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Why is ‘fishery’ issue contentious?

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Why is it that the prime source of contention in the current Reserved Water Rights Compact negotiation for the Flathead Reservation is what’s known as “in-stream flows” for fisheries? What fisheries?  This wasn’t, isn’t and never will be an aquarium.

Neither the Hellgate Treaty of 1855, nor any document since, has established the purpose of this reservation as a federally reserved fishery. Fishing is a sport or hobby, not a vocation; and certainly not a necessity of life – as long as Safeway and Costco continue to provide fish in their stores. Now “agriculture” is another subject, and between crops and cattle, we’re now talking the intended purpose of this “federally reserved trust land” from the public domain. Fishing, on and off the reservation, was simply intended to aid in the transition to “growing stuff” instead of searching for roots and berries. The treaty established, built and funded (at taxpayer expense) schools for agriculture and industry, not fish hatcheries. Fish hatcheries. When is someone who can read and understand simple English actually going to read the treaty? It’s not that complicated.

So, why do you suppose the current water compact is severely limiting and rationing water to support these two vital economies of Western Montana (effectively driving them out of existence)? Just asking, because it makes no rational sense to me to put out of business that which drives the economy of the state and helps fill its coffers, unless there’s an ulterior motive not stated and withheld from public purvey. 

Michael Gale



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