In his recent letter (“Question to Supporters of the Water Compact”), Jerry O’Neil does an excellent job grandstanding and propagating misinformation. Mr. O’Neil calls on the bipartisan leaders from across the state who supported the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Water Compact to explain the rights of the Tribe in relation to governing recreational activity on waterways that they would, if the compact is ratified, share ownership of with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (MFWP).
The answer to this is simply: the compact has nothing to do with, and has no impact on, recreational activity. Period.
Under the compact, as approved by the Montana Legislature and signed by Gov. Steve Bullock, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes would co-own certain waterways with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, but the management of said waterways would remain under the control of FWP, therefore there will be no change from the status quo in this regard. While Mr. O’Neil’s letter tries to paint a picture of the CSKT as somehow being able to unilaterally make decisions on the compact, this inaccurate insinuation couldn’t be further from the truth.
The compact deals with defining the federally reserved rights of the CSKT and providing clarity in terms of water right ownership and use. It is a negotiated agreement and includes provisions to make sure that all Montana water users benefit. Those who supported the compact – Bullock, Attorney General Tim Fox, state Sen. Chas Vincent, and state Rep. Zac Perry – have done their due diligence and worked across party lines to pass the compact for the benefit of all Montanans.
It is unfortunate that rather than simply positing his question, Mr. O’Neill seems more intent on criticizing those who are working across party lines to get things done in our state.