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1539 Eleventh Ave. Helena, MT 59601
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USDA Forest Service Compact


85-20-1401 MCA

The water compact between the State of Montana and the U.S. Forest Service (“Compact”) took more than 25 years to negotiate. It was simultaneously signed into Montana law and given federal approval with U.S. Department of Agriculture and Justice signatures in a signing ceremony on April 17, 2007.

Compact Summary

The Compact recognizes reserved water rights of the U.S. Forest Service for both discrete administrative uses(ranger stations, pack stock, road watering)and dispersed administrative uses (emergency fire suppression, road construction, and restoration). The priority date of these water rights is generally the date of creation of the particular National Forest reserve.

The Compact also recognizes 77 instream flow rights for fisheries and one for a wetland, all located on National Forest System lands with a priority date of April 17, 2007, the ratification date of the Compact.

The Compact establishes a unique process that the Forest Service may use to apply for additional instream flows under state law on streams throughout the National Forest System lands in Montana. The priority date for these rights is the date of application.

The Compact settles all federal reserved water rights of the U.S. Forest Service in Montana. The Forest Service has other water use claims based in state law that are in the adjudication process and are not part of the Compact (for example, campground water uses are not included in the “specific purposes” for which Forest Service land was originally reserved and therefore are not included in the federal reserved Compact rights.

Public Input

All negotiating sessions were noticed and open to the public. In the fall of 2006, public meetings were held in 17 communities. Separate meetings with interested individuals and groups were also held. Written comments via mail or e-mail were encouraged throughout the negotiation process. All comments on this Compact were considered by the negotiating teams.

Compact Appendices

Appendix 1 - Administrative Uses

Appendix 2 - Water Right Claims to be Dismissed / New Water Right Numbers

Appendix 3 - Water Reservation Application for Instream Flow Form

Interactive Map of US Forest Service Instream Flow Rights Under Compact