Tester fights to keep cabins at Fresno, Nelson Reservoirs

Discontinuing leases is unacceptable, senator tells Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester is turning up the heat on the Bureau of Reclamation to allow Montanans to keep their cabins on the Fresno and Nelson Reservoirs in north-central Montana.

Last summer the Bureau of Reclamation proposed changing its rules that would allow the agency to discontinue private cabin leases along the reservoirs.  Today, Tester released a letter he recently sent to Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Robert Johnson, explaining why he opposes the change.

"Investments have been made under great expense with the understanding that their leases would continue into the future," Tester wrote, noting that many cabin owners have invested in septic systems, landscaping and remodeling—often at the request of the Bureau of Reclamation.  "Any changes in Bureau of Reclamation procedure that would discontinue leasing on these reservoirs in the future are unacceptable."

Tester added that the recreational, economic and social benefits of the cabin leases are "markedly beneficial."  Many of the cabins have been in the areas—near Havre and Malta—for decades.

Tester also told Johnson that he has heard different interpretations of the proposed rule change, and he demanded more information.

"I request immediate clarification of the intention of the proposal," Tester wrote.  "If the Bureau does not withdraw or substantially change the proposed rules following this comment period, I will seek legislative options to block this proposal from taking effect."

Montana's other U.S. senator, Max Baucus, wrote a similar letter to Commissioner Johnson last week.

"Montanans have been vacationing and leasing these sites for decades – it's a time honored tradition to take the family to the lake," Baucus said. "It's not right that the BOR comes along and tries to pull the rug out from these families. I'm committed to working together with Jon Tester to keep this important part of our outdoor heritage around for years to come."