SKI AREAS WIN WATER FIGHT WITH FOREST SERVICE
SAM Magazine—Lakewood, Colo., Dec. 19, 2012—A federal district court in Colorado has struck down a U.S. Forest Service water policy that would have required resorts to transfer ownership of valuable water rights to the U.S. government without compensation.
“Given how critical and valuable water is to ski area operations, we are pleased that the court has stopped this unreasonable and unlawful policy in its tracks,” said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association. “We look forward to working in cooperation with the Forest Service to develop a water policy in the future that respects property rights and state water law.”
The court’s decision affects 121 ski areas operating on National Forest System lands in 13 states. The ruling will remove the controversial water requirement from ski area permits that were renewed in 2011 and 2012 and preclude the Forest Service from including the requirement in future ski area permits. As a result, ski areas to continue to own and control their water for crucial ski area operations and guest services.
NSAA sued the U.S. Forest Service in federal court in January 2012, claiming that the water clause and underlying policy violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The court agreed on all three of these claims.
A number of parties filed amicus briefs siding with the ski industry, including the Colorado River Water Conservation Board, the Ute Water Conservancy District, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority.
“We appreciate the support of these entities and applaud them for recognizing that Forest Service water policy has far reaching impacts beyond the ski industry,” said NSAA director of public policy Geraldine Link.