Montana landowners react to Supreme Court decision on road easements

Opportunity to appeal to U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Montana stream access law Montanans awoke today to find their Constitutional property rights further eroded by the Montana Supreme Court, which has upended over 100 years of established road law in a new decision released today. The implications of the ruling are far reaching for landowners throughout the state and a serious blow to the right of Montanans to own, use, and enjoy their property. The decision could ultimately lead to a bigger win for landowners, however, because it may give an opportunity to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on the larger issue of the Constitutionality of Montana’s stream access law. In a dissent to the decision, Justice Laurie McKinnon noted that the Montana Court had to import prescriptive road law...

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UPOM Comment on BLM RMP

Below is a copy of the comment that UPOM submitted for the BLM RMP on Sage Grouse protection and management: The United Property Owners of Montana, which represents over three million acres of privately-owned land in Montana, encourage you to accept the following comments and consider extending the period for public comment in regards to the proposed BLM RMP and the corresponding DEIS. Despite the attempts of many of our members to discern the exact impact that the BLM RMP would have regarding their individual land holdings, they have found that the amount of information provided by the BLM in regards to the specific areas affected and the extent to which those areas are affected is severely lacking. The current plan omits essential details that would enable the public to substantively...

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Oped: FWP should stop free-roaming bison plan

The Montana Department Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is on a strange mission to impose a free-roaming bison herd in Eastern Montana.  It’s puzzling because it’s a plan that few Montanans want, and a large, diverse majority oppose.  Yet, inexplicably, Governor Bullocks’ administration and FWP Director Jeff Hagener seem determined to give us a dose of a bitter medicine we don’t want or need. The opposition to free-roaming couldn’t have been more evident at a recent FWP meeting on the issue in Lewistown.  One after another, ranchers, sportsmen, farmers, local business owners, and others voiced their objections to FWP’s proposal to move bison from Yellowstone National Park to an undisclosed location in Eastern Montana. They spoke loud and clear that free roaming bison would be an economic hardship;...

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Oped: Court erodes foundation of state’s stream access

Professor James Huffman expalins how the United States Supreme Court’s PPL decision undermines the legal theory underlying Montana’s stream access law; click here for the full opinion in the Missoulian. Here’s an excerpt: “The unanimous United States Supreme Court decision in PPL v. Montana was a judicial smackdown of Montana’s attempt at a massive land grab. The decision dismantled a legal theory that would have led to the state’s expropriation of thousands of miles of privately owned streambeds. At the same time, it called into question the legal underpinnings of Montana’s 30-year-old stream access law.

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Supreme Court’s bison transfer decision a big win for landowners

The Montana Supreme Court recently decided a lawsuit brought by landowner and multiple-use groups, including UPOM, against FWP for their transfer of Yellowstone Park bison to the Fort Peck Indian Tribe.  Our objection wasn’t that the bison were transferred, per se, but that FWP did not follow the law requiring landowner notification and collaborative planning before bison could be transferred.  We ultimately lost the case on the grounds that the legislature did not specify that that law applied to transfers to tribal property, in addition to public and private property. However, we won on a much bigger issue.  In the decision, the Court pointed out that the bison in question were placed in captivity, and therefore no longer fit the definition of “wild bison.” Environmental...

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Oped: Property rights trump ‘public trust doctrine’ in Turner bison dispute

By Professor James L. Huffman In her report on Judge Holly Brown’s dismissal of a challenge to the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks agreement with Ted Turner on the management of Yellowstone Park bison (Bozeman Chronicle, May 12, 2013), the Chronicle article states the following: “Under the public trust doctrine, which applies nationwide, the state has the responsibility to manage and maintain resources like water and land for public use and future generations.” Only in the dreams of the petitioners does that summary of the public trust doctrine have any relation to the law. Even in Montana, where the public trust doctrine was dramatically revised 30 years ago in two Montana Supreme Court cases, the doctrine has never been found to apply to wildlife or beyond the waters of the state. The...

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