© 2018 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

You’ve heard about Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal, and that strategy is turning out to be good news because it is helping to eliminate lopsided federal trade deals and other international agreements that have gutted manufacturing industries and sent our jobs to other countries while hanging average citizens out to dry.

But here in the Montana swamp it’s business as usual.  Western Montana is instead on the losing end of something we call  the Art of the (Environmental Mitigation) Scam.

In February our Lake County Commissioners met with the CSKT Tribal Council in Pablo, Montana (another story for another day).  Prior to the “commissioner grilling” that took place at that meeting, there was an agenda item related to the possibility that fish populations may have been negatively impacted by the Smurfit Stone superfund site in Frenchtown.  Two CSKT attorneys gave a presentation to the council concerning their efforts thus far to lay the foundation for what could very well be the tribe’s next mitigation extortion scam.

Over the years the CSKT have fine tuned their ability to bilk whatever financial benefit they can through mitigation “settlements” with ARCO, Bonneville Power and others. A few examples:

In 1991, the Fisheries Mitigation Plan for Losses Attributable to the Construction and Operation of Hungry Horse Dam (Mitigation Plan) was prepared by MT FWP and CSKT.

In 1998 Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) agreed to pay CSKT $18.3 M to restore, replace, or acquire equivalent of Tribal treaty- protected resources injured by release of hazardous substances in Clark Fork River by mining in Butte, Anaconda. CSKT agreed to spend $6.4 M in wetlands restoration, and $1.5 M to restore bull trout populations and habitat. Balance compensation for damage from mining.

In 2005, the Bonneville Power Administration and the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes reached an agreement that provides the tribes with $3.49 million for conservation land purchases to mitigate for damages caused by construction of Hungry Horse Dam.  Visit this link to see the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) announcements for CSKT and other tribal “land acquisitions” as part of this program.

So it would seem that after litigation (wink wink), these organizations ultimately end up “settling” the case by agreeing to use their deep pockets to purchase lands along “waterways” throughout western Montana for the ownership and management of the CSKT corporation.  Note, that these payments do not benefit individual tribal members, but result instead in the enrichment, empowerment and further aggressive overreach of the CSKT Incorporated against their own members and others.

These land acquisitions serve to diminish the local property tax base causing further erosion of local government services to the community.

Adding insult to injury CSKT corporation attorneys have become quite adept at never letting any good opportunity go to waste.  They are constantly on the look out for ways to increase tribal jurisdiction over non-Indian lands both on and off the reservation through litigation, or advancing bad legislation to uninformed legislators.  And they have been quite successful.

And now it appears the tribe’s “environmental legacy” will be continued with yet one more shakedown to acquire whatever lands or monies they will be able to squeeze out of the Smurfit issue.

Ownership of the lands along waterways is only part of the picture

Unfortunately for Montana securing lands along the waterways throughout western Montana is not the endgame, it is simply just the beginning.  Tribal “ownership” of all of this land courtesy of the federal government is also used to leverage additional funds to “manage” the lands and waterways they “control or govern”.

The CSKT tribal council minutes demonstrate that they have figured out how to use their environmental “stewardship” of these lands to garner an even larger opportunity to squeeze unknown amounts of money out of the federal government to manage the lands they received free of charge courtesy of these mitigation scams and ultimately the federal taxpayer.  Here is just one example from 2010:

Germaine White and Tom McDonald, Natural Resources Department, presented for approval a resolution strongly urging the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA) to provide funding to American Indian tribes based on the land and water resources that tribes manage. Germaine and Whisper Camel will attend a Tribal fly-in March 22-23 in Washington, DC. It is hosted by the National Wildlife Federation. This is an opportunity to increase awareness among Senators about the inequitable funding for fish and wildlife management for Tribes and consider improvements in legislation. The proposed action is part of the annual departmental work plan and goals and would not require a modification to the plan. James Steele, Jr. is attending by the request of the National Wildlife Federation, who is paying his expenses.

MOTION by Reuben Mathias to approve the resolution strongly urging the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA) to provide funding to American Indian tribes based on the land and water resources that tribes manage. Seconded by Terry Pitts. Carried, 8 for; 0 opposed; 0 not voting.

March 18, 2010 RESOLUTION 10-145


WHEREAS, both the Flathead Indian Reservation and surrounding aboriginal territories are important parts of the homelands of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes, and contain many traditional hunting and fishing, camping, and plant resources of great natural and cultural meaning to the tribes; and

WHEREAS, the protection of these important wildlife, fish, and native plants that exist here is essential to the protection and well-being of Salish, Pend d’Oreille, and Kootenai nations as a whole; and

WHEREAS, for thousands of years, the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai people respected and cared for the fish and wildlife of the Flathead Indian Reservation and aboriginal territories, living in ways that helped ensure the health, purity, and vitality of these places; and

WHEREAS, parts of those aboriginal territories, including the area now encompassed by the Flathead Indian Reservation, were designated in the Treaty of Hellgate of 1855 as a reservation to be set aside for the exclusive use and benefit of the Salish, Pend d’ Oreille, and Kootenai nations; and

WHEREAS, in the Hellgate Treaty the Tribes also showed their high valuation of the resources of their territories by reserving the right to continue hunting, fishing, gathering plants, and grazing on open and unclaimed parts of their ceded territories; and

WHEREAS, the Flathead Indian Reservation encompasses over 1.2 million acres of some of the best bird and fish habitat in the nation, including over four hundred miles of fishing streams, seventy thousand acres of lakes, over a quarter million acres of uplands and wetlands, ninety-two thousand acres of tribal wilderness, and over thirty thousand acres of tribal, federal and state wildlife preserves; and

WHEREAS, members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have a long well-documented record of providing recreational opportunities for tribal members and non-tribal members alike through proactive fish, wildlife and other resource management, including the establishment of the Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness, the first tribal wilderness in the United States; and

WHEREAS, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes also have a long record of working in good faith with federal, state, and local agencies to develop professional working relationships, register concerns and recommendations on a broad range of issues, and ensure protection of natural resources guaranteed to the Tribes in the Hellgate Treaty; and

WHEREAS, tribal lands and waters as well as tribal license holders contribute through the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s formula for allocating to the states and territories Pittman-Robertson and/or Dingell-Johnson monies, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars annually (over $740 million in 2009 alone, and $18 million to the state of Montana in 2008-2009); and

WHEREAS, under current Fish and Wildlife Service practice, American Indian tribes do not qualify for either Federal Aid funding (Pittman-Robertson or Dingell-Johnson monies) or Land And Water Conservation Funds; and

WHEREAS, Tribes do not receive any funding through Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act (some $67 million in 2009 to states and U.S. territories), the Multi-State Conservation Grant program ($6 million in 2009), or State Wildlife Grant Programs ($9 million in 2009); and

WHEREAS, Tribes also do not receive any funding through the Clean Vessel Act ($14.6 million in 2009) or Boating Infrastructure Grants ($2.5 million in 2009), although the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes put considerable resources into the management of waterways and boating activities;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Tribal Council of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes strongly urges the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA) to provide funding to American Indian tribes based on the land and water resources that tribes manage. We further urge that funding be provided in a permanent, non-competitive annual base funding source to develop and maintain natural resource management programs or departments; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Tribal Council of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes strongly urges an audit by the U. S. Government Accountability Office to examine the longstanding environmental injustice of the omission of tribes in the distribution of federal funding for fish and wildlife management.

Be watchful of anything related to the CSKT and Smurfit, as it very likely will be the next environmental mitigation stepping stone that this tribe will use to extort ownership and control of even more land and money.

One parcel of property at at time, rest assured that the federal government via a tribal government agenda hopes to restore back to the CSKT and other Northwestern tribes the entirety of their “aboriginal ceded (and already paid for) lands” to the detriment of all other citizens and property owners that stand in their way.

And the worst thing?  This has nothing to do with culture, the tribal corporation contributes very little to the management of the resources, and it is little more than a vehicle used to control others or guilt them into “more mitigation”.  We are not fooled by this scam, but yes, the CSKT have perfected it quite well.

Let’s see how long they can continue this under the light of informed citizens.