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DNRC responds to 'People’s Compact' inquiries

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News from the DNRC 

MONTANA – In response to a growing number of inquiries regarding a “People’s Compact” circulating among citizens and media in Western Montana, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) Director John Tubbs released the following statement (on Nov. 28). 

The State of Montana has a people’s compact. It was created through more than 70 public negotiating sessions over 36 years between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), the United States and the State of Montana. It received extensive legislative input and public comment at meetings, through letters and email. It was ratified with bipartisan support by the Montana Legislature and the broad support of citizens, municipalities, agricultural interests and other stakeholders. It’s now in Washington awaiting Congressional action with representatives of the Salish and Kootenai tribes in active negotiations with the U.S. Department of Interior.

A compact settlement is the result of negotiations between parties that come together in good faith to represent their interests. The recently-publicized “Peoples Compact” is neither a work of the people nor a legitimate compact. It was created without any participation from the Salish and Kootenai tribes, the United States or the State of Montana. It is a complete misrepresentation of the compact process.

Montanans can best judge the benefits of the ratified Compact by understanding the facts – specifically, the CSKT filed 1,720 on-reservation water claims and 1,094 off-reservation instream water claims in 51 of Montana’s 85 adjudication basins. The U.S. Department of Justice also filed 7,295 claims in trust for the CSKT, including 1,094 off-reservation claims that are identical to those filed by the tribes. In the absence of a Compact, all 10,109 claims would be adjudicated by the Montana Water Court. The Tribes’ off-reservation claims carry the earliest priority date of any water claims in Montana. 

Through the Compact, CSKT agrees to limit their rights to on-reservation claims along with 97 off-reservation rights. 

DNRC recently developed an interactive GIS-based map, which compares CSKT water rights agreed to in the Compact with the Tribes’ total rights as claimed. The map is available at:

All three sovereign governments – the United States, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the State of Montana -- remain committed to the Compact as it was negotiated and ratified and look forward to Congressional action to settle CSKT water claims for all time.

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