Land managers in the West increasingly demand that ranchers who work federal land surrender their water rights to the government or get off the range. It’s extortion and a form of unconstitutional taking that simply has to stop, Randy Parker, Utah Farm Bureau’s vice president of national government affairs, told the House Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans.

Farm Bureau

Stop federal water extortion, Farm Bureau Says

Land managers in the West increasingly demand that ranchers who work federal land surrender their water rights to the government or get off the range. It’s extortion and a form of unconstitutional taking that simply has to stop, Randy Parker, Utah Farm Bureau’s vice president of national government affairs, told the House Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans.

Legislation known as the Water Rights Protection Act could mean an end to federal strong-arming of ranchers by a government that owns the vast majority of land that can be grazed west of the Mississippi. Parker cited numerous instances in which the federal government forced or attempted to force ranchers to surrender their water rights.

Parker urged Congress to act.

“I want to commend Representative Scott Tipton for his leadership and continued support for advancing this important legislation,” Parker told the subcommittee. “Trust and a good working relationship are critical in reducing the uncertainty that has plagued ranchers across the western landscape and the rural communities they support.”

If passed, the Water Rights Protection Act would bar the federal government from seizing state-granted water rights from ranchers and restore basic property rights to them. The bill, now in discussion draft, is expected to be introduced later this year.

Among other things, the legislation would:

  • Prohibit agencies from demanding transfer of privately held water rights to the federal government in exchange for federal land use permits or other things;
  • Maintain federal deference to state water law; and
  • Maintain environmental safeguards already in place.

Parker’s full testimony can be found here. [PDF]

More on WRPA From Congressman Scott Tipton’s website

About the Bill:Congressman Scott Tipton has reintroduced the widely-supported Water Rights Protection Act (WRPA) in the 114th Congress. The bill, which passed the House in the 113th Congress with bipartisan support, would uphold state water law and priority-based systems. H.R. 1830 would provide water users with a line of defense from increasing federal attempts, such as the Forest Service Groundwater Management Directive and ski area permit clause, to take private water rights without compensation or restrict user access to them. In March, 2015, Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon affirmed comments made by U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell in a February Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing distancing the Forest Service from its Groundwater Directive. Weldon’s testimony indicated that that the agency is for the time being holding off on the controversial directive, but intends to issue a new rule once gathering further input on the issue. Senator John Barrasso has introduced

The Water Rights Protection Act (H.R. 1830):

  • Prohibits agencies from implementing a permit condition that requires the transfer of privately-held water rights to the federal government in order to receive or renew a permit for the use of land;
  • Prohibits the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture from imposing other conditions that require the transfer of water rights without just compensation;
  • Upholds longstanding federal deference to state water law;
  • Maintains environmental safeguards, and will not impact Bureau of Reclamation water contracts in any way. Likewise, the legislation will have no impact any authority existing within a jurisdiction. These are outside the scope of the legislation;
  • Has no cost to taxpayers.

Co-sponsors:House: Reps. Mark Amodei, Jason Chaffetz, Mike Coffman, Paul Gosar, Raul Labrador, Doug LaMalfa, Doug Lamborn, Mia Love, Cynthia Lummis, Tom McClintock, GT Thompson, Steve Pearce, Reid Ribble, Mike Simpson, Lamar Smith, Chris Stewart, Bruce Westerman, Ryan Zinke, Trent Franks, Ken Buck, Tom Reed and Mike Kelly. Senate: Sens. Dean Heller, Mike Crapo, Mike Enzi, Jeff Flake, James Risch, Orrin Hatch, Deb Fischer and Cory Gardner.

Endorsements in the 114th Congress include:

National Ski Areas Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, Family Farm Alliance, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Sheep Industry Association, CLUB 20, Colorado Wool Growers Association, State Farm Bureaus, Gunnison County Commissioners, Hinsdale County Commissioners, Montrose County Commissioners, Rio Grande Watershed Association of Conservation Districts.

Free Range Report

Comments

  1. And to think that Senator Don Corum carried a bill to give the U.S. Fish and Wildlife more money by raising hunting and fishing licenses. We the People need to watch every move Don makes.

  2. Under the “Homestead and Desert Land Entry Acts of Congress”, Cliven Bundy had & still has his existing NV State Water Right permits to graze his cattle on Gold Butte NV.
    Title 43 of the USC Annotated has always mandated that Water Rights are jurisdiction of the States, and the US only has interest & jurisdiction of “navigable water ways” that flow interstate as commerce. See also, 10th Amendment.
    The BLM has no jurisdiction into Cliven’s NV State Water right permits, & no legal power to forfeit his Homestead Ranch.

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