Smith, Ryan A.

Senior Legislative Advisor, U.S. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ)

Deputy Counsel, Arizona Department of Water Resources

Counsel, Arizona Water Banking Authority

Associate, Robbins & Green, P.A. (now part of Jennings Strouss & Salmon), Phoenix

Ryan is the Chair of the American Indian Law and Policy Group and represents tribes throughout the country before Congress, the administration, and the courts. Before joining Brownstein, Ryan served as a senior legislative advisor to former Senator Minority Whip, Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and Deputy Counsel for the Arizona Department of Water Resources. In government and in private practice, Ryan has been instrumental in the development of federal legislation relating to Indian tribes and western natural resources, successfully ushering through Congress several significant pieces of legislation concerning Indian water settlements that provide vital water-related infrastructure projects, the Colorado River, water management, and federal funding for Indian country.

As a former senior legislative staffer, he has extensive experience dealing with the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Department of Agriculture on legislative and other federal issues.

His career experience also includes commercial litigation, and serving as a legal intern for Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and as an extern for The Honorable Brian R. Hauser of the Superior Court of Arizona.

Ryan is in demand as a frequent author and speaker on Indian water law and legislation.

Previous Experience

Senior Legislative Advisor, U.S. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ)

Deputy Counsel, Arizona Department of Water Resources

Counsel, Arizona Water Banking Authority

Associate, Robbins & Green, P.A. (now part of Jennings Strouss & Salmon), Phoenix

Practices & Industries
Water Law

West of the Beltway, Ryan represented the State of Arizona in connection with Indian water settlements and surface and groundwater management, and advised the director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources during negotiations with other Colorado River Basin states concerning the Colorado River’s operating criteria as well as the United States’ Colorado River treaty obligation with Mexico. He also served as counsel to the Arizona Water Banking Authority, which is responsible for storing Arizona’s unused Colorado River apportionment.

Indian & Water Legislation

Throughout his career, Ryan has helped develop successful legislation relating to water rights, tribal rights and the environment. While in the Senate, he played a major role in ushering through a number of Indian water settlements totaling nearly $1 billion, including the White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act, and a $3.4 billion settlement of financial mismanagement claims brought by American Indians against the United States Department of the Interior. The White Mountain Apache settlement, which was Ryan's primary responsibility, authorizes $292 million in federal funding for the White Mountain Apache Tribe in consideration for the tribe waiving its water rights claims against the United States. 

Ryan’s work on the Arizona Water Rights Settlements Act resulted in an amendment to the Act to ensure that the underlying legislation, which authorized the largest Indian water settlement in United States history, became effective.

He was also instrumental in obtaining the authorization of approximately $313 million in federal funding to cover the federal government’s share of the cost of a comprehensive, cooperative effort among 50 federal and non-federal entities in Arizona, California, and Nevada to protect and maintain wildlife habitat along the Colorado River. This legislation, The Lower Colorado River Multi-species Program Act, also provides assurances to the affected water and power agencies of the three states that their vital river operations may continue as long as they comply with the applicable conservation program.

Representative Matters
News & Events
Publications & Presentations
Education
  • J.D., 1998, Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
  • B.A., 1995, magna cum laude, Arizona State University
Admissions
  • District of Columbia
  • Arizona
  • U.S. District Court, District of Arizona
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, District of Columbia
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