FLATHEAD JOINT BOARD OF CONTROL for the  FLATHEAD, MISSION AND JOCKO IRRIGATION DISTRICTS

To the Irrigators of the Flathead Project and the General Public:

By now you know that the CSKT Compact bill, SB 262 has passed the House. However the fight to protect our rights and our ability to continue to farm and ranch in the Flathead Project is far from over.

We all had high hopes that “facts and data” would prevail, but strong support from the executive branch of state government in combination with a ton of tribal money and federal collusion allowed this to happen. It is interesting to note that the minority party had to change the rules they agreed to at the beginning of the session to pass this monstrous set of constitutional violations called the CSKT Compact!

My biggest disappointment is that the people of Montana would be cowed with threats of litigation by the tribe and allow a segment of Montana’s population to be treated in this way, so they could “avoid litigation”. It was OK with them for us to lose our rights as long as they were protected. It remains to be seen how much protection they have bought themselves with this reasoning.

Like you, I just wanted to defeat this onerous compact and go back to ranching and enjoying my retirement. So much for those plans! I am proud of FJBC exec team and my majority colleagues on the FJBC for coming together these last few weeks to oppose SB 262.  Thanks to our legal counsel for their prep work and their testimony. Many thanks to our lobbyists, who worked tirelessly to convince legislators to defeat SB 262. Thank you to those constituents who went to Helena to plead our case, and also to those 2400 farm and ranch families in the Flathead Project who supported us with their prayers and encouragement.

Thank you Rocky Mountain Stockgrowers, staunch allies, who opposed the 2013 Compact and continued their opposition into this legislative session.

A special thanks to the leadership teams in both Houses of the Legislature the many legislators themselves for their unswerving support of our cause. Thanks to Senator Vuckovich who, with great personal courage, resisted the pressure from his party, the governor, the attorney general and the tribes to support us in the Senate.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge, with appreciation, the solid research work and tireless dedication to defeating the compact by Terry Backs and Dr. Kate Vandemoer and the membership of Concerned Citizens of Western Montana and the Montana Land and Water Alliance. We would not have gotten as far as we did without them.

Whenever one acknowledges help, invariably someone gets left out so I will apologize for anyone whom I might have missed.

The “easy part” of this fight is now over, but the fight to maintain our property rights in land and water and our right to equal protection under the law will move to a different venue. It will take a financial commitment by irrigators to defend their rights against this egregious assault on those rights by the tribes, the state and the US. Your support of the FJBC as we move into this new phase is crucial. You, the irrigators of the Flathead Project, ultimately determine our course of action by that powerful tool of representative democracy, the ballot box. As public officials, all the members of the FJBC have sworn to uphold both the state and federal Constitutions. This dictates the actions we must take in order to maintain your rights in land and water. We ask for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Jerry Laskody

Chairman, Flathead Joint Board of Control

 

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