From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Tipton said the requirement could affect water rights held by ski areas and ranchers, in particular. “Water rights established under state law are property rights for purposes of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Congress has not delegated to the Forest Service the authority to require permittees to transfer ownership of water rights to the United States as a permit condition,” Tipton wrote in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack…
Tipton says the forest service does not have the authority to use permitting conditions to obtain federal ownership of water rights without just compensation and said the permit condition amounts to unlawfully taking property that violates Colorado water law.
More coverage from Reid Wright writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:
“Because of the significant percentage of water that originates on national forest system lands in the West, such a change in policy would pose a threat to the current system of state allocation and administration of water rights,” Tipton wrote. “Our concern was that our ranchers need some of those water rights for watering holes and grazing,” Tipton said in a telephone interview, adding that secured water rights also are necessary for ski areas and recreation. Tipton said he was particularly concerned about the requirement in regard to water sources that originate off permit areas as well as water rights that predate the existence of the U.S. Forest Service.
Steve Segin, a public information officer for the Forest Service, said the requirement is designed to keep the water resource tied to the intended area so it cannot be sold and piped off to other areas. “It’s designed to protect the resource, not to take it away from anybody,” he said…
The issue is scheduled to be discussed by the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
More water law coverage here.