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Hunter v. U.S.

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Squatter on public domain may acquire by appropriation right to use of water that is used by him to irrigate such land, and if he is evicted he may nevertheless divert water elsewhere if he is able. (Public Lands, Ch. 15 Appropriation of Waters, 43 Section 661, Pg. 722)

In Hunter v. United States, 388 F. 2d 148 at 149 Ninth Circuit Court-C.A. Cal. (1967), the court ruled that the right to water by prior appropriation from public domain for any beneficial use is entitled to protection. Evidence by ownership of livestock that Hunter and members of his family had since prior to 1880 persistently grazed and watered livestock in public domain clearly showed a legal basis for acquisition of an appropriation to water by virtue of local decision. In view of practically uncontroverted proof establishing that Hunter and his predecessors had appropriated water from public domain...and that they had always used all water that was available from springs and creek whose flow fluctuated from year to year, judgement was to protect the grant of use of waters.

Hunter's grazing had been excluded when the land in question was withdrawn as a national monument. The court agreed that Hunter's water rights based on grazing use were valid, but also concluded that his right to graze lands adjacent to the water was not essential to the use of the water. The court reasoned Hunter could still exercise his right to use of the water by piping it out of the boundaries of the monument.


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