(NAFB)--Legislation introduced last week would provide a means to combat the recent directive that allows the U.S. Forest Service to seize private water rights without just compensation. The bill - the Water Rights Protection Act - is being hailed by the Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. The Forest Service 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. PLC President Brice Lee says the U.S. Forest Service 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. He says the Forest Service has failed to provide adequate compensation and instead has attempted to acquire these rights in exchange for special use permits. Lee says this likely violates a recent Supreme Court ruling. With 40-percent of the western cow herd spending some time on public lands - NCBA President Scott George says the ability to have secure water rights is imperative to producers and the economy. He says the legislation introduced by Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton is a commonsense bill that provides certainty to ranchers and leaves water management to the states where it belongs.
The Water Rights Protection Act - H.R. 3189 - would prohibit the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture from requiring the transfer of water rights without adequate compensation. The bill also supports long-established state water laws - clarifying that the federal government doesn’t have jurisdiction. Lee and George are asking the House to take up and pass this legislation without delay.