Contact: Charles Siler
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: US FOREST SERVICE CONTINUES TO BLOCK TOMBSTONE, ARIZ RESIDENTS ACCESS TO WATER AS SCORCHING SUMMER APPROACHES, CHOOSING “WILDERNESS PRESERVATION” OVER HUMANS
Federal Officials Say Town May Use Only “Horses and Handtools” to Gain Access to Water in Wilderness
As the Bureau of Land Management withdraws their agents and returns confiscated cattle to a Nevada cattle rancher, another federal agency is quietly ignoring hundred-year old land rights as they block off the water supply to Tombstone, Arizona—the city once hailed as the “Town Too Tough to Die.”
Since late 2011, the U.S. Forest Service has been holding most of Tombstone’s municipal water supply hostage, leaving the city reliant on reserve wells that are arsenic poisoned to near unsafe levels to make up for any shortage. The trouble arose when a 2011 wildfire and resultant flooding damaged Tombstone’s water pipelines that run through federal lands. When Tombstone officials tried to repair the line during a declared State of Emergency, the Forest Service blocked them, saying they had no right to enter the land upon which their water system rested for over 100 years, except on foot or horseback.
The Forest Service has justified its interference from time to time claiming that it is protecting the nesting areas of the spotted owl, but evidence has also surfaced showing that since at least the 1990s the Forest Service has had its eyes on laying claim to the City’s water supply.
“Throughout the American West, tales as tragic as the Bundy Ranch dispute are unfolding without quite the same fireworks but with impacts far more dire,” said Nick Dranias, an attorney at the Goldwater Institute, which is representing Tombstone. “Like the BLM in dealing with Cliven Bundy, the Forest Service is disregarding over a century of law and custom recognizing the City of Tombstone’s right to draw water from mountain springs for its municipal water supply.”
The Goldwater Institute asked a federal district judge Friday to recognize Tombstone’s ancient property rights and to require the Forest Service to follow the law. The case is expected to proceed to judgment in the next several months, as Tombstone residents pray another fire and flood doesn’t strike what remains of the City’s water supply in the nearby wilderness.
According to Dranias, the Tombstone case is indicative of a federal government that has lost sight of human beings in managing federal lands.
“Federal overreach is seemingly aimed at clearing federal lands of all forms of currently unfashionable human activity,” said Dranias. “But unlike the mere impoundment of cattle, the fight over water between the City of Tombstone and the Forest Service could threaten the very existence of the arid western states.”
To schedule an interview with Nick Dranias, please contact Charles Siler with the Goldwater Institute at (602) 633-8960 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Goldwater Institute has an in-house VideoLink studio for rapid cable hook-up if needed.