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Sierra Club v. Block

Citation: 14 ELR 20626
No. No. 84-K-2, (D. Colo., 07/29/1984) Jurisdiction found

The court rules that the United States holds federal reserved water rights in favor of national forest wilderness areas. The court rules that the United States holds reserved water rights any time it withdraws lands from the public domain. Although the United States therefore holds reserved rights for wilderness areas, the court declines to rule on the nature or extent of those rights, since the United States is party to a pending state proceeding where the issue may be settled.

The court proceeds to consider whether it may hear plaintiff's claim that the government has unlawfully failed to assert those rights in state proceedings. The court holds it has jurisdiction to hear the claim, and that the Sierra Club has standing. Further, the Forest Service has statutory authority to assert reserved water rights in state proceedings. The court rules that the Wilderness Act mandates assertion of the reserved rights if necessary to preserve wilderness character in perpetuity. The court declares that it will examine the administrative record concerning the Forest Service's decision not to assert the rights and determine if the decision was arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law. Finally, the court dismisses the Colorado State Engineer from the suit, and denies motions for a speedy hearing and for attorneys fees.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Lori Potter
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund
820 16th St., Suite 514, Denver CO 80202
(303) 892-6301

Counsel for Defendants
John Hill
Department of Justice
1961 Stout St., Denver CO 80294
(303) 844-2892