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The Right to Farm in Idaho Takes Precedence over Easements

It is common in Idaho for road easements to be granted across properties to permit access to landlocked parcels to and from public roads.  Oftentimes, the easement is across agricultural land.  It also can happen that the development plans of the owners of the landlocked parcel can enlarge over time.  So what are the rights of the farmer in that situation?

An easement is the right to use the land of another for a specific purpose that is not inconsistent with the general use of the property by the owner. [1] The burden of an easement on the land on which it is placed can be enlarged only under certain circumstances.  Further, the Idaho Right to Farm Act, enacted in 1981, specifically limits the circumstances in which enlarging the burden on land dedicated to agricultural use can occur.

The legislative intent of the Right to Farm law, as set forth in the statute, is to narrow the definition of “nuisance” in connection with agricultural operations, and prevent the premature removal of lands from agricultural uses in urbanizing areas.  The statute specially states: “It is the intent of the legislature to reduce the loss to the state of its agricultural resources by limiting the circumstance under which the agricultural operations may be deemed to be a nuisance.”  Thus, such a law narrows the situation in which a greater burden can be placed on the land on which the easement was granted to permit use of the easement.

 The law also provides that such protected agricultural operations include, “without limitation: noise, odors, dust, fumes…and other conditions” associated with the operation.  Thus, if cattle are used to walking over a road easement to graze on the other side of the road, or chickens roam, their movement across the road, and what they may leave on it, is probably not a “nuisance”, and the animals’ movements probably cannot be restricted by say a fence, or other obstruction, unless the animals systematically endanger pedestrians or vehicles in a way in which they did not in the past.

Further, in a recent case, the Idaho Supreme Court pointed out that Idaho Code §22-4503, that is part of the Act, “precludes a finding of nuisance…with respect to an activity which would not have been a nuisance but for a change in surrounding non-agricultural uses more than one year after the activity began”. 

Therefore, should a farmer permit a road easement across his or her land to a parcel owned by someone who is an aspiring developer, that aspiring developer should think long and hard about how the farmer is using the land surrounding the easement before launching into plans to develop the land-locked parcel.

[1] Abbott v. Nampa School Dist. No. 131, 119 Idaho 544, 548, 808 P.2d 1289, 1293 (1991).

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Mathieu, Ranum & Allaire, PLLC is a boutique law firm with offices in Boise and Sun Valley, Idaho focusing exclusively in the areas of estate and trust planning, probate and trust administration, elderlaw/medicaid planning, asset protection, business law and charitable organization laws. We represent individuals, families, trustees, heirs and beneficiaries, entrepreneurs and closely held businesses, tax-exempt organizations, and family offices, as well as professionals and business owners potentially exposed to future creditor claims.

IMPORTANT NOTICE

The foregoing is NOT legal advice. We have prepared these materials to inform and educate. They are not, and should not be considered, legal opinions or advice to anyone, nor do they create an attorney client relationship by your reading them. These materials may not reflect the most current legal developments in the applicable area of law. Furthermore, this information should in no way be taken as an indication of future results.

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