Mabee Road case a victory for landowners, but at what price?

The Mabee Road case is a cautionary tale for all Montana landowners. This saga started in 2007 when Mark Robbins gated a road on his property to stop trespassers. That action caught the attention of the Public Land Water Access Association, a nonprofit that exists to sue landowners to take their property. PLWA first attempted to pressure the Fergus County commission to declare the road public. The commission asked their attorney to examine the matter—he concluded the road was private. Next, PLWA sued the Robbins’s with the objective of taking the road for public use—the district court concluded the road was private. So PLWA appealed to the Montana Supreme Court, which in a unanimous decision affirmed that the road was private. It sounds like this result is a resounding win for...

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UPOM Comments on EQC HJ 13 Road & Access Study

The Environmental Quality Council has spent a good part of their time during the interim in putting together a study to assess access on public land in Montana, in particular on how road closures on federal land have affected access.  Their study also looks at elk distribution and how less access may have affected elk harvests.  A copy of the draft report can be found here. And below you can read the comments that we submitted to the committee:

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Elections Matter, Ep. 1 – Legislative attempts to seize your property

Elections Matter is a series of articles about issues from the 2015 Montana Legislature that were decided by only a few votes.  The objective of the Elections Matter series is to underscore why it’s so vitally important to elect officeholders who support our rights to own, use, and enjoy our property. Should landowners in Montana have to apply for permission from their county governments before placing a new gate on their property?  Of course not, such a scenario seems nonsensical.  But that’s exactly what would have resulted had legislation by a pair of Great Falls lawmakers been enacted last year. House Bill 286, sponsored by Rep. Tom Jacobson (D), would have required a landowner to file a notice of intent with the county commission for any planned “fence, barrier, or...

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Vilifying, suing Montana ranchers no way to improve access

“Respect for private property is essential to Montana’s outdoor way of life …” So says a report published by Montana Wildlife Federation and its affiliate, Public Land and Water Access Association. Montanans would be better served if MWF and PLWA actually demonstrated some respect for private property rights, rather than paying lip service to it while agitating for the confiscation of thousands of acres of private land every year through questionable political and judicial means.

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LA Times: Supreme Court deals setback to rails-to-trails movement

“The Supreme Court dealt a setback Monday to the popular redevelopment trend of transforming abandoned railroad lines into public bike paths, ruling that buyers of such lands are not required to continue granting a federal right of way… “In an 8-1 decision, the justices ruled in favor of Marvin Brandt, a Wyoming man who controls 83 acres of land that was formerly used by the Wyoming and Colorado Railroad, located near the Medicine Bow National Forest. When the U.S. Forest Service told Brandt that the government retained the railroad’s right of way across his land and planned to use it for a bike trail, he filed suit. “Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the Railroad Right of Way Act of 1875 gave the rail lines a temporary easement across the land, but once...

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