The Water Rights Protection Act (WRPA), a bill introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), would prevent federal agencies from requiring certain entities to relinquish their water rights to the United States in order to use public lands.
The Western Livestock Journal describes the proposed measure in its draft form as “A bill to prohibit the conditioning of any permit, lease, or other use agreement on the transfer of any water right to the United States by the secretaries of the interior and agriculture.”
Randy Parker, Utah Farm Bureau's Vice President--National Government Relations, was asked to testify before the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans. In his comments to the subcommittee, Parker said, “The U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have been systematically challenging state sovereignty and historic privately held water rights on public land.” He continued to explain, “Since pioneer settlement, water rights on the public domain have been developed and beneficially used by ranchers and their livestock. Congress and the courts have a long history of recognizing water is sovereign to the states and ranchers are the owners of highly valued water rights on private lands as well as western public lands.” Read Parker's full testimony HERE.
Among the things the bill would do if passed include:
- Prohibit agencies from demanding transfer of privately held water rights to the federal government in exchange for federal land use permits or other things;
- Maintain federal deference to state water law; and
- Maintain environmental safeguards already in place.