Over the past decade a significant amount of questions have developed, in the matters of Water Rights, and the actual “Rights of Private Ownership” on America’s Public Lands, by participants in the government’s Grazing Permit Programs on Public Lands, or what is refereed to as Welfare Ranchers’. Welfare Rancher’s “assume” they have, above and beyond normal “Legal” parameters, “ownership rights” to Water Wells on their Leased Public Lands.
The situation is, they use the water available to them, from the Water Wells upon Our Public Lands. But, they use it for their own cattle, for example, then send an invoice for its use to the BLM (i.e. Bureau of Land Management), or the DOI (Department of the Interior), or the USDA Forestry. This situation amounts to several thousands of dollars per month, going directly to Welfare Ranchers, who are simply leasing grazing lands from the government, yet another obvious Lobby Group circumstance, but as we see it, forcing more corruption onto our Public Lands.
We find this activity to be illegal, and no court, State or Federal, has given the actual Water Rights to Grazing Permit Holders (as Private Ownership), yet we find the situation blossom, and within $18.6 Billion Dollars paid to Grazing Permit Holders on Public Lands, over the past 16 years.
The primary question here is ethics, the legality of using Federal or State Water Wells, then charging taxpayer’s for its use and upkeep or maintenance, when it should be their own “cost of doing business” and in reality — the other way around — paying the taxpayer’s for use of Federal or State owned Water on Public Lands.
Simply more corruption from Big Ag and forced upon Or Public Lands, then referring to it as legal, within any way, is certainly beyond doubt, a questionable circumstance, at best.
Reserved Water Rights and the Supreme Court
The doctrine of federal reserved water rights generally traces its origins to the seminal decision of Winters v. United States, 207 U.S. 564 (1908). There, the United States Supreme Court ruled, when the United States sets aside an Indian reservation, it impliedly reserves sufficient water to fulfill the purposes of the reservation, with the priority date established as of the date of the reservation.
Over half a century later, following the passage of the McCarran Amendment, the Supreme Court had occasion to revisit – and build upon – this turn of the century decision in Arizona v. California, 373 U.S. 546 (1963). In that case, the Court held that the reserved rights doctrine is not limited to Indian reservations, but also applies to all federally reserved public lands, such as national forests, national recreation areas, and national wildlife refuges. This ruling affirmed the potentially significant scope and extent of federal reserved water rights.
Over the coming years, the Supreme Court had several occasions to explore the contours of the reserved water rights doctrine. For instance, in Cappaert v. United States, 426 U.S. 128 (1976), the Court upheld an injunction against groundwater pumping that would have jeopardized one of the purposes for which the national monument at issue had been established – preservation of the desert pupfish – thereby extending the reach of the reserved rights doctrine to protect federal reserved rights both from injurious surface and groundwater diversions.
Several years later, in United States v. New Mexico, 438 U.S. 696 (1978), the Court denied the Forest Service’s instream flow claim for fish, wildlife and recreation uses. Specifically, the Court denied the claim on the grounds that reserved water rights for National Forest lands established under the Forest Service’s Organic Act of 1897 are limited to the minimum amount of water necessary to satisfy the primary purposes of the Organic Act – conservation of favorable water flows and the production of timber – and were not available to satisfy the claimed instream flow uses. This decision established that questions concerning the existence and quantity of reserved water rights are largely dependent upon the reservation’s authorizing legislation and the specific purposes for which the land was reserved.
“The Department of the Interior recognizes the interest in re-enforcing the state’s authority over water allocation. The Department also recognizes that the federal government retains the right and obligation to manage federal lands under the Constitution. This right and obligation includes’ the authority to both reserve water rights and mitigate against the impacts of the exercise of privately held water rights on public lands. Congress, on the other hand, is charged with directing the Executive Branch’s implementation of those rights and obligations. . . [See: United States v. Rio Grande Dam & Irrig. Co., 174 U.S. 702 (1899), United States v. Winans, 198 U.S. 371 (1905), and Winters v. United States, 207 U.S. 564 (1908).]”
In the United States there are complex legal systems for allocating water rights that vary by region. These varying systems exist for both historical and geographic reasons. Water law encompasses a broad array of subjects or categories designed to provide a framework to resolve disputes and policy issues relating to water:
- Public waters, including tidal waters and navigable waterways.
- Other surface waters—generally water that flows across non-public land from rain, floodwaters, and snow-melt before those waters reach public watercourses.
- Groundwater, sometimes called subterranean, percolating, or underground water
- Public regulation of waters, including flood control, environmental regulation—state and federal, public health regulation and regulation of fisheries
- Related to all of the above is interplay of public and private rights in water, which draws on aspects of eminent domain law and the federal commerce clause powers
- Water project law: the highly developed law regarding the formation, operation, and finance of public and quasi-public entities which operate local public works of flood control, navigation control, irrigation, and avoidance of environmental degradation.
- Treaty Rights of Native Americans
The Klamath River Basin Adjudication in Oregon
A major adjudication is the Klamath River Basin Adjudication (among others states) in southern Oregon, which was commenced in the mid-1990s. In early 2013, the Oregon Water Resources Department filed its findings of fact and order of determination, concluding the administrative phase of the adjudication and commencing the judicial phase in the Klamath County Circuit Court.
The Oregon Water Resources Department’s order sets forth partial orders of determination on the 734 claims filed in the adjudication. The order was largely favorable to the United States approving numerous and substantial federal reserved and state appropriative water rights for several wild and scenic rivers, Crater Lake National Park, wilderness areas, in-stream flow fire protection for national forest system lands, four national wildlife refuges, Indian reservations, and the Klamath Reclamation Project encompassing 200,000 acres in southern Oregon and northern California. The order also approved most of the United States’ claimed “Walton” (Indian successor) water rights for a national wildlife refuge, and resolved a large portion of the United States’ contests against Walton claims asserted by competing claimants by denying or significantly limiting the claimed rights.
Exceptions to the Oregon Water Resources Department’s order of determination, including the partial orders of determination on each of the 734 claims addressed by the Department’s order, were filed in March 2014. Those exceptions will be litigated individually or in groups in de novo proceedings before the circuit court. Completion of this judicial phase of the adjudication will likely take ten to twelve years.
What I have found are numerous suggestions toward lands or water well ownership, connected directly to the “Safe Use of Water” and the supply to Our Nation’s population of people, as a priority. Situations, or industry on Public Lands, many times under the guise of confusing Federal and State Laws actually usurp, or attempt to take away, legislative priorities that influence political venues, then Special Interests become the priority. Suddenly, and troublesome, we discover the priority turns political, rather than the priority of Public Safety and confirmation of Safe Drinking water, which turns into a negotiable, rather than firm, lower priority circumstance, when it comes to the American general population and Safe Drinking Water. Yes, corruption and pollution on Our Public Lands, as well as fraudulent activity, is never a good situation, nor does it benefit the general public; but rather, it benefits a few to profit very well, on the backs of taxpayer’s (i.e. both State and Federal) and local communities.
So the question remains: Are Grazing Permit Holders on our Public Lands, mainly Cattle Ranching, can obtain Ownership (when ranches bought or sold), or is it legal for the State or Federal Well Water portion to become part of the property in the Sales obligation (which violates both State and Federal Law on Water Well ownership on Public Lands) – or can they buy, outright, Water Wells on Federal or State Lands, then invoice for payment the price paid for it as well as all water used in the cultivation and process of Cattle for the meat industry?
American taxpayers pay a lot for Welfare Ranching on Our Public Lands, in direct subsidies (a socialist form of government which taxpayer’s acquire no benefit at all, actually) with no returns nor discounts, nor anything in return for that tax paid money, what so ever (i.e. $586.4 Billion Dollars in the past 19 years) . . .
Should the government be paying for a Rancher to use their own water, et al.? Or, is it legitimate, or even legal, to charge the Taxpayer’s for any segment of their process to produce the small amount of beef the Grazing Permit Programs’ responsible for (less than 1% of domestic sales per year on America’s Beef Markets, and need we not forget, the throw-away margins of 24% to 32% of domestic beef in America, due to regulatory situations — so we see right off there is no need for these Grazing Permit Programs anyway) payments of water units to private ranchers, their only qualification – ownership of a Grazing Permit for their cattle, which in truth is merely a Lease of Grazing Lands on America’s Public Lands . . .
The fact is, and bears repetition, American Taxpayer’s already pay, in subsidies, $586.4 Billion in the past 19 years – then we see additional and corrupted situations like this . . . Yes, we have a very corrupted Government Grazing Permit Program, that apparently makes its own laws, within each Government Agency involved – It is time to place these government Agencies back into their respective situation of managing our Public Lands responsibly, honestly, as well as rid themselves of the corruption so obvious to many.
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