©2017 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

Recuse: to disqualify (oneself) as judge in a particular case; broadly :  to remove (oneself) from participation to avoid a conflict of interest

There is an old saying that “if you’re ticking off everyone on both sides of the issue, you’re doing the right thing and a good job.”

That is probably true. Does that mean that if you’re only angering one side of the issue, you’re biased and are doing a bad job?

One could say that the proof is in the pudding, or product, but why wait until one side is irreparably damaged?

These questions relate of course to the appointment of one Alan Mikkelson to the position of Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.  The question for Secretary Zinke is, which Alan Mikkelson did you appoint?

This one: September 30, 1993; same statement in 2003

In all three decisions, involving hunting, fishing, and land and water resources, the court has clearly stated that the affected tribes do not possess such power.   On the Flathead Reservation, however, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes continue to grasp for power, ignoring such decisions.   This incessant grasping for power by the tribes thus provokes the reservation population (18,000 non-Indians, 3,000 Indians), who simply do not want to be subjected to a government in which they have not right of participation.   (The vast majority of land located on the valley floors of the reservation is privately owned by non-Indians.)   Given the rulings from the Supreme Court, an 85% non-Indian population, a huge amount of privately owned land and an aggressive tribal government, conflict is nearly inevitable.

Or this one? April 24, 2013

There continue to be lies and falsehoods written about the Flathead Reservation Compact and the irrigation project Water Use Agreement. Absolutely nowhere in either document do the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes claim all water on and off the reservation belongs to them. Yet some people persist in the lies, apparently to continue to promote fear and hysteria. Read the compact and Water Use Agreement on the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, CSKT or Flathead Joint Board of Control websites.

The one thing that all of us remember is Mikkelson’s refusal to acknowledge the harm he was perpetuating on FIP project users’ water rights at the same time he was “representing” the FJBC. Other ethical behavior is troublesome, including his role in the break-up of the FJBC.

In our view, Secretary Zinke has no choice but to require that Alan Mikkelson recuse himself from anything involving the Flathead Irrigation Project, project turnover discussions,  Kerr Dam, or the CSKT Compact.

At the Secretary’s confirmation hearing, he pointed out the the Interior Department has a “huge trust issue with the American public”, and that it was his goal to increase that trust as part of his tenure.  Of course his first action was to appoint the most untrustworthy and damaged individual he could to a very important position.The right recusal could make a big difference here, otherwise, the Interior Department will continue to be an non-trusted government agency.

The Montana Land and Water Alliance put these thoughts in writing to Secretary Zinke:

The history and record of Mr. Mikkelsen’s work as briefly described above render him unfit for any work on the operation, management, funding, organization or any aspect of irrigation in the FIPP or the Mission Valley Power 638 contract.

If this compact that Mr. Mikkelsen worked on  is ratified, it will have devastating impacts on the agricultural economy of the western Montana and  negatively impact the lives of the 350,000 citizens who reside here. Thus, the vast majority of individuals in Western Montana have no confidence in Mr. Mikkelsen’s ability to fairly and objectively consider their position on these extremely significant water matters.

While we acknowledge the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to select the members of his executive team, we wish to again state our dissatisfaction with the Secretary’s choice of  Mr. Mikkelsen as Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Furthermore, we respectfully request that Mr. Mikkelsen be required to recuse himself from any of the Department’s activities with regard to the CSKT Compact, the Flathead Irrigation & Power Project and project turnover discussions,  or the Mission Valley Power 638 contract.  He has absolutely lost the trust and confidence of many of the irrigators in the FIPP,  except of course those he openly favors.

Choose wisely, Mr. Secretary.