My name is Susan Lake and my husband and I farm a thousand acres on the Flathead Indian Reservation. We raise potatoes, grain, hay & cattle. We are proud members of the Montana Farm Bureau and appreciate the job the staff does to protect our industry while we are busy farming.
I am also involved in Farm Bureau’s advocacy program, “ACE”. The ACE program has helped me hone my communication skills to be a better advocate for our industry.
Our family has been deeply involved with the CSKT Compact. We see it as absolutely necessary for the survival of irrigated agriculture here in the Mission Valley. It is also crucial for finalization of the water adjudication process in the state.
In 1979, the Montana legislature created the Reserved Water Rights Commission. This was done because of the complications created by federal reserved water rights. In our case, the treaty rights of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes threaten our continued ability to farm on the reservation. Because of off- reservation rights, many rivers and streams are subject to claims of the tribe. The State watched precedents being set over and over in the courts in favor of tribal claims and decided the benefits of negotiation far outweighed the risks of litigation. The commission has been able to finish 16 compacts across the state in the time some states have settled one. Two compacts must still be ratified in Congress; one of them is the CSKT compact.
Currently, there are 86 water basins across two thirds of the state that will have to be reopened if the compact fails. Water users across the state will be caught up in decades of litigation. Passage of the CSKT compact eliminates all tribal water claims east of the continental divide and creates a safety net for all state based water users west of the divide.
The CSKT Compact is now state law and is in the hands of Congress. We need to be diligent in communicating with Congress to make sure the outcome is good for Montana.
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