater resources” they’re drilling into taking away any water from any aquifers?

Vidler explained its new public-private partnership: “In 2007, the $80 million infrastructure was dedicated by Vidler to Washoe County for it’s ownership, operation and maintenance. The water delivered through the pipeline is ‘banked’ by Washoe County Water Resources pending the eventual sale by Vidler to a third party.”

It seems generous to give away an $80 million infrastructure. But do you really think Vidler is going to just give away $80 million? They have to “recoup” their expenditures somehow, and my guess is that those costs will eventually be paid by the “third party.” That will be you. The County pays to run and maintain the “infrastructure” with taxpayer dollars, while Vidler makes money on all the water. Will Vidler sell the water they now “own” at a higher price? Will this be in perpetuity? FOREVER?

Vidler owns Carson City water rights and has a water deal with Carson City and Lyon County, Nevada. Vidler has a “water banking agreement” with Lyon County and a “wholesale water agreement” between the governments of both Carson City and Lyon County. Vidler describes this: “Carson City and Lyon County will get the project they desire at no cost to the taxpayer, the development and contruction industry has a water supply and infrastructure available while Vidler meets its business objectives.” (the business objective seems to be to sell water in perpetuity. FOREVER. At whatever price they want.)

In White Pine County, Nevada, Vidler paid $4.5 million for a ranch (and its water rights) in bankruptcy, then after “fixing fences and an irrigation system” sold it for $22 million to to the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Most of Vidler’s water “projects” are in Nevada, but some are in California, Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Idaho. Vidler “intends to expand its operations in order to become a leading private water resource asset company in the western United States.”

Now, cattlemen, pay attention: On Vidler’s website, it states: “The primary strategy of the company is to locate, aggregate, develop and convert water rights from highly fragmented agricultural markets to emerging municipal and industrial uses.” Does this sound like they want to use the water for livestock? Vidler also boasts about its “political acumen” and “legal expertise” so, cattlemen, get ready to pony up to pay for your water.

Vidler Water is going to sell energy, too. They got a 62 page Special-Use Permit from Washoe County to build the Fish Springs PV Solar Project on 1,000 acres of their 2,670 acre Fish Springs Ranch. Their partners on this deal are Signet Solar Inc., Coast Range Investments LLC and Gold Solar Energy LLC.

Who owns Vidler Water? PICO Holdings.

PICO Holdings also owns Nevada Land & Resource Company, which is one of “the largest private landowners in Nevada.” It owns over 1 million acres of land, as well as 1 million acres of geothermal rights in northern Nevada. Nevada Land and Resource Company claims an “active mineral exploration and development program.” Things were so cozy between the BLM and the Nevada Land and Resource Co. in 2002 that Sen. Reid had to ask the BLM to remove Nevada Land and Resource employees who were working inside the Carson City BLM office processing land exchanges.

PICO Holdings subsidiaries are: Fish Springs Ranch, LLC, Nevada Land and Resource Company LLC, Nevada Land and Resource Holdings LLC, Physicians Insurance Company of Ohio, PICO Deferred Holdings LLC, Raven Investment Holdings Inc, UCP LLC, Vidler Water Company Inc., Global Equity Corporation (Canada), Global Equity AG (Switzerland), and a 37% interest in “an emerging technology management fund” called spigit (spigit’s founder, Paul Pluschkell, who’s also an officer of Raven Holdings, was President of Broadband at Global Crossing). PICO Holdings also has investment partnerships PICO Equity Investors, L.P. and PICO Equity Investors Management LLC.

We can see what PICO Holdings owns. Now the big question is, who owns PICO Holdings?

Until we can answer that, maybe we can ask the BLM to give our wild horses a Special-Use Permit, or a right-of-way, so the horses can get a drink of water on our publicly owned land.

For updates on upcoming wild horse gathers:


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17 replies »

  1. Good Gravy!!! Reading this gave me a freaking headache. What a bunch of legal and sibsidized CROOKS. Doesn’t sound like capatalism to me; it sounds like good old socialism for corporations that no one can really figure out who owns what for all the monkey business going on.

    Excellent investigative report….thanks Debbie.


    • Sounds like lawsuits to me – monopoly, racketeering, bribery, etc. Doesn’t the FBI investigate this kind of activity? Also the IRS (think Al Capone). With all these “subsidiaries”, there’s bound to be some kind of slip up. Greed leads to manipulation and falsification.

      I could tell you a very long story about a company I worked for in the 80s. So much tax evasion and fraud it was unbelievable. The guy was finally caught, and spent a couple of years in prison (mail fraud – white collar crime). The IRS estimated about $10 million of our tax dollars disappeared offshore, but the whole scheme was so clever they finally gave up trying to recover it.


  2. omg what a paperwork nightmare!

    on water has anyone tried the condensation mills? I see them online they pull water out of the air. Even in very dry areas. The cost was about 3,000 for a small one that can pull 6 gallons a day from desert air.

    I doubt we will have to drill for water or fence in pools of water forever. If we can use this new tech. someday to take our water right from the air, the hell with all these people who think they can ‘own’ water.

    I need to do more research on these mills. Maybe I will try to buy a small unit and see whats up with this.


  3. Another great piece of investigative reporting. Here it is in a nutshell–water rights. And our water supply is being sold to the highest bidder. In my region it is the American Water Company that was owned by Germans and now who knows? This company supplies vast areas and is a public traded company on the stock market. I have always had my own water supply(well) but checking with state law (PA) the guy who drills the deepest well wins. Water is our #1 resource and it is being privatized.


  4. The scamming over water and energy deals related to Nevada in any way is disgusting. Horses, pinyon trees, anything viewed as a competitor for water, or a nuisance for development of big projects are being removed. And the BLM Director just so happens to hail from NV and you know Harry Reid is in the thick of it. I’m betting the 2002 request from Reid was just because it got too “hot” for comfort.


  5. Just getting into this…Smells alot like Enron to me..Some holdings, enourmous returns..some losing money..holding Co.s and dummy corps, and resources being moved around is a tipoff..Ruby Pipeline also sold controling interest to a Global partnership..a company which buys-airports,ports energy developments and then turns them, sales of our natural resources, energy developments, and especially our water resources should never be sold to controlling foreign intersts..we won’t have to worry about a no fly list..all they will have to do is shut off our supply of water..or break the country as enron did with Calif…Plus Stimulus funds are being given to foreign co.s to build these structures, china received such a contract to build wind farms in texas.
    Good investigative reporting by the way!


  6. Debbie, Great report.

    My take is a Repeat – Cattle you are next after horses – just keep your head in the sand, so to speak. And you are making it soooo easy for them with your persuit of removing wild horses!

    Then it will be the rest of the pescky wildlife!

    Then, when there is nothing left to hunt it will be the fault of the environmentalists and wildlife advocates – in someones twisted bended logic!

    Water – BLUE GOLD! And the rush is on.


  7. What a wonderful piece of research. You are indeed dedicated.
    I wrote my letter to Mr. Seley of the Montezuma roundup (excuse me–gather)
    I hope many others do.


  8. I signed up for emails from “The Salt Lick” (Institute for Livestock and the Environment). Tasty tidbits from the other side of the street. Check out the June Newsletter. Featured Stakeholder – Bryan Weech of the World Wildlife Fund. Also, I’d like to be a fly on the wall for the June 14-16th meeting. Temple Grandin will be there, and one of the topics is grazing rights.


    • I opened a few. No comments even though there is a comment section.

      They are working on modifiying grass so that it will produce 10% less methane from cattle – they will still be 8% above all the automobiles in the world. And that grass modification 1) will only apply sparingly, not world wide and 2) what other harm will that do?

      Thanks, I’ve saved the link and will check in occassionally. Let us know if we can post comments on anything, or is that even a good idea in your opinion – maybe just stir up the hornets nest?


      • Hi Roxy, I’ve thought about commenting, but decided it would be better just to monitor the info. If I said what I want to say, it wouldn’t be pretty, and they’d probably block me.


      • Roxy, when you said they’re working on “modifying” grass, that most likely means genetically engineered grass, which they will patent. Then, they’ll do what Monsanto does, as soon as their patented, genetically engineered grass blows in the wind and grows on other property, they can sue that property owner.
        Thanks so much for all of the interesting comments!


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