The case is being disputed in federal court, but the legislative committee has written a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack opposing the Forest Service’s attempt to bypass current law. Earlier this year, Rep. Scott Tipton sponsored an amendment that would preclude federal reserved water rights in Colorado.
Last November, Rep. Tipton, along with Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, challenged water clauses in U.S. Forest Service contracts for ski areas, saying they encroach on Colorado water law and policies.
The Forest Service’s move is an attempt to get around the law. In the 1980s and ’90s, then-Sens. Bill Armstrong and Hank Brown fought the feds over what the bureaucrats were claiming as reserved water rights.
Congress finally passed legislation denying federal reserved water rights and ordering the government to apply for rights through Colorado’s appropriation system. That entails lining up like every other applicant and filing for rights in a water court.
But the law has fallen on deaf ears at the Forest Service, which claims the feds know what’s best for Colorado. Federal agencies are always looking for precedents to set so they can expand their power and reach.
We are encouraged that state lawmakers in Denver are opposed to this attempted water grab by the Forest Service and have passed a resolution to be considered by the full Legislature adding its opposition.