Forest Service Withdraws Groundwater Directive
Last week, the U.S Forest Service formally withdrew their proposed ground water directive, a decision applauded by the livestock industry following a years-long effort opposing any expansion of federal control over water beyond existing limited control via federal statute and Federal Reserve rights.
The directive, proposed in 2014, would have allowed the Forest Service to regulate activities on or near National Forest System lands based on their interpretation on how those activities could affect groundwater and despite private water development and property rights. Public Lands Council Executive Director Dustin Van Liew said the USFS directive was an unprecedented infringement of private property rights.
“Private water rights on federal lands serve as an integral part of ranching operations,” said Van Liew. “The groundwater directive would have aggressively expanded federal jurisdiction over water that is currently managed by the state, usurping their right to manage the resources they know best, and adding a multitude of new permitting requirements for water rights holders.”
In September 2014, NCBA and PLC submitted written comments to the U.S. Forest Service detailing why the proposed directive was outside the agency’s legal authority and requested it be withdrawn.
“The agency simply does not have the legal authority to implement such a sweeping regulation. If they intended to improve water quality, which seems to be a scapegoat reason used by multiple agencies these days, they missed the mark. I am glad they recognized the fallacy of their proposal before a backlog of unnecessary lawsuits jammed up the courtroom. ”
According to the statement the Forest Service released, the agency said the proposal did not adequately meet its needs and in a hearing held last month, USFS Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon said the agency will likely revisit the matter and proposal another directive in the future. NCBA and PLC will continue to follow the agency closely and further oppose any proposals reaching beyond legal limits on federal authority.