Governor Matt Mead is raising serious concerns about a proposed directive from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) related to water management. The federal directive would require the USFS to evaluate and manage surface and groundwater resources that directly affect Forest Service land, even if that water source is on State or private property. In a letter to the USFS Governor Mead calls for the withdrawal of the directive.
“Wyoming has exclusive authority to administer, permit and regulate surface and groundwater within state boundaries. This proposed directive interferes with our authority,” Governor Mead said. “The U.S. Forest Service does not have a right to manage groundwater in Wyoming and has no authority to apply federal reserved water rights. Under no circumstances does the U.S. Forest Service have a role in groundwater permitting decisions on land in Wyoming. That is why this directive should be withdrawn.”
Wyoming water law says that the USFS, or any other entity, must prove surface and groundwater resources have a hydrogeological interconnection that would warrant conjunctive administration. The proposed directive would allow the USFS to evaluate and manage surface and groundwater as a single hydrogeological resource. It would also place the burden of proof on individual water users to show otherwise. In addition, under the directive the USFS would evaluate all water rights applications for surface or groundwater sources adjacent to Forest Service lands in the state.
Wyoming and the USFS have an existing Memorandum of Understanding that provides a framework to work together. The USFS agrees to recognize and respect the laws and Constitution of Wyoming and honor permitting practices. The USFS should hold to this agreement and not encroach on Wyoming water.