USFS groundwater directive fails to recognize sole authority of states

U.S. Forest ServiceWestern Governors submitted comments this week to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) about its proposed directive on groundwater resource management that details why the measure has significant implications for Western states and their groundwater resources.

"This proposed directive was developed without any state consultation of which the Western Governors' Association (WGA) is aware," the letter notes. "We invite the USFS to work through WGA, Western States Water Council, and individual states to facilitate dialogue on ways to improve this (and any future) proposed directive."

The letter further notes: "States have Exclusive Authority over Groundwater Management: Congress recognized states as the sole authority over groundwater in the Desert Land Act of 1877, and in 1935 the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that exclusive authority. However, the proposed directive could be construed to assert USFS ownership of state groundwater by use of the phrase “NFS groundwater resources” throughout the document. The document also identifies states merely as “potentially affected parties” and only recognizes states as “having responsibilities” for water resources within their boundaries."

For a complete description of Western Governors' concerns regarding the proposal, read and download the letter signed by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Western Governors' Association (WGA) Chairman, and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, WGA Vice Chairman.

Forest Service, Public Lands, water, Western Governors

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