Federal agencies seek multiple routes to control state water

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It’s true that water is the lifeblood of the West. But it is also the lifeblood of the planet, and the century-old water law system that grew out of battles, chicanery and interstate agreements is on a collision course with the realities of unsustainable growth beyond the 100th meridian.

The rights that grew out of early settlement and small-scale agriculture were crafted before anyone thought of making artificial snow, let alone of ski resorts on the flanks of the desert. There was no Las Vegas, no Phoenix, and no acres of lawn being grown on the Front Range. No oil shale extraction or fracking or polluted dust clouds melting winter snows prematurely.

Unlike Rep. Tipton, I don’t believe something won’t happen because it hasn’t happened yet. And while today’s rights holders may indeed be fine stewards of the resource, as water becomes more valuable to private interests, it will become increasingly difficult to protect for those farmers and ranchers and sportsmen whose way of life depends on it.

The Forest Service regs may indeed be annoying and perhaps wrong from our local perspective, but we must also deal with the big picture, and it is not pretty.

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