After almost two years of diligent work by key State and Tribal officials, and with the organizational support of the Missouri River Basin Association, the structure and function of a new, more broadly based organization was developed to represent the interests of the States and Tribes in the Missouri River Basin.
The initial outcome was the adoption of a joint resolution by the Mni Sose Intertribal Water Rights Coalition and the Governors of the States of Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas in the summer of 2006 that authorized the creation of the Missouri River Association of States and Tribes (MoRAST) and setting forth its purpose. MoRAST was incorporated as a non-profit organization in the State of Nebraska in the fall of 2006.
The purpose of MoRAST is…
“To serve as a forum for the identification, discussion, and resolution of issues of concern to the basin states and tribes, including matters of interstate comity and matters of common concern that arise due to the actions and programs of the federal government, states, tribes, and other interests. This shall involve facilitating management of the natural resources of the Missouri River Basin including water resources, fish and wildlife, and consideration of the impacts to the economic, historical, cultural, and social resources among the basin states, tribes, and the federal government.”
One of the principle goals of MoRAST is to bring together the representatives of the Governors and to provide for direct participation by the American Indian Tribes in the Missouri River Basin. In the past, two separate organizations dealt with Missouri River issues for the states in the basin, the Missouri River Basin Association (MRBA) and the Missouri River Natural Resources Committee (MRNRC). The organizations often viewed river issues differently and sometimes sent conflicting recommendations to federal agencies, which sent mixed signals from the States.
MRBA has been recently dissolved and will be replaced by MoRAST, which will serve as the primary organization of the States and Tribes at the policy level for Missouri River issues. MRNRC will continue as a separate organization, but will work in cooperation with MoRAST. It will continue to provide a mechanism to coordinate various important functions among the State biologists and continue to sponsor the excellent Annual Missouri River Natural Resources Conference and BiOP Forum. However, policy issues will be the purview of the Board of Directors of MoRAST. MRNRC, together with representative of the Tribes, will also serve as the MoRAST standing Fish and Wildlife Committee. MoRAST also has standing committees to deal with water management and State/Tribal issues and may also have joint committee meetings at times to deal with certain issues.
The Governors have appointed State officials to the initial Board of Directors of MoRAST. These are typically cabinet level or senior policy level officials from the various agencies, normally with one representing the water management agency and one the fish and wildlife agency for each State, except for Wyoming. The agency structure and names vary by State. The State of Wyoming has currently chosen to be represented by a single Director, since it is not a “main stem” state. MoRAST also allows direct participation by the 28 American Indian Tribes in the basin through thirteen voting members, or in an advisory capacity for the other Tribes. In this manner, a reasonable balance is maintained on the Board among the water management, fish and wildlife and Tribal interests in the basin. The MoRAST Bylaws were adopted by the initial Board of directors in 2006, and were modified in December, 2008 to provide for an equal number of Directors from the States and Tribes, which is currently thirteen each. The By-laws also allow the MoRAST Board to invite federal agencies that operate in the basin to appoint an advisory member to participate with the MoRAST Board in a non-voting capacity.