By Debbie Coffey

Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved

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 pipeline 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 construction 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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7 Responses to “Pony up, Cattlemen!”

  1. Debbie says:

    Thanks so much for the kind words. More articles to follow…

  2. Mike C says:

    Own the food (GMO), own the water – you control the population.

  3. Excellent article! It’s comforting to know there are still some great investigative reporters out there.

    Thank you.

  4. MJ Wilson says:

    Great article, after watching Michael Moores Capitalism, it all makes sense.

  5. Janet Ferguson says:

    Thank you to The Cloud Foundation for posting this link on their website, to which I subscribe.

    It is high time someone like the author “waded into” this “deep” subject — I am convinced exactly this issue is the “gorilla in the room” for many of our wild horses and burros.

    Thank you for the great article and for adding to the “deep well” of public issues we need to expose and learn about. A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again. (Alexander Pope)

  6. Craig Downer says:

    This is a great expose on the underlyng motivations for taking over our public lands and their resources and the actors in this, and the terrible, indeed, shameless complicity that is involved here. This must be exposed and rectified to reassert the public interest in maintaining the natural viability of the ecosystems on our public lands, including those wild-horse/burro-containing ecosystems that represent such a wonderful restoration of the life community here in the West!