Water rights in Colorado is a complicated enough subject on it’s own. Water rights that originate on public land add another layer of complexity to an already complex property right. Generally speaking, if a water right originates on or crosses over national forest land, permission of some kind is required. Some water rights pre-date the establishment of the national forest; these water rights may be exempt from permission (an attorney specializing in water would be able to opine). Water rights adjudicated after the creation of the public agency may be permitted through a special use permit or an easement. The conveyance of these permits or easements is not automatic and involves specific requirements. If a ranch has water rights and public land is nearby, investigating the location of the point-of-diversion, dam, or ditch location is a logical first step in the water rights due diligence.