Protecting land and water rights is critical to the lives and prosperity of everyone, including Montana farmers, ranchers, business owners, and rural communities. In western Montana, well known as the headwaters of many river systems, water has become the new oil---the BLUE GOLD coveted by many interests downstream who would like nothing short of control of Montana’s water resources. This new agenda for land and water promises to ruin not only western Montana, but rural communities across the west.
We are immediately facing a threat to western Montana by the federal government's aggressive take-over of many millions of acre feet of water under the guise of an Indian water rights settlement. Indian Tribes are being used to advance a federal agenda that will neither protect Indians in the long run nor benefit any American citizen.
We support the right of all Tribes to their water rights but reject the federal government's masked objective of illegally expanding the federal reserved rights doctrine, claiming massive water rights reaching far beyond the reservation boundary, and claiming most of the water in western Montana for the federal government. We also reject the State of Montana's intent to throw its citizens under the bus.
Flathead Water Compact
The Flathead Water Compact was “negotiated” over more than a decade between the United States, Montana and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation.
The Flathead Reservation, diminished by its allotment and opening to homesteaders more than 100 years ago, includes a significant percentage of private lands owned by non-Indian Montana citizens. Eighty percent of people living within its historic former boundaries are non-Indian. These demographics were largely ignored for purposes of the compact, and if it is ratified, the United States / CSKT will control the waters of western Montana, and the lives of 360,000 people.
The compact is little more than an equal opportunity diminishment of property and constitutional rights, for both Indians and non-Indians throughout western Montana. The only parties benefitting from it are the United States and the CSKT Tribal elite. We cannot begin to understand why the state of Montana would agree to such an egregious violation of the water and property rights of its citizens.
2015 Montana Legislature
With the assistance of our attorneys, the MONTANA LAND AND WATER ALLIANCE developed several documents for legislators in an effort to stop the compact in the 2015 Montana legislative session. These documents can be found on the left side of this page.
Our arguments against the compact gave legislators cause to reject it, and that should have been the end of the compact. Unfortunately several house republicans worked to change house rules to ensure passage of the compact. These changes allowed a simple majority of legislators to override super majority requirements, including adverse committee reports. Once the rules were changed, a simple majority of legislators attempted to ratify the compact with a simple majority vote.
Immunity language in the compact however, requires a 2/3 vote as mandated by Article II Section 18 of Montana’s constitution. A lawsuit was filed by the Flathead Joint Board of Control challenging the legitimacy of the compact vote. A ruling from Montana’s 20th district court on the is anticipated in mid 2016.
We are cautiously hopeful that the current legal challenge to the compact vote will be successful and the compact will be voided. Should that happen, the CSKT water claims would go straight to the water court for adjudication.
However if Montana courts not do the right thing in deciding the Flathead Joint Board case, a strong campaign to legally challenge and defeat the compact must be launched before serious harm is done to the people living in western Montana.
We have no choice. To accept this very bad water compact is to accept a dismal future for our children and grandchildren, and to place us under the control of a tribal government that we cannot have a voice in.
Montana officials are counting on the fact that litigation against this compact will be expensive and that we will not defend our water and property rights. With your support, the efforts of the Montana Land and Water Alliance will prove them wrong.
Donations to the Land and Water Alliance will be used for our ongoing efforts to launch a practical and cost effective legal strategy that will challenge the compact on legal and constitutional grounds.
The Montana Land and Water Alliance is a volunteer organization. This means that 100% of our donations are used for legal defense against the compact.
We are fully aware that we must work toward legal resolution at the United States Supreme Court level, and that the eventual costs for that will be expensive. Whatever the ultimate cost is for defending our water and property rights, there is no question that it will be far less than the loss to property values, businesses and the overall economic impact that the proposed water compact represents.
In addition to launching a legal campaign / strategy, we will also continue our public education campaign, legislative efforts, and explore every avenue to keep local citizens, counties, and businesses aware of and awake to the imminent threat facing western Montana.
Your contribution to our efforts will help grow a west-wide citizen oriented groundswell to repel the increasingly aggressive actions of federal and state governments to take water and eliminate the human presence on the west's most productive agricultural, timber, mining, and open landscapes.
Any contribution of any amount is welcome and will be put to good use!
Donations can be mailed to or pay online using the pay pal link at the top of this page:
P.O. Box 1061
Polson, MT 59860
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Telephone: 406-626-3353 or 406-552-1357
Please support our effort to protect and defend the
property rights of western Montanans
PO Box 1061
Polson, MT 59860
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In spite of the FJBC lawsuit challenging the validity of the compact vote in the Montana legislature, the state has begun its implementation of the compact through an entity created by the Compact called the Compact Implementation Technical Team.
The tribes, and very likely the state of Montana, are presently lobbying U.S. Congress for a speedy ratification of the compact, perhaps ahead of any ruling on the vote in the legislature. In response, MLWA attorneys sent a series of letters to the Department of Interior and Congress urging no fast track on the water compact bill:
Letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewel
Letters to Montana Congressional Delegation. The same letter was sent to Congressman Zinke and Senators Daines and Tester.
Letter to Senator John Barrasso, Chairman, Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs
Letter to Congressman Rob Bishop, Chairman, House Natural Resources Committee
These legal analysis documents were developed specifically to inform legislators about the legal / constitutional problems with the compact. You can also purchase a printed compilation of these documents, by calling us at 406-552-1357.
Land and Water Alliance