Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Caucus hails demise of USFS groundwater directive

From the Congressional Western Caucus:
Yesterday during a Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans hearing, U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon announced the decision to halt work on the controversial Proposed Directive on Groundwater Management released last year by the Forest Service.

In response, Western Caucus Chairman Cynthia Lummis (WY-At large), Vice Chairmen Mark Amodei (NV-02) and Paul Gosar (AZ-04), and Chairman Emeritus Steve Pearce (NM-02) issued the following statements:

“The U.S. Forest Service’s decision to give up on the proposed groundwater directive is a critical victory for state primacy over groundwater and private water rights,” said Chairman Lummis. “I am pleased that the Forest Service has finally recognized what we’ve known all along: this directive was doomed from the start because of the lack of consultation with the states who have primacy over groundwater. To the contrary, the directive held the potential to erode state water authority and harm local economies. I commend Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop for his successful campaign to stop this directive. This is a win for the west, and for any American community home to a National Forest. I encourage Forest Service to stand by its commitment today to go back to the drawing board with the states that should be in the driver’s seat in developing any policy changes when it comes to groundwater.”

“Chief Tidwell, atta boy,” said Vice-Chairman Amodei. “You’re the man. Thank you very much.”

“Attempted water grabs by federal agencies during the Obama Administration have been atrocious,” said Vice-Chairman Gosar. “Whether it is Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS), the Ground Water Service Directive, or the ski area water rights permitting conditions, the federal government has attempted an all-out assault to take control of precious water resources that have traditionally been managed by states or private ownership. While I am pleased to see the U.S. Forest Service back away from its unnecessary and overreaching groundwater directive, I will remain vigilant against any further attempts to override state water laws and extort private water rights.”

“I would like to commend all of those who voiced their concerns over the Forest Service’s Groundwater Directive including my Western Caucus colleagues,” said Chairman Emeritus Pearce. “This directive was unnecessary from the beginning and was introduced without input from states or local communities. While I appreciate the fact that the Forest Service came to this commonsense conclusion, I am dismayed that they plan on issuing a new rule down the road. I recommend the Forest Service focus on effectively managing the resources they currently control and stop trying to federalize state and private water.”

On March 12, House Committee on Natural Resources leadership sent a letter to Forest Service Chief Tidwell, urging the agency to permanently withdraw the proposed directive.

Last year, the leadership of the Congressional and Senate Western Caucuses led a bicameral letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warning that the U.S. Forest Service’s proposed Groundwater Directive would restrict access to public lands and interfere with state and private water rights.
Tony Francois, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, recently detailed the organization's objections to the directive in a guest op-ed in the Capital Press. You can read it here.

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