Clements: The Water Rights Protection Act supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation and reintroduced in the U.S. House this week would bar federal agencies from taking the water rights of ranchers on public range lands. The bill stops federal agencies from taking the water rights of land-use permit holders when the users are renewing their use permit. Those water rights, says AFBF’s Ryan Yates, are a property right, and should be protected by the Constitution.
Yates: We were seeing new language inserted into these permit renewals that would require a permittee, be it a rancher or other federal land permittee, to transfer over water rights to the federal government as a condition of that permit renewal. Obviously, that has a profound effect on the western economy, the ranching economy, and I would argue would violate the 5th Amendment of the Constitution as a taking.
Clements: The legislation passed the U.S. House in a previous session of Congress and also addresses future attempts to take water rights from western ranchers. Additionally, Yates says addressing the issue ranchers are facing is a priority of the Trump administration.
Yates: The Trump administration has also weighed in on this issue, and in an executive order a couple of months ago directed federal land management agencies to cease in these types of actions that would require the transfer of a water right as the condition of a permit.
Clements: Yates says farmers and ranchers need to support the bill by reaching out to their elected officials.
Yates: The bill should be getting marked-up this week, so that really puts it on a path for floor consideration in the House of Representatives. And we’re calling on farmers and ranchers across the country, not just the West, to stand up for property rights and encourage their members of Congress to support H.R. 2939.
Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.
Communications Assistant, AFBF