Fed Gov Moves To Seize Water Rights From 100,000 Montanans: “All Surface Water And Wells”

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Greet­ings and Salu­ta­tions, read­ers! My Nome de Guerre in the bat­tle for truth and objec­tive jour­nal­ism is Jere­mi­ah John­son. I hope to pique your inter­est with a Mon­tana issue that, regard­less of the out­come, will have severe ram­i­fi­ca­tions and set a prece­dent nation­wide. This arti­cle cov­ers the CSKT (Con­fed­er­at­ed Sal­ish and Koote­nai Tribes) pro­posed water-rights com­pact that threat­ens to take away the pri­vate own­er­ship of water for rough­ly 100,000 Mon­tanans. Should this mea­sure pass, it can set a prece­dent for the courts through­out the Unit­ed States by the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment to deprive us of our water rights.

The tale of woe begins with the Hell­gate Treaty of 1855 that cre­at­ed the Flat­head Indi­an Reser­va­tion. Arti­cle III of the Treaty is the point of con­tention, as it states the Indi­an tribes have an estab­lished “right of tak­ing fish” in waters not on the reser­va­tion. The arti­cle has been selec­tive­ly inter­pret­ed and fur­ther manip­u­lat­ed to this end: the tribes must be able to ensure water qual­i­ty of their fish­ing sites; there­fore, the water rights in 11 coun­ties must fall under the Trib­al juris­dic­tion.

Enter the EPA to set stan­dards of water qual­i­ty, the Water Com­pact Com­mis­sion, a board that is relent­less­ly push­ing the com­pact on the pop­u­lace, the Depart­ment of the Inte­ri­or, the bureau­cra­cy that will col­lect and man­age rev­enue “on behalf” of the tribes, and the DHS, the enforce­ment arm of com­pli­ance. Should the tribes and the afore­men­tioned play­ers win this fight, all sur­face water and wells (pri­vate wells, mind you) with­in the bound­aries imposed by the Com­pact will be metered and taxed.

The whole thing is a trav­es­ty and should be a moot point in real­i­ty: Arti­cle I of the same treaty ced­ed, relin­quished, and con­veyed (by the tribes) all rights or claims to any land and waters except the Reser­va­tion. The State Sen­ate just vot­ed on it a few weeks ago. The Sen­ate holds 29 Repub­li­cans and 21 Democ­rats; how­ev­er, 11 Repub­li­cans vot­ed for the Com­pact and the mea­sure passed, 32–18. The bot­tom line: there was not one dis­sent­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic vote on the whole mea­sure.

Such actions are not with­out prece­dent. In Jan­u­ary of 2014, the EPA declared the town of River­ton, Wyoming to be in the Wind Riv­er Indi­an Reser­va­tion. Oth­er fig­ures in this trav­es­ty of law include the Depart­ment of the Inte­ri­or and the Depart­ment of Jus­tice. The North­ern Ara­pa­ho and East­ern Shoshone tribes filed an appli­ca­tion to receive fund­ing toward the mon­i­tor­ing of air qual­i­ty via the Clean Air Act. The EPA mag­nan­i­mous­ly bypassed Con­gres­sion­al Law of 1905 and grant­ed the tribes the sta­tus of “Treat­ment as a State.” The town has more than 10,000 peo­ple who now fall under the juris­dic­tion (regard­ing tax­a­tion and law enforce­ment) of the Reser­va­tion.

The Choctaw and Chick­a­saw tribes of Okla­homa filed a fed­er­al law­suit over water rights in 2011, claim­ing the “rights to and reg­u­la­to­ry author­i­ty over Treaty Ter­ri­to­ry water resources.” They also claimed their rights over­ride those of Okla­homa. Once again, the DOJ and the Depart­ment of the Inte­ri­or were involved in this fight that is also unfin­ished. The lands that both tribes inhab­it­ed had been bro­ken apart by the state of Okla­homa more than a cen­tu­ry before.

We can see a pat­tern devel­op­ing. Local and state politi­cians use the Indi­an tribes as a tool to pur­sue a much larg­er agen­da: the removal of pri­vate prop­er­ty from the hands of cit­i­zens and the trans­fer of con­trol into the hands of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. The politi­cians then receive fed­er­al fund­ing to pur­sue their ini­tia­tives. Now a long line of bureau­crats enters the parade: the EPA to save the envi­ron­ment, the DOJ to save the legal rights of the oppressed, the Depart­ment of the Inte­ri­or to man­age the tribes’ rev­enues, and the DHS as the pro­tec­tor-enforcer.

There are many areas in the Unit­ed States where water rights are either under assault or threat­ened by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment in this man­ner: the Chesa­peake Bay Water­shed, the waters of the Col­orado Riv­er, and the Ogal­lala Aquifer (used by almost ¼ of the U.S.), to name a few. The impor­tant issue to con­sid­er with this is the abro­ga­tion of Con­sti­tu­tion­al Law and pri­vate prop­er­ty rights and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment mak­ing its own laws by bureau­crat­ic edict.

We will keep you informed of what tran­spires in the Mon­tana House vote and the over­all results. There is a say­ing in Mon­tana: “Whiskey is for drink­ing, and water is for fight­ing.”