The New Mexico State Engineer issued an order Friday to protect ranchers’ water rights in Lincoln National Forest.
The Engineer’s office has begun issuing licenses pursuant to his order that confirms the ranchers’ longstanding 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,” said State Engineer Tom Blaine. “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 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.
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.