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Idaho Delegation Fights Forest Service Effort to Seize State Waters

Forty lawmakers join in protesting new directive that will restrict access to public lands and interfere with water rights

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Congressmen Mike Simpson and Raúl Labrador this week joined 36 other lawmakers, including House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) and House Water and Power Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA), in sending a letterto Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack cautioning that the U.S. Forest Service's recently proposed Groundwater Resource Management Directive will limit access to public lands and interfere with state and private water rights.

The directivewould initiate the Forest Service authority over state-managed groundwater resources claiming surface water and groundwater are "hydraulically interconnected" and the agency could object to state-regulated projects on "adjacent" land that allegedly might harm groundwater.

"This directive is yet another example of federal overreach by the Administration," said Crapo. "Lacking appropriate input from impacted states and local officials, the U.S. Forest Service is seeking to exponentially expand federal jurisdiction over state managed water resources.  Decisions with regard to the allocation and use of water are uniquely state issues and are best managed on a local level, especially in westernstates like Idaho."

"This is just another attempt by the Forest Service to override state water laws," said Risch.  "The restrictions associated with this proposed directive will restrict Idahoans' access to public lands and will invite needless litigation that could be avoided if the federal government would get out of the way. The federal government has failed before in its attempts to grab Idaho waters and will fail again this time."

"In Idaho, we know that water is paramount to our way of life," said Simpson.  "It is deeply concerning to me that the Forest Service continues to look for ways to usurps state water authority, in spite of Congress making it clear that these efforts aren't going to fly.  I strongly urge them to see the error in their ways and pull back this most recent proposal to impose significant water restrictions on public lands users."

"This is just the latest example of the administration trying to expand its power over public lands and private water rights," said Labrador.  "The power of federal agencies need to be reined in, not expanded arbitrarily. The Forest Service's directive, if left unchecked, will restrict our freedom and hurt our economy." 

"This sweeping proposal additionally seeks to impose water use restrictions and deny agricultural, recreational, and other economic activity in 155 National Forests and their adjacent state, local and private neighbors in 40 states.  The end result could be lost jobs and reduced recreational access to public lands, with little or no environmental benefit," the lawmakers wrote .

In addition to Risch, Crapo, Simpson, Labrador, Pearce, and Lummis, the letter was signed by Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Mike Enzi (R-WY), John Cornyn (R-TX), John Thune (R-SD), David Vitter (R-LA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representatives Stevan Pearce (R-NM), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Mark Amodei (R-NV), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Walter Jones (R-NC), Don Young (R-AK), Rob Bishop (R-UT), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), David Schweikert (R-AZ), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Chris Stewart (R-UT), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Paul Broun (R-GA), Jason Smith (R-MO), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Eric Crawford (R-AR), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Steve Daines (R-MT), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Jeff Denham (R-CA), Billy Long (R-MO) and Adrian Smith (R-NE).