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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Waters of the US rule is about control, not conservation

It’s safe to say all Montanans enjoy our lakes, rivers and streams and wish to ensure that they remain healthy for years to come. No group values our water more than Montana’s agriculture producers. They’re the primary stewards of our water and their conservation efforts benefit all Montanans. That could all change, however, if the EPA gets their way. Their newly proposed “Waters of the United States” rule would flip our water conservation model, ultimately turning what landowners now consider an asset into a huge liability. History has shown when that happens, our environment pays the price. Let’s be clear on what this rule is about. It’s an attempt to expand the power of the federal bureaucracy to control what happens on private land. This rule is not about protecting water resources—in...

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Oped: Access for all but stewardship for not

By Terry L. Anderson and Reed Watson of PERC When the Montana Constitution was rewritten in 1972, no one would have thought that the clause stating all waters “are the property of the State for the use of its people” would lead to an erosion of private property rights to land. But it has as Montana’s activist Supreme Court has used the clause to favor stream access over private property rights. … With landowners outraged by the ruling, the legislature tried to slow the erosion of property rights in 1985 by passing the “Stream Access Law.” The law limits recreation to activities such as fishing, hunting, swimming and floating and limits access to areas between the high water marks, specifically excluding irrigation ditches. It also limits access across posted private property to gain...

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Oped: Stream access decision bad news for landowners

By Senator Debby Barrett The Montana Supreme Court’s recent ruling on an important stream access case represents an alarming expansion of access law at the detriment of property rights. But despite headlines announcing a win for stream access, the court all but ignored the 1,000-pound gorilla in the case: whether Montana’s stream access law is constitutional. Ultimately, if the appellants are successful in appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, the case may yet prove to restore the property rights that were taken from Montana landowners 30 years ago.

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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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