Just when you thought you’d heard it all comes the story of the town of Tombstone, Arizona. The city’s water source and delivery facilities are on federal land. Recent fires and mudslides have damaged the facilities and are in need of repair. But the federal government won’t allow it unless they agree to use horses and hand tools. I’m not making this up.
Nick Dranias, head of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the institute, said the issue is far larger than just a dispute over whether trucks and tractors can be used to repair city-owned property inside a federal land preserve.
“This is a case of egregious federal overreach,” an institute report on the conflict said. “If the Forest Service can effectively seize Tombstone’s 130-year-old water rights during a state of emergency – rights that the service recognized as valid in 1916 – no state or local government will be safe from the feds.”
In the arid West, most cities and towns, including Cheyenne, Wyo., and the Denver metropolitan area, draw at least some of their water from collection systems on federal lands. In other parts of the nation, municipalities have their wells and other critical infrastructure sometimes on federal properties.
“By denying Tombstone access to its water, the Forest Service is threatening to directly regulate Tombstone to death,” the institute said.