October 6, 2014

Have we mentioned the Forest Service lately?

By Anthony L. Francois Senior Attorney

The Forest Service has been earning some attention lately from Pacific Legal Foundation, between the agency’s proposal to seize water rights from ski area operators, to its breathtaking plan to require permits to take pictures of National Forests.  Next, we feature the Service’s plan to expand its domain into regulation of groundwater, a traditional area of state law and regulation.

The Forest Service has enough trouble preventing its forests from burning to the ground, a problem that is admittedly not entirely of its own making.  Bureaucratic red tape and litigation from pressure groups play a prominent role in ensuring that our nation’s timber supply is managed for catastrophic destruction instead of healthy growth, productive use, and public access.  But even granting the Forest Service the benefit of the doubt on fire prevention, the agency has its hands overfull with that responsibility.

So, setting aside all of the legal reasons why the Service has no business trying to regulate groundwater (and they are many), unity of effort should easily dissuade this federal agency from branching out into an area in which it has little or no expertise or experience.  The Forest Service should leave groundwater rights and management to states and private parties, and focus on one thing: protecting communities from catastrophic fire.

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