©  2016 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

Note:  Our thanks to the Western Ag Reporter for publishing the following letter written by Dr. Kate in this week’s paper.


How much of Montana’s water and land are you willing to let your legislators cede to the United States?

To “cede” is to formally surrender or relinquish control to another, and my question is specific to the actions of the democrats and a handful of so-called “republican” legislators who, through the CSKT Compact, surrendered as much as two-thirds of Montana’s water resources to the federal government.  Just look at the map of water claims filed by the United States, in trust for just one Tribe, the CSKT, recently filed in the Montana Water Court which includes those claims contained in the CSKT Compact. The big “threat” used to pass the Compact was that the tribe would not file the water right claims if the  legislature passed the Compact, but they did it anyway

In the 1855 Treaty of Hellgate, the CSKT ceded all of its aboriginal territory west of the continental divide to the United States.  In the 2015 CSKT Compact, they took it back, enabled by the Montana executive and a handful of “republican” legislators who bucked their party’s platform and changed the rules to essentially give away property rights.  But the state of Montana did more than cede the property rights—it also ceded its authority to manage water, and the constitutional protections and rights of its citizens to the United States.  This now extends to eastern Montana where the state erroneously claimed that the CSKT had “aboriginal water rights”, effectively allowing the federal government to forever interfere with property rights in eastern Montana.

Despite the obvious and complete relinquishment of state sovereignty to the federal government accomplished by the disastrous Bullock-Fox administration, the rash of propaganda and mistruths spread by the compact sponsor, the Astroturf FARM group, and that handful of so called “republican” legislators lulled Montanans into thinking that the CSKT compact actually protects water rights and  protected Montana.

In my view, so many mistruths have been spread about this compact that all of its claims of protection could be called fiction, a story, a fantasy. For example compact proponents insist that “historic irrigation deliveries” are “protected”.  But the fine print shows that “historic deliveries” were not based on actual historic records, but on a satellite “fly-by” accompanied by a computer model using mostly hypothetical data.  This information is on the record of House hearings, submitted by engineers and other experts, demonstrating that actual agricultural historic deliveries—based on actual measurements—will be reduced from 50%-70%.  In light of these facts, how can Astroturf FARM,  the Montana executive, those legislators who voted for the thing, the Montana Stockgrowers, and the Montana Farm Bureau ever be trusted to tell the truth to their members?  They never bothered to know the truth about the compact; they just decided to believe what they were told.

It is no coincidence that the most expansive water compact in Montana and the United States just happened to be introduced to the Montana legislature at the same time as the federal government was proposing the Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS), expanded sage grouse monitoring, and enacted the so called “clean-power” rule, which relates to air quality.  The goal is federal control over the lands and waters of Montana, and other western states, and the Montana executive and legislature seem to be enablers of that objective.

When pressed to answer the question as to why Montana was giving away so much of its water to the United States, a high level state employee stated it was “to avoid an endangered species act suit”.  I could be wrong, but I thought the oath of office required legislators and the Montana executive to protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the State of Montana.  Since when does ceding state water and constitutional authority without a fight or so much as a question reflect that oath of office?

We are confident that the same individuals know of the tremendous constitutional and legal problems with the compact, but we also know they believe “it will be too expensive to litigate” and citizens will not be able to fight it.

Make no mistake about this.  If the Montana legislature and executive continue down this path—which by all indications they will—there will be nothing left of Montana for its citizens.  Already key “republicans” running for re-election have signaled their willingness to continue to cede Montana to the United States.   Just think of all those new Bison “reserves” in eastern Montana, or the new wildlands, national monuments or historic sites designations.  There is nothing “cultural”, “historic” or “monumental” underlying any of these plans, although their proponents will “guilt” or “scare” everyone into accepting these things. These legislators and executives—the architects of the CSKT Compact—are not focusing on Montana or its citizens.

So where will you draw the line? There’s a line in an old country song “you gotta stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”  Will legislators stand for Montana, or fall unnecessarily for the federal government’s vision of Montana?  Your vote could stem the tide of this loss!

Catherine Vandemoer, Ph.D.