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Lake County fighting for existence

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I am respectfully writing this letter in response to Chairwoman Fyant’s message in the Char-Koosta News article January 29, 2020.

There have been few Lake County Commissioners that have more respect for or been more supportive of the CSKT people than I. The disagreements over our varying interpretations of the “Montana Water Rights Protection Act” will not change that. As Chairwoman of the Tribal Council, you represent and work hard for the interests of your people, and I admire that. If I were in your position, I would do no less. Please recognize, that as a Lake County Commissioner, I am going to work hard for the people and county I represent.

At this point Lake County feels like we are fighting for our very existence. The Act, as written, has many detrimental issues for the County that at the very least need to be clarified. Based on my law enforcement career and terms as Sheriff, I am very concerned about the impact thousands of new residents would have on Sheriff Bell’s office, all our police departments, and our emergency services. Our detention center is inadequate. Felons and individuals charged with multiple drug offenses walk our streets with no fear of being jailed. Criminals are coming from other areas to commit crimes in Lake County because they won’t be kept in jail. This negatively affects us all. I do not want Public Law 280 to go away, but it must be addressed in some manner, because right now it is not working. The “Right of Way” issues in the lawsuit the Tribe filed against Lake County are important and need to be followed through with.

Our elections are extremely important to the operations and freedoms we enjoy in the U.S.A., and every vote does most certainly count. I always encourage people to get involved, and hopefully, an informed electorate will elect the most qualified candidate. 

Unfortunately, you are right about Lake County not having a seat among the Sovereigns, and no one has a better understanding of this than the Lake County Commissioners. Lake County has not been allowed at the table, and we are definitely on the menu. That is why this wheel is squeaking and will keep squeaking. The entity that will be most negatively affected has no representation.

Senator Daines summed it up like this, “There is probably not another county in the United States facing the unique issues you are.” 

Yes, I am, and I will continue, to work hard on these and other big issues facing Lake County and all its residents.    

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