In September 2005, Native American Rights Fund and Western States Water Council brought the Indian Water Rights Settlement Conference to Moscow, Idaho. Native American Rights Fund is the oldest and largest nonprofit dedicated to asserting and defending Native American interests nationwide, and the Western States Water Council is composed of representatives appointed by the governors of eighteen western states, including Idaho. The conference brings together panel members representing tribal, state, federal agency, congressional, local, and environmental interests to discuss, argue, and at times resolve current issues facing the many efforts to settle Indian water rights in the western United States. Twenty one settlements have been achieved. Approximately that many remain. Those remaining are difficult and many involve contentious issues such as endangered species, water marketing, water quality, tribal – state jurisdiction, interstate allocation of water, and conjunctive management of ground and surface water. The federal will to fund Indian water settlements was high during the Bush I administration, began to drop precipitously during the Clinton administration, and has disappeared altogether during the Bush II administration. This made for lively and heated discussion of federal policy during the Moscow conference. In addition, the recently approved Nez Perce water settlement was highlighted on the second day of the conference with speakers representing the Tribe, the Idaho attorney general’s office, and the Department of the Interior. Professor Barbara Cosens of the University of Idaho, College of Law, who has spent the past fifteen years working on water settlements, and is currently mediating efforts to settle water allocation on the Walker River in California and Nevada, delivered the following keynote address.
9 U. Denv. Water L. Rev. 285 (2006)