Under the radar theft: The federal government, in league with the Montana state legislature, is moving to seize the privately-held water rights of 100,000 Montana citizens and hand those rights over to the Flathead Indian Reservations, after which the rights would be controlled and administered by the federal government.
The tale of woe begins with the Hellgate Treaty of 1855 that created the Flathead Indian Reservation. Article III of the Treaty is the point of contention, as it states the Indian tribes have an established “right of taking fish” in waters not on the reservation. The article has been selectively interpreted and further manipulated to this end: the tribes must be able to ensure water quality of their fishing sites; therefore, the water rights in 11 counties must fall under the Tribal jurisdiction.
Enter the EPA to set standards of water quality, the Water Compact Commission, a board that is relentlessly pushing the compact on the populace, the Department of the Interior, the bureaucracy that will collect and manage revenue “on behalf” of the tribes, and the DHS, the enforcement arm of compliance. Should the tribes and the aforementioned players win this fight, all surface water and wells (private wells, mind you) within the boundaries imposed by the Compact will be metered and taxed.
The whole thing is a travesty and should be a moot point in reality: Article I of the same treaty ceded, relinquished, and conveyed (by the tribes) all rights or claims to any land and waters except the Reservation. The State Senate just voted on it a few weeks ago. The Senate holds 29 Republicans and 21 Democrats; however, 11 Republicans voted for the Compact and the measure passed, 32-18. The bottom line: there was not one dissenting Democratic vote on the whole measure.
The conflict here is obviously complex, but the result seems pretty simple. While before private citizens owned their own private wells (dug with their money and sweat), afterward those wells would be controlled by government bureaucrats, who will use that power to tax and regulate the use of those wells. As the article notes, if this should pass it will “set a precedent for the courts throughout the United States by the Federal Government to deprive us of our water rights.”
But who cares? Let’s instead go ga-ga over a stupid ill-advised publicity campaign from a stupid overpriced coffee company.