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Bureau braces for fight
By DAVE WILKINS
Idaho Staff Writer
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation won’t let the
proposed Nez Perce water agreement go into effect
without a fight.
The organization issued a report last week
detailing its opposition and will lobby against
the agreement during the state legislative session
The Farm Bureau is one of a few groups to publicly
oppose the agreement supported by Gov. Dirk
Kempthorne and a coalition of agriculture and
trade groups in the state.
Proponents of the deal say that it will resolve
all outstanding claims against Idaho water by the
Nez Perce tribe and protect the state’s
sovereignty over its water.
But the Farm Bureau argues that the deal will do
more harm than good.
The agreement would undermine private property
rights, Idaho’s agriculture-based economy and the
democratic process, the bureau said in the report,
titled “The Nez Perce Agreement: A Legacy of
Farmers, ranchers and small timber operators could
see immediate negative impacts from the agreement,
the bureau said.
The pact would reclassify streams and create
certain zones that would be off limits to timber
“Some landowners with property along streams stand
to lose a substantial portion (from one-third to
one-half for some property owners) of their
harvestable timber,” the bureau report said.
The transfer of some BLM lands to the Nez Perce
under the agreement will jeopardize the future of
existing grazing leases and create an access
issue, the bureau maintains.
An immediate impact would be the increase in
grazing fees on transferred lands from $1.43 per
animal unit month under the BLM to $18 per AUM as
currently charged by the tribe, according to the
The result would be that ranchers “will face the
loss of BLM allotments, for which they will
receive no compensation, and a loss in value to
their base property,” the bureau said.
The organization also criticized the proposed
agreement because it was negotiated behind closed
“Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of the Nez Perce
Agreement is its lack of openess and
transparency,” the bureau said. “Some affected by
its outcome were never consulted nor gave their
consent. Once final, it cannot realistically be
reversed, no matter what ‘off-ramps’ are
The report also stated that the agreement “has the
potential to divide North Idaho against South;
forester against irrigator; surface water user
against ground pumper; and neighbor against
The bureau’s preferred option is for the state and
other parties to defend a 1999 decision by the
Snake River Basin Adjudication court that Nez
Perce claims for off-reservation instream flows
The bureau’s second option would be for all
parties to go back to the negotiating table.
The proposed agreement calls for the establishment
of a $50 million fund for the Nez Perce tribe to
restore and improve fish habitat, develop water
resources and other agricultural projects.
The tribe would also receive $23 million for the
design and construction of a water supply and
sewer system on the reservation.
The U.S. Congress has already approved the deal,
but the Idaho Legislature and the tribe must both
approve it before it can go into effect.
Dave Wilkins is based in Twin Falls, Idaho. His
e-mail address is email@example.com.
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Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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