PLC, NCBA urge water act passage

The Public Lands Council (PLC) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) hail the introduction of the Water Rights Protection Act (WRPA), H.R. 3189 by Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Colo.). The bipartisan bill was introduced last week with additional co-sponsors: Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.).

This legislation provides a means to combat the recent directive that allows the USFS to seize private water rights without just compensation.

“The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has taken a page out of the Environmental Protection Agency playbook and continues to illustrate its disregard for property rights through its continued efforts to federalize all waters in the U.S.,” said PLC president and Colo. rancher Brice Lee. “The USFS has failed to provide adequate compensation; instead, they have attempted to acquire these rights in exchange for special use permits, likely in violation of a recent Supreme Court ruling in Koontz. It is clear this bureaucracy is grossly overstepping its bounds and has to be prevented from usurping our members’ private property rights.”

The USFS has recently attempted to require the transfer of privately owned water rights on federal lands to the federal government as a condition of issuing standard land use permits. The agency has not provided adequate compensation as required by Article V of the Constitution and has repeatedly ignored established state water laws in order to perform these tasks.

“With 40 percent of the western cow herd spending some time on public lands, the ability to have secure water rights is imperative, not only to producers but to the economy,” said NCBA president Scott George, a rancher and dairy producer from Cody, Wyo. “This legislation is a common sense bill that provides certainty to ranchers and leaves water management to the states where it belongs. The USFS must be accountable to citizens and the states and cannot, at will, circumvent state water laws at the expense of landowners.”

The legislation proposed would prohibit the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture from requiring the transfer of water rights without adequate and just compensation. Additionally, the bill supports long-established state water laws, clarifying that the federal government does not have jurisdiction.

Both Lee and George ask the House to take up and pass this legislation without delay, encouraging other representatives to co-sponsor and urging swift passage out of committee.