It’s a story that needs to be told…for neighbor suing neighbor is not the Nebraska Way.
The grandparents of Les and Betty Kime homesteaded in the Sandhills of Nebraska in the late 1890’s. Over time, and with much hard work, they developed the Snake River Falls Ranch, which surrounds the Snake River and includes the largest waterfall in all of Nebraska. It is pristine and beautiful land.
And Deb Fischer tried to take it from them.
Senator Fischer and her husband, Bruce, operate a cattle ranch near the Kimes.
For years, the Kimes let the Fischers graze cattle on a portion of their land adjacent to the Snake River and next to the McKelvie National Forest. Here the Fischers’ cattle would have easy access to water and could easily cross over to graze on the lands the Fischers lease in the McKelvie National Forest as part of their sweetheart subsidy deal from the federal government, which has cost taxpayers $3 million and earned them the title of “welfare ranchers.”
For decades the Kimes paid taxes on the land used by the Fischers, maintained it, and asked nothing in return. For the Kimes, it was the neighborly thing to do.
Over time the Fischers sought to acquire the land and each time the Kimes said “no.”
First, the Fischer’s proposed a trade of lands that the Kimes rejected. Later, the Fischers approached the elderly Kimes with a quitclaim deed and asked them to sign it. Again, the Kimes said “no.” Finally, the Fischers wrote the Kimes a letter proposing a swap of lands and $100,000, and once again the Kimes said “no thank you.”
So what did the Fischers do? They sued the Kimes—then in their 80’s—using a legal doctrine called “adverse possession,” essentially saying they had squatter’s rights to the land.
It cost the Kimes $40,000 in legal fees to defend themselves. It also cost them a great deal of heartache. Neighbors do not sue neighbors. Not in Nebraska. Especially when it was the generosity of the Kimes that allowed the Fischers to use the land in the first place.
The courts ruled in favor of the Kimes. But the story does not end there.
The Fischers had the nerve to ask the Kimes if they could continue to use the land that they had sued them over. The Kimes said “no,” obviously. Mysteriously, the fence dividing the Kimes’ and Fischers’ ranches was cut down and the cattle grazing on the Kimes’ property crossed onto the Fischer ranch.
The Kimes asked for permission to go onto the Fischers’ property and collect the cattle. The Fischers refused. So the sheriff and the branding inspector had to be summoned to resolve the dispute.
The story only gets more sordid from there.
Next, the Fischers asked the County to establish what is known as a “fencing committee” to determine the proper boundary between the two ranches, arguing once again that they owned the land, despite the ruling of the court. Once again, the fencing committee ruled in favor of the Kimes.
For years thereafter, the Fischers refused to reimburse the county for their half of the cost for restoring the fence line between the two ranches. Instead, the Kimes paid the bill in full and waited patiently to be reimbursed by the Fischers.
Only when the county threatened to place a special assessment against the property of the Fischers did they pay their portion of the fencing bill. Some would note it was also shortly before Deb Fischer decided to run for the Nebraska legislature.
Fast forward eight years. Les and Betty Kime have passed away. Deb Fischer is a senior member of the Nebraska Unicameral.
The descendants of Les and Betty decide they are going to sell the ranch. They want to sell it to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission so that this special place could be enjoyed by all Nebraskans.
Game and Parks turned to the Nebraska Environmental Trust for funding.
Enter Deb Fischer, who then introduced legislation to strip the Nebraska Environmental Trust of more than half its revenue and effectively kill the prospects of buying the ranch, and did so without ever disclosing her flagrant conflict of interest in the matter.
The Fischers stood to forever lose this passageway into the McKelvie National Forest if it became a state park. A state park near their ranch would surely dilute their ability to generate revenue from private hunting and fishing leases.
Fischer succeeded in killing the sale of the Kime ranch to the State of Nebraska. Lost for future generations is the chance for Nebraskans and the nation to enjoy this remarkable natural beauty. Lost for future generations is a state park tied to the rich history of our state.
Instead, the Snake River Ranch is owned by a private hunting club.
This is a revealing story on so many levels: Neighbor suing neighbor; vindictiveness; pettiness; deceit; abuse of power.
These are not Nebraska’s values. They are not America’s values. And they certainly are not values we need in the United States Senate.
If Debra Fischer is willing to sue her 80-year-old neighbors for property owned by the Kimes family for a century, if she is willing to abuse her legislative powers to promote her own self-interests and retaliate once again against the Kimes, imagine how she will use her Senate office.
That is why this story must be told.
We encourage you to look through a variety of court documents and other materials that are posted to this web site. We encourage you to weigh in with your own opinion, as well. You can also listen to how other Nebraskans view the Fischer land grab by visiting the videos page.