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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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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Fergus County asks to be left out of Upper Missouri River Heritage Area designation

Opposition is growing to a proposal to designate a huge area of land as the Upper Missouri River Heritage Area.  Recently, the Fergus County Commission unanimously voted to be left out of the proposal being pushed by Cascade County Commissioner Jane Weber. National Heritage Areas are designations connected to the National Parks Service.  Though administered locally, and not by the NPS, Heritage Area designations can have implications on private property rights for landowners in and near the Area designation.  Examples from other Heritage Areas around the country show that local governments are often pressured to change land use policies after a Heritage Area has been designated.  Additionally, the Heritage Board, the new layer of government set up to administer the Heritage Area, has the...

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BLM’s refusal to work with Wilks bros. is part of a disappointing trend

Last year, the Wilks brothers opened access across their property to allow the public access to the Upper Missouri River Breaks Monument.  It was a good-faith effort as part of a land exchange they were proposing to the BLM.  Their proposal was a generous one—they were offering more acreage to the BLM, and property that had better public access (the public land they proposed to exchange for is only accessible by aircraft). BLM has refused to negotiate this land exchange amid opposition from environmental groups.  So in response, in an oped appearing today in the Great Falls Tribune, Farris Wilks has announced they will no longer allow access through their property to the Upper Missouri River Breaks.  Mr. Wilks writes: While we will close our gates in the coming days, we continue to stand...

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UPOM comments to NPS on proposal to establish brucellosis testing facility on Fort Peck Reservation

Under a new proposal from the National Park Service, Yellowstone Park bison that have been exposed to brucellosis could be transferred to testing facilities at locations across Montana.  The first proposed location is on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. To be clear, these are animals that have not been ruled brucellosis free.  The proposal is to quarantine and test the animals for the disease for a period of time, after which they would be released as wild, free-roaming bison on the Reservation. Rule 1 in preventing a disease’s proliferation is to isolate the disease to one area.  It makes no sense to transfer brucellosis-exposed bison to other parts of Montana. UPOM has strongly objected to this proposal for the obvious dangers it presents to Montana’s agriculture economy. ...

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