Publication Date



36 p. ; An outstanding student paper selected as a Honors Paper.


John Wesley Powell\'s 1878 Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States and later Irrigation Surveys proposed a settlement pattern based upon watersheds or "hydrographic basins." Powell\'s plan died ingloriously in the Senate Committee on Irrigation. Profligate overgrazing and logging in the West\'s forested uplands would force the federal reservation of the National Forests under the Organic Administrative Act of 1897. The Act directed the management of reserved, upland watersheds for the twin purposes of "securing favorable conditions of water flows, and to furnish a continuous supply of timber for the ... citizens of the United States ...." Thereafter, the Forest Service commenced watershed management on behalf of rather than in conjunction with, downstream communities. By the 1940s, however, the Forest Service had committed itself nationwide to the singular oxymoronic goal of maximum output sustained yield forestry. The notion of an explicit agency commitment to community stability only resurfaced in 1976 with passage of the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). NFMA sought to realign Forest Service resource management with local economic and social needs through a general policy of agency comity with state and local governments. Today, the Forest Service pursues these objectives on each National Forest through Land Resource Management Plans (LRMF\'s or "Forest Plans"). NFMA preserved the Forest Service hallmark of broad discretion by allowing the agency the flexibility to shape the LRMP around environmental, economic, local and national demands unique to each individual forest. This essay probes the limits of the Forest Service\'s regional community stability policy by examining a community destabilizing effect of Forest Service timber management in upland watersheds: a reduction in the yield of surface water to downstream, acequia-based land grant communities caused by fire suppression in the Carson, Cibola and Santa Fe National Forests. This essay follows a coextensive chronological and legal spectrum to cobble together an assortment of nineteenth-century "rights" and forest management era "privileges" as vestiges of a centuries-old, watershed-based settlement pattern akin to that envisioned by John Wesley Powell.


University of New Mexico School of Law

Document Type

Student Paper

Included in

Law Commons



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