"It is not the grass
on the range that controls its use, it is the water. The control of the water is
absolutely in the jurisdiction of the State. This point should be clearly understood
because it has a very important bearing on matters of range control. In the arid western
States the law separates water use and land use in a manner different from the custom in
areas of ample rainfall. The old riparian doctrine of water rights was found
absolutely unsuitable to the needs of the people of the arid west. Therefore, there grew
up a doctrine entirely different from that which is accepted under the old English common
law in the older parts of the country. This new concept is called the 'doctrine of
beneficial use.' No matter where the water may be situated, he who beneficially use[s]
water can have the continued usufruct as long as beneficial use is continued.
This bill proposes to take absolute control over grazing on the public domain, and
admittedly the control of the water is the governing factor.
"The water is
legally controlled in the State of Nevada by what is known as the stockwatering acts. He
who has used the water beneficially is entitled under the police powers of the State, to
continue the beneficial use and be protected from the transient newcomer. Federal grazing
control might be in direct conflict with State control of stock water.
"Forage on the
public domain...is not worth anything whatever unless related to other factors in State or
private control...Now the fallacy is wide-spread that the western range user is getting
something for nothing, that he is obtaining the free use of something for which he is not
paying, something that belongs to the people. The idea is utterly erroneous. The
present system is based on the customs and use developed by a hardy, self-reliant, pioneer
people who are wresting a living from the land which would deny existence to farmers
untrained to its adversities...[T]he controlling factor in grazing is not the number of
stock allowed on the range but the beneficent Diety who brings the rain that falls over
the surface of this ground and brings out the grass." (House hearing record pp.124-5
as cited in Frederick W. Obermiller, "Did Congress Intend To Recognize Grazing
Rights? An Alternative Perspective on the Taylor Grazing Act," The Grazer, No.
185, December, 1995, Extension Service, Corvallis, Oregon.)