John Tubbs, director of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, weighed in on the "People's Compact" Thursday, denouncing the proposal in a press release.
The press release said the department has recently received several inquiries about the "People's Compact," whose proponents bill it as a less costly and less controversial version of the already-negotiated Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Water Compact.
While the alternative has drawn the support of several state legislators, Tubbs condemned it and defended the original in his statement.
"The State of Montana has a people’s compact," he wrote, referring to the existing one. "It was created through more than 70 public negotiating sessions over 36 years between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), the United States, and the State of Montana. It received extensive legislative input and public comment at meetings, through letters and email. It was ratified with bipartisan support by the Montana Legislature and the broad support of citizens, municipalities, agricultural interests and other stakeholders."
"The recently-publicized 'peoples compact' is neither a work of the people nor a legitimate compact," he continued. "It was created without any participation from the Salish and Kootenai tribes, the United States, or the State of Montana. It is a complete misrepresentation of the compact process."
Among other things, the People's Compact drops what may be the negotiated agreement’s most controversial aspect: rights to instream flows from off the reservation. The Salish and Kootenai Tribes are the only ones in Montana to have the type of treaty that underpins these rights.
Tubbs also noted that without a compact, roughly 10,000 claims recently filed by the tribes and the U.S. Department of Justice will have to be adjudicated — an outcome that the existing compact, whose federal ratification is now being negotiated between the tribes and the Department of the Interior — is meant to prevent.
"All three sovereign governments — the United States, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes, and the State of Montana — remain committed to the Compact as it was negotiated and ratified and look forward to Congressional action to settle CSKT water claims for all time," he wrote.