We need to protect water levels in public lands:
Water is essential to plant and animal life in the forest, parks, monuments and refuges. Animals, critters, fish and birds have to have visible, surface water available to sustain their lives. Plants, trees and grasses, which provide food and shelter for the wildlife, need water at root level to sustain themselves. Most of our endangered species have been pushed to these areas and are dependent on public lands for habitat.
The laws of many states, particularly in the dry West, do not provide adequate protection from depletion of water tables, ponds, streams and riparian areas in the national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges and BLM designated conservation areas. Arizona may be the worst-case scenario, but, according to a USGS report, groundwater depletion issues do exist across the U.S.
Will there arrive a time that we will have to sacrifice the forest and its wildlife so people can have water? This is not a valid question because the forest provides the watershed for people in towns and cities. Already the watersheds have shrunk in size and ability to recharge to aquifers because water levels have receded, ground has compacted, and trees, plants, foliage and grasses, which help slow and hold the water, have diminished. Drive on any Interstate in Arizona and you will see debris of dead and dying trees.
Problems of water depletion
2) In Arizona, mining and other industry is exempt from all water regulations; therefore, they can pump in a national forest or near a national park or conservation area with no hydrological considerations.
The Federal Government should
1) Protect the water, both surface and groundwater, in the national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges and BLM designated conservation areas.
2) Maintain the public lands as a watershed for cities and towns. The first purpose of the national forests in the West was designation to serve as watershed for the populace.
3) Reestablish the doctrine of Federal right to water in public lands, which was established in 1908 by Winters v. United States. Another case in 1999 in Arizona regarding water on BLM reservation land reasserted the Federal rights are still in tact. The presiding judge wrote, “The doctrine applies not only to Indian reservations, but to other federal enclaves, such as national parks, forests, monuments, military bases, and wildlife preserves.”
4) Mandate a hydrological water study be submitted to the Forest Service or other authority to show that any proposed open-pit or tunnel mine or new housing development will not drain surface water or lower water tables in any national park, national forest, wildlife refuge or BLM conservation area.
Information furnished by Groundwater Awareness League, educational non-profit
For more info, see www.g-a-l.info/Protection1.htm or phone Nancy Freeman: 520/207-6506.