Montana Republicans Trying to Stop Feds From Stealing Water Rights

Sign in a farmer's field near Klamath Falls, OR. The farmers were protesting a federal ruling where water was reserved for three endangered species of fish and was not given to the farmers for irrigation in 2001.

Water rights to Montana streams, lakes, and reservoirs – which were secured in 1855 – are being suddenly given to Indian tribes, well-funded by deep-pocketed dark money groups who stand to profit from handing water resources from the public to private sector. The controversial 2015 Water Compact gave away the most critical resource of Montana’s economy, water, and the compact is about to be actualized on the federal level through the Montana Water Rights Protection Act.

The 1855 Hellgate Treaty made a fair-and-square deal with the tribal people, in which the fine print issued the right to fish Montana’s water to indigenous tribes “at all usual and custom places.” That treaty was ratified between the tribes and then-U.S. President, James Buchanon. However, Montana’s Democrats – emboldened by support from the leftist Solutions Caucus, funded by various private enterprises and lobbying groups who stood to make a profit – claimed the 160-year-old treaty was unfair and sought to find a more “equitable solution.” That equitable solution is killing Montana’s ranchers and farmers who are now finding access to water far more expensive, now that it has become a major source of revenue to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (KSKT).

Joining the Democrats and their special interest groups in supporting this measure, sadly enough, is Senator Steve Daines (R) and through his influence, President Donald Trump. Daines and Montana’s Democratic Senator, Jon Tester, are sponsoring the Montana Water Rights Protection Act. This legislation, if passed by the legislature and signed by President Trump, will finalize the agreement between the tribes and the state of Montana that was passed under questionable circumstances in 2015.

However, some Republicans are trying to speak sense to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, which will likely send the measure to the floor for approval.

Addressed to Chairman Hoeven, key Republican leaders from Montana are asking for a hearing in Kalispell to allow Montanans to speak their mind about the theft of their natural resources and the negative repercussions for both those inside and outside the Big Sky State (see below).

In addition to these legislators, two Montana Public Service Commissioners, Brad Johnson and Randy Pinocci, have penned a letter requesting the senate committee hold a hearing in Montana.


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