- Engineer’s office begins issuing licenses affirming ranchers’ water rights in Lincoln National Forest
SANTA FE – Today, the New Mexico State Engineer issued an order to protect ranchers’ water rights in Lincoln National Forest.
The Engineer’s office has begun issuing licenses pursuant his order to ranchers that confirm the ranchers’ longstanding beneficial use of water to sustain their livestock. Last year, certain watering areas were closed off in Lincoln National Forest after a potentially endangered mouse was discovered.
“One of my top priorities is to protect the water rights of New Mexicans – including our farmers and ranchers,” State Engineer Tom Blaine said. “I’m confident that stakeholders will continue to work with my office so that we can continue responsibly protecting our natural resources and the livelihoods of our families and businesses.”
Over the last several years, the State Engineer has worked to protect the rights of our farmers and ranchers. The Engineer has issued permits for off-channel watering of cattle, which allowed for cattle to access water from previously closed off areas in the Lincoln National Forest. His office also ordered an investigation into complaints about watering sources being unlawfully blocked in the Lincoln National Forest.
The order issued by the State Engineer today applies to water right owners who have maintained continuous use of surface water since before 1907 for livestock watering within the Lincoln National Forest. Ranchers who want to obtain a license must own stock watering water rights that were established on the allotment before 1907, when New Mexico’s comprehensive water code was adopted.
Licenses issued under the order will clarify that ranchers’ water rights give them the ability to use all sources of surface water on their grazing allotment – including streams and springs – for livestock watering.
Ranchers must also prove beneficial use with documentation of their historical ranching practices.
Shortly after issuing the order, State Engineer Blaine issued the first license to the Sacramento Grazing Association operated by the Goss family.
The Licenses issued under this order will confirm longstanding beneficial uses of water and provide greater certainty to water right owners in the face of recent actions by the Lincoln National Forest to limit ranchers’ access to water for livestock.
The Office of the State Engineer is charged with administering the state’s water resources. The State Engineer has authority over the measurement, appropriation, and distribution of all surface and groundwater in New Mexico, including streams and rivers that cross state boundaries.