|PRESS RELEASE December 22, 2020FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEContact: Clayton Elliott, Conservation and Government Relations Director, 307-272-6298Email: email@example.comMontana Trout Unlimited Applauds Congressional Passage of Landmark Tribal Water Rights Legislation, Western Water Provisions in Omnibus Spending BillBill ratifies Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Water Compact, provides legal certainty and millions for coldwater fisheries restoration.|
MISSOULA, MT – Late last night, the U.S. Congress passed the bipartisan Montana Water Rights Protection Act (MWRPA), S. 3019, as part of the Omnibus budget and COVID relief package.
President Trump subsequently signed the legislative package. This landmark bill finally provides Congressional ratification of the negotiated water compact and settlement between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), the State of Montana, and the United States. Congress noted that the $1.9 billion CSKT water compact is the largest water rights settlement in history between thefederal government and a federally-recognized tribe. As part of recognizing and ratifying CSKT’s water rights, the settlement will provide millions of dollars in restoration funds that will deliver benefits to coldwater fisheries important to Westslope cutthroat and bull trout in western Montana.
“The bottom line is that this legislation is good for Montana’s coldwater fisheries and their habitat. This bipartisan agreement inks into law a robust partnership for the future cooperative management of water in Western Montana. In addition to resolving for all time the legitimate, legal, and considerable water rights claims of the Tribes, saving decades of costly litigation and uncertainty, it also will injectmillions of dollars into collaborative restoration of our wild fish and their habitats while upgrading aging irrigation infrastructure critical to the Tribes and agricultural users,” said Clayton Elliott, Conservation and Government Relations Director of Montana Trout Unlimited (MTU).
The water compact is the culmination of decades of public meetings and drafting, followed by years of deliberation before the Montana State Legislature. The 2015 Legislature approved the compact in a bipartisan vote following support from Montana’s Democratic Governor and Republican Attorney General. The negotiations that resulted in the CSKT compact, in addition to being lengthy andcomplex, were transparent and provided broadpublic involvement opportunities at every juncture. The result is a balanced agreement that protects the recognized rights of all existing water users.
“MTU members and anglers from around the state have long advocated for this legislation in the Montana Legislature and now the U.S. Congress, and we thank Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester as well as Congressman Greg Gianforte for listening and leading on this important issue,” continuedElliott. “We applaud the final passage of the bipartisan Montana Water Rights Protection Act in the U.S. Congress and being signed into law by President Trump.”Additionally, the Omnibus legislation includes a bipartisan water package that finds common ground on numerous critical western water issues, including right here in Montana that MTU supported. Those include programs such as an extension of the Cooperative Watershed Management Program through 2026, a Bureau of Reclamation program that Senator Tester helped create, and that has supportedseveral Montana collaborative, watershed-based plans and project investments to improve watershed health for all water users.
“MTU members and anglers from around the state have long advocated for this legislation in the Montana Legislature and now the U.S. Congress, and we thank Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester as well as Congressman Greg Gianforte for listening and leading on this important issue,” continued Elliott. “We applaud the final passage of the bipartisan Montana Water Rights Protection Act in the U.S. Congress and being signed into law by President Trump.”