Updated at 6:52 p.m.
Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck has notified Congress it is lobbying for the Navajo Nation on legislation that would settle water rights claims of the southwestern tribe.
The firm has deployed shareholder David Bernhardt, policy director Elizabeth Gore and of counsel Ryan Smith to advocate on the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act, according to a lobbying registration report Brownstein filed last week. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Benjamin Quayle (R-Ariz.) introduced the legislation last month.
The House and Senate versions of the legislation would authorize three water-delivery projects for the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe if the American Indian communities drop their claims to water from the Little Colorado River, ending decades of litigation. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly has commended McCain for introducing the bill and has pledged to work with Congress to pass the measure.
Bernhardt declined to comment. Navajo Nation spokesman Jared King directed questions to tribe attorney Stanley Pollack, who didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bernhardt, Smith and Gore have experience with American Indian issues. Smith, a former aide to Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), and Bernhardt, a former Interior Department official who held posts including solicitor, note in their law firm biographies that they have worked on American Indian water rights matters before. Gore was chief of staff to Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) from 2005 to 2010, which included Dorgan's stint as chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
Brownstein is currently the only firm registered to lobby for the Navajo Nation as a whole, according to congressional records. But the Nordhaus Law Firm is registered to lobby for the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency. The Navajo Nation as a whole hasn’t had a firm lobby for it since Perkins Coie stop advocating for it in 2010.