What the Missoula Mountain Water case means for other Montana property owners

The recent decision by the Montana Supreme Court in the Mountain Water case, in which the Court reversed itself from an earlier decision, has set new precedents that weaken the property rights for all Montanans.  It’s apparent to us that the decision was more politically motivated than grounded in the law—and we’re not alone, Justice Jim Rice described the Court’s conduct as “apparently hell-bent on condemnation” in his dissenting opinion. This is an example of why Montana’s Supreme Court is ranked so poorly nationally.  Each time it reverses itself—and it does so often, hundreds of times in the last two decades—it creates more uncertainty about what the law really is.  And when the Court is viewed as a political animal—active in creating law rather than...

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Understanding the Seyler Lane stream access decision

In a recent ruling in an important case involving stream access, District Court Judge Loren Tucker in Madison County determined that issues concerning the balance of private property rights and prescriptive easements must be determined on a case-by-case basis, using evidence of County maintenance needs.  The public’s desire for access is not a factor. Judge Tucker’s determination was made at the request of the Montana Supreme Court, which concluded that a public right-of-way exists on the Seyler Lane bridge which crosses the Ruby River in Madison County. While the Public Land/Water Access Association (“PLWAA”) have been eager to claim that Judge Tucker’s ruling was a victory for anti-property rights groups, the decision and its consequences are not so clear-cut. In the dispute between PLWAA...

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Gianforte has real Montanan values related to access

By Hertha Lund Often times the first casualty in politics is the truth. Currently, the Democrats are using out-of-state dark money to bastardize the truth relating to Greg Gianforte and stream access issues. In reality, Gianforte’s approach to stream access is the ideal balance between public access and property rights, which is where most Montanans position themselves. Yes, it is correct that in 2009 Gianforte filed to Quiet Title against the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (“FWP”) due to a factual and legal discrepancy of where the public access should be on Gianforte’s property. This type of suit is a common tool for landowners to use in order to allow the courts to sort out these types of factual and legal issues. Instead of serving the suit, Gianforte’s attorney sent FWP letters and...

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Enviro groups attempting to destroy Eastern MT ag

A cadre of  radical environmental groups have set their sites on farmers and ranchers along the Yellowstone River in Eastern Montana in an attempt to eliminate irrigation projects in at least five locations on the river. The first attack is against the Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project between Glendive and Sidney where the out-of-state environmental group Defenders of Wildlife has sued the Army Corps of Engineers to remove a 107-year-old diversion wier.  That wier is the starting point for a massive irrigation project that serves nearly 60,000 acres in Montana and North Dakota, and is the backbone for a $10 million sugar industry that supports hundreds of jobs in Sidney.  There are at least four other irrigation projects on the Yellowstone that environmental groups plan to target. These...

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Another SCOTUS win for property rights

Since it’s implementation the Clean Water Act has developed a reputation as being ambiguous and arbitrarily implemented, and has plagued property owners and agriculture producers across the U.S.  The EPA is now attempting to expand the scope of that Act through the controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which would place all bodies of waters—including puddles and stock ponds—under federal regulatory jurisdiction. But a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has added a degree of clarity to the Clean Water Act, and more importantly an opinion by Justice Kennedy in the case signals good news on a multi-state challenge to the WOTUS rule. One June 1st, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously to allow landowners the ability to challenge in Court the EPA’s Clean Water Act “jurisdictional...

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