By Edwin Berry
This story needs to be told, and I may be the only one who will ever tell it.
To understand politics, you must understand this story.
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Water Compact may be the most important and controversial issue in Montana’s history.
Before November 2014, I opposed the Compact. I followed my conservative Republican peer group that opposed the Compact.
But, as a physicist, I realized I should study the Compact for myself. So, I read the arguments on both sides, spent weeks to put the pieces together, and a year to write this book.
By December 2014, I realized my original conclusion was wrong.
In 1979, Montana’s legislature made Montana the only state able to negotiate rather than litigate Indian water-rights.
In 2015, Montana’s House ratified the Compact by only ONE vote.
Why was this vote so close? What changed in 36 years? Who opposed the Compact?
I wrote this book because you must know what happened in Montana in 2015.
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Water Compact may be the most important and controversial bill in Montana’s history.
Its ratification would resolve all Montana’s Indian water-rights issues forever. Its rejection would subject Montanans to a generation of the most-costly legal battles in Montana’s history.
Most Montana’s farmers and ranchers, city managers and business leaders supported the Compact. Democrat legislators supported the Compact.
True Republican legislators, who represented 80 percent of Republican voters, supported the Compact.
Far-right, Evangelical tea party legislators, who represented only 20 percent of Republican voters, opposed the Compact.
Opponents believed the Compact was an Agenda 21 government conspiracy to steal Montana’s land and water. It was not. They let their fears drive their decisions.
But they controlled almost half of Montana’s House.
At the end of a bitter fight, Montana’s House ratified the Compact by only ONE vote.
All voters everywhere should realize the danger to themselves when they elect too many far-right, Evangelical candidates.