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He’s also focused on ensuring that rural Americans aren’t the only ones forced to bear the costs of federal environmental regulations. The group’s mission also calls for “consistent application of these statutes throughout all industries and all sectors.”

Mr. Suckling accused CESAR of “trying to turn urban areas against the environment” by playing the water card in the midst of a drought. San Francisco leads the state in water conservation, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

But Mr. Manson argued that cities shouldn’t be exempt from species-conservation mandates.

“There seems to be an attitude of, ‘Well, they’re just farmers,’ and some of the more urban jurisdictions don’t care very much about the farmers,” said Mr. Manson. “There are a lot of people who don’t understand agriculture, frankly, and they believe the [rural] water users are the biggest threat to the Delta, and they certainly are not.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, names the National Park Service, the Interior Department and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell as plaintiffs.

Debate has raged for years over the Hetch Hetchy Valley’s O’Shaughnessy Dam, which was built in 1913 and flooded the picturesque wilderness under 300 feet of water. Environmentalists have fought for years to drain the dam and restore the valley to its original state.

“The politicians in San Francisco will tell you they have no other choice, and I’m not sure that’s the truth,” said Mr. Manson. “San Francisco politicians are protecting their turf. They’re not in a mood to share. And with the conditions we have in California today, which we will have for a long time because it’s a naturally semi-arid area, it’s time to share. Share the benefits and share the burdens.”