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Montana leaders praise Montana Water Rights Protection Act being signed into law

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News from Senator Steve Daines 

MONTANA — U.S. Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester celebrated their bipartisan bill, the “Montana Water Rights Protection Act,” being signed into law by President Trump on Sunday, Dec. 27. 

Several Montana leaders issued statements in support following the President’s signing of this critical legislation. Daines’ statement following the signing: “After years of effort, our bipartisan bill that settles the century-long CSKT water dispute is now law. This is a huge win for all Montanans. Our bill protects the water rights of all Montanans, saves taxpayer dollars, creates jobs, modernizes rural infrastructure, protects Montana agriculture and prevents costly litigation. I’m very glad I could play a direct role in getting this done, and I thank President Trump for signing our bill into law.” 

Tester’s statement following the signing: “Today is a historic day for Montana taxpayers, ranchers, farmers, and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Water is life, and the compact honors our trust responsibilities, creates jobs, and prevents decades of costly litigation while investing in infrastructure and providing certainty to water users everywhere. I am proud to have led the effort to get this compact signed into law, and I will continue working with the tribes and water users to hold the government accountable and ensure it is implemented quickly and effectively.”

Congressman Gianforte’s statement: “This law is a win for all Montanans. Our farmers, ranchers, the Salish and Kootenai tribes, and all water users across the state will now have the certainty they need. Thank you President Trump and my colleagues in the Senate for getting this across the finish line.” 

Shelly R. Fyant, CSKT chairwoman: “I cannot express how much we appreciate the hard work that the Montana Congressional Delegation put into this bill and now having it signed into law. From Senator Tester’s initial introduction of the bill four years ago, to Senator Daines’ introduction, amendments and work with the Trump Administration this year and to both of our Senators urging their respective leaders to include the bill in the omnibus appropriations bill, and to Congressman Gianforte’s work with the Minority Leader in the House, all played pivotal roles and the residents of Montana should be thankful for their efforts. We certainly are grateful. We also express our appreciation to the many agriculture and conservation groups across Montana and even across the country who also helped advocate for passage of this truly historic and important bill.”  

Jim Steinbeisser, Montana Stockgrowers Association president: “Thank you to Senator Daines and Senator Tester for their leadership and continued perseverance for a permanent water settlement. An additional thanks goes to Representative Gianforte for his stewardship in the House. The success of Montana’s agriculture industry is dependent upon water and water rights certainty. It is easily the single most important resource for people across Montana, which is why MSGA has long supported an agreement such as the Montana Water Rights Protection Act.” 

Tim Burton, Montana League of Cities and Towns executive director: “The passage of the compact will benefit all of Montana, while providing certainty and protecting senior municipal water rights for many of our members.” 

Executive Vice President Montana Farm Bureau Federation John Youngberg: “The passage of the Montana Water Rights Protection Act is great news for Montana. The legislation is a product of decades of negotiation and will settle farmers and ranchers water rights as far east as the Milk, Musselshell and Yellowstone rivers. This bipartisan bill and settlement is a good-faith compromise that will bring final resolution to a century-long water dispute, avoiding years of costly litigation. We especially want to thank bill sponsor Senator Steve Daines for all of his hard and also thank Senator Tester for co-sponsoring this legislation.” 

 Mike Murphy, executive director of Montana Water Resources Association: “Passage of the Montana Water Right Protection Act provides for settlement of the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes water right claims that are crucial to providing certainty regarding adjudication of Montana water rights. Passage of this important settlement legislation will prevent costly litigation, protect water rights throughout Montana, and very importantly, recognize and protect Montana’s primacy over our water resources. We extend our appreciation to Senator Steve Daines, Senator Jon Tester and Congressman Greg Gianforte for their support and efforts to enable passage of this important legislation.” 

Tom Beck, co-chair, Farmers & Ranchers for Montana: “We appreciate the work and time that both Senator Daines and Senator Tester have put into the passage of this agreement. Without their steadfast support for Montana water users, Montana’s agriculture industry would have taken over a billion dollar hit at a time when they could afford it the least. Our Senators have put in place an agreement that will ensure the future of agriculture in our state and protect our water resources for generations to come, while investing in Montana’s economy and saving our taxpayers, farmers and ranchers millions of dollars.” 

Walt Sales, president of Association of Gallatin Agricultural Irrigators: “On behalf of the Association of Gallatin Agricultural Irrigators, I wish to express our enthusiastic appreciation for the passage of the Montana Water Rights Protection Act. Senator Daines’ continual work and “never say never” attitude will be enjoyed by many of us here at home. Senator Daines understands the value in this equitable solution, but rest assured, the irrigators in the Gallatin Valley will be able to tell the story of a Montana solution that kept agriculture alive and focused on daily chores for generations rather than looking back on the dark days of litigation, telling the story of lost opportunities. From our 400 plus irrigating members, thank you for a well-fought, positive outcome from Washington D.C., proving Montana’s work ethic value.” 

Luke Dighans, president, Montana Agricultural Business Association: “On behalf of the Montana Agricultural Business Association, I am more than excited to hear of the passing of the CSKT Compact by Congress. This is a logical solution that protects access to farmers’ and ranchers’ most limiting resource: water. We thank those who put in a tremendous amount of work in a bipartisan way to see this through to fruition and protect Montana’s vital agriculture community.” 

Bill Slaughter, commissioner of Granite County: “Senator Daines was the only public official that dug down into understanding what the CSKT water compact really did to off reservation water users. He asked questions and listened to Montana ranchers and farmers. Senator Daines rewrote the bill doing the very best he could to protect our property rights and respect hundreds of years of water rights in Montana. Thank you Senator Daines for your leadership. We are grateful to have you as a public servant to who works for all of us.” 

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