The Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association last week praised the introduction of the Water Rights Protection Act by Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo.
The bipartisan bill was introduced in late September by 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 groups noted.
"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.," said PLC president Brice Lee, arguing that the USFS has failed to provide adequate compensation.
A statement from PLC explained that the USFS has 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 group argues that USFS also has repeatedly ignored established state water laws in order to perform these tasks.
"With 40% 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. "This legislation is a commonsense bill that provides certainty to ranchers and leaves water management to the states where it belongs."
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, PLC said.