December 1, 2014

Forest Service repudiates its history by opposing private water rights

By Anthony L. Francois Senior Attorney

Liberty Blog readers will recall Pacific Legal Foundation’s recent comment letters to the United States Forest Service, objecting to the Service’s policy and practice of illegally claiming and demanding private water rights in its administration of the nation’s public timber supply.

The September 2014 issue of Irrigation Leader magazine carried a more detailed historical article I wrote on the subject. The article contrasts the Forest Service’s present hostility to private water rights with the historic reality that forest reserves were established explicitly to protect private water rights:

For decades prior to the first federal forest preserves, most public land in the United States was open for homesteading, and acts of Congress clarified that private citizens could also establish water rights under state law on federal lands.  When the United States began establishing national forests at the dawn of the Progressive Era at the end of the Nineteenth Century, most of the valuable water supplies within those forests had already been privately appropriated and developed.  Thousands of small towns, settlements, and homesteads existed within the boundaries of declared national forests, as well as adjacent to and downstream from them.  The federal laws establishing national forests recognized the senior rights of all of these private property owners to their land and water.

You can read the entire Irrigation Leader article here.

Barry Meadow

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