Lake County opposes CSKT lawsuit
News from Lake County Commissioners
Lake County is actively opposing the lawsuit filed by the Confederated, Salish and Kootenai Tribes concerning a case developed in late May of 2019 in Missoula Federal Court against Lake County and Lori Lundeen who is a campground developer.
A portion of the injunction request would prohibit Lake County from “using presumed rights of way for utility installation.” This would eliminate utility access upon county rights of way crossing all trust lands in Lake County. This includes fiber optic, telephone and power lines as well as sewer and water lines that are public, district and municipal in nature.
CSKT additionally seeks judgment quieting plaintiff’s beneficial interest to the real property (held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the CSKT) and determining that defendants have no right, title or interest in or to the real property. This real property is where the land, the streets and alleys are located upon.
If CSKT is successful in this litigation, it will eliminate county access or use of county roads across all tribal trust lands, thereby eliminating public access to roads owned and or maintained by Lake County. This result may apply to the other counties, such as Sanders, with roads upon their reservation.
Access to public roads in the unincorporated town sites of Charlo, Pablo, Big Arm, Dayton, D’Aste, Elmo, Arlee and Ravalli potentially could be impacted, as the streets and alleys of those town sites are located on county rights of way.
Damage to public road access on the reservation is illustrated by CSKT’s recent claim to Owls Nest Roads west of Ronan, located on fee land and county maintained for over 50 years.
CSKT seeks to charge users of the road with adjacent properties $3,500 for a 20-year revocable license or casement to use the road. If successful in charging a fee to road users, this could create a significant financial burden upon all landowners in Lake County and possibly eliminate property use by extinguishing access to lands.
Copies of the litigation documents are available on the Lake County website at Lakemt.gov, under downloads county commissioners. Historically, Lake County has maintained and constructed these roads at significant expense to all county taxpayers.