Oped: Law can’t trample on private property rights

Excerpt from an opinion by PERC’s Terry Anderson on the upcoming Montana Supreme Court hearing on stream access: The openness of our legal system is especially important in this case. The plaintiff, now calling itself the Public Lands/Water Access Association, challenges the legality of Madison County’s resolution to permit James Kennedy, a landowner from Georgia, to attach a private wood rail fence to a bridge across the Ruby River. Beyond the legal technicalities, this case is about the rights of a private landowner to limit access to his property. PLWA portrays itself as David—a local, citizen sportsmen group—against Goliath—a wealthy, out-of-state landowner. In fact, this is a long-standing campaign by the association, dressed up in public-interest clothing, to gain access to...

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PLWA distorts truth in Letter to Editor

UPOM President Mark Robbins responds to a letter to the editor in the Helena IR this week: Tony Schoonen says Madison County landowner James C. Kennedy has been in court since 2009 trying to destroy stream access (Helena IR, 4/10/13). Schoonen also claims that when Public Land/Water Access (PLWA) sued Kennedy and sponsored a “float-in,” Jim Kennedy had electrified fences at the bridge. Judge Tucker didn’t see it that way when he dismissed PLWA’s legal claims against Jim Kennedy’s fences.  In fact, the court record proves that the fences that PLWA litigated and protested were made of wood posts and rails, not electric wire.  The judge said Jim Kennedy’s fences were lawful in all respects and did not block any public travel right, based in large part on testimony from...

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Billings Gazette: State Supreme Court to hear appeal of stream access ruling

The Montana Supreme Court will hear a case next month that could have far-ranging effects on Montana’s stream access laws. In April 2012, District Judge Loren Tucker ruled that public use of Seyler Lane didn’t guarantee the public access to the Ruby River from a bridge on that road. The bridge is near Twin Bridges, about 50 miles southeast of Butte.

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Oped: Is stream access law doomed?

From an opinion by former state Rep. Diane Rice, of Harrison, appearing in today’s Montana Standard: Is stream access doomed? That is the question sportsmen are whispering across Big Sky Country, as a special interest group pushes a bridge access case it lost through the state appellate court. … In a rare 9-0 decision in PPL v. Montana, SCOTUS summarily struck down the legal theory Montana used to assert rights in streambeds. What’s more, it reasserted a bright line rule that the original stream access cases dismissed: Montana can’t assert ownership-type control over streambeds it doesn’t own — period.

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Landowners fed up with FWP tactics

Landowners in central and Eastern Montana received a letter from Fish, Wildlife and Parks last week that essentially threatened them with extortion. Since 2008, FWP has restricted hunting opportunity in these specific areas, with a goal of coercing more access to private land for hunting. FWP mistakenly assumed that a landowner would bargain away private property rights for the price of an elk permit. Instead, the limit has been directly responsible for millions of dollars in lost tourism revenue to the surrounding communities, as well as less access to private land for public hunting.

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Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Citizen working groups to join elk management

Regional working groups will soon play a part in elk management, but Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks commissioners voted to retain a larger chunk of the responsibility. At Thursday’s meeting in Helena, the five-member FWP commission gave final approval to a working group’s proposal to modify elk distribution to limit the spread of disease, particularly brucellosis. The plan, given initial approval on Nov. 8, would apply primarily in the regions surrounding Yellowstone National Park, where brucellosis is most prevalent.

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