Tipton Grills Tidwell and Ashe on Water and Sage Grouse

SCOTT-TIPTON-300Congressman Scott Tipton (CO-03) sought clarity from Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe on water rights and sage grouse during a pair of hearings yesterday in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committees. In the Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry, Tipton pressed Tidwell for clarification on whether the agency is going to require the transfer of private water rights or inhibit the ability to use those rights under the proposed Groundwater Directive. Tidwell stated that while the outright transfer of rights would not be required, the Forest Service still planned to require that water uses be tied to the land as a means to ensure that rights were not improperly transferred by permittees-this despite Tidwell’s own admission that there has never been a case where water rights have been improperly sold off or transferred. Tipton says when the federal government strips away the ability to control private water rights-as Tidwell is suggesting-it’s a violation of state water law and the U.S. Constitution. He also believes the text of the Groundwater Directive instructs Forest Service employees to take actions that violate state law, the U.S. Constitution, and private property rights. In the House Committee on Natural Resources, Tipton questioned Fish and Wildlife Service Director Ashe on a potential Endangered Species listing of the Greater Sage Grouse. Once more, Ashe had no information for Tipton when asked if the Agency had yet identified a species recovery goal for the grouse. However, in response to questions from Tipton on what the Director learned when he visited Craig earlier this year to survey the efforts underway to protect the grouse, Ashe replied that, “We saw great people, landowners that are great stewards of the land, working cooperatively with our people on the ground, and with great support from USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the State of Colorado. I saw really the kind of partnership and cooperative approach that it takes to conserve a bird like the sage grouse, which is why I can be optimistic that we have the chance to get to a ‘not warranted determination’ on the sage grouse. Because we’ve got the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the USDA, all 11 states working collaboratively on that effort, so it really is an unprecedented level of effort that’s going on.” You can watch video exchanges of both hearings below.

Tipton’s exchange with Tidwell

Tipton’s exchange with Ashe

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