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Public Access Victories

Most Montana outdoor enthusiasts are unaware of the 30 year history of PLWA accomplishments - even though all have benefited and all will benefit from many years to come.

Montana Stream Access Law - The best in the west. In the late 1970's, harassment of anglers and floaters on the Dearborn and Beaverhead Rivers led to a lawsuit by PLWA founders . Their decision that "The public has the right to use Montana's rivers and streams that are capable of recreational use, up to the ordinary high water mark." led to the current law .

State School Trust Lands Opened for Public Access - Montana has 5.2 million acres of school trust public lands which are leased for agriculture and logging. Prior to 1988, permission from the lessee was required to recreate on these lands. In that year, PLWA founders sued to open these lands. When the effort foundered, they sponsored successful legislation to open them for recreational use. It also indirectly opened millions of acres of adjoining acres of federal land.

Stopping Illegal Road Closures - PLWA has a long history of case-by-case fighting against specific closures. Hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands access have been opened or preserved by our actions and perseverance. PLWA is usually the only entity taking direct legal action to stop these closures.

Recreational Access at Bridges. Just because we have a stream access law does not mean we have access at bridges. In a famous case a private party electrified and fenced off bridge abutments on his property. PLWA fought the case and is still fighting the case. But a decision on 2 of the bridges resulted in the 2009 bridge access law. This law insures access to thousands of miles of streams and rivers.

These are just a few of our successes.


Ruby River Stream Access Victory

     Seyler Lane Bridge
  ... (more)


Indian Creek Trail

  ... (more)
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Stream and Bridge Access Triumph

     Montana Supreme Court Rules
28 January 2013Courtesy of Bruce Farling, executive director, Montana TURecent Montana Supreme Court decision on Ruby River Bridge AccessBackgroundThe Montana Supreme Court issued an opinion January 16, 2014, in the long running legal dispute created by Atlanta media mogul Jim Kennedys challenges of recreational access from bridges over the Ruby River. The recent decision affected two court actions: 1.) An appeal brought by the Public Land and Water Access Association (PLWA and formerly known as PLAA) of a lower court decision regarding the nature of the prescriptive easement on the county road/bridge at Seyler Lane; and, 2.) A cross-appeal filed by Kennedy challenging a previous lower court ruling that affirmed recreational access as being legal within a recorded easement on Lewis Lane. Montana TU filed a separate amicus brief bolstering PLWAs arguments for access. The opinion overturning the Seyler Lane decision and denying the cross-appeal affecting Lewis Lane is very strong. In the Seyler Lane case the lower court had made the unprecedented ruling that there are two prescriptive easements there, one for the county that is wider than the bridge, but which only allows access to the county for purposes of maintaining the bridge; and another that is only as wide as the roadway, which is for the public, but only for travel across the bridge.   ... (more)


Signed Agreement on Salmond Ranch Road

     Restoring decades of lost public access
July 30, 2015An agreement was reached between Great Falls hunters, state and county officials, and a landowner that will secure walk-in hunting and recreational access to approximately 50,000 acres of public land along the Rocky Mountain Front, west of Choteau. This agreement restores access that has been in dispute for decades.The disputed access issue began in the 1930s, when Frank Salmond offered Teton County a dedicated public easement to ensure public access, in exchange for the county closing Road 380. Yet, in 1989, the Salmond family posted "No Trespassing" signs on the road. 2012, the Salmond family then brought a quiet title action looking to clarify public access on the road. Teton County, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and Great Falls resident Randall Knowles intervened that same year, stating the road was public.Russell Country Sportsmens Association member Randy Knowles, as well as Public Land/Water Access Association (PLWA) president, John Gibson, testified at the hearing on July 20, along with the Montana Wildlife Federation saw the proposal unanimously approved by the State Land Board.   ... (more)


West Deer Creek Road Now Open

     Previously Cherry Creek Road Access
July 15, 2015On Wednesday, July 15, 2015, at 9:00 A.M., the gate barring public access to the West Deer Creek area of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest, south of Big Timber, swung open- thus restoring access to more than 16,000 acres of public lands. PLWA played a key role in early efforts to keep public access to this area.The gate is across a newly constructed bypass road named, "West Deer Creek Road", (Forest Road #421, known locally as the Cherry Creek access). The new road provides a permanent public route on the Yellowstone Ranger District by replacing part of the old, now-private Cherry Creek Road.Last fall, the Forest Service and two landowners reached a joint agreement for a permanent public access easement across the West Deer Creek Road.   ... (more)


Old Yellowstone Trail South County Road

     Historic Yellowstone Trail Encroachment Resolved
3/30/2015In March of 2015, a watchful member of the public noticed an encroachment on one of our county roads - Old Yellowstone Trail South, a county road with a lot of history. "This 1913 route became known as Yellowstone Trail Road and remains so named today. The main highway moved about over the years, including various routes on the east side of Yellowstone River, and it is presumed that the route of the YT (Yellowstone Trail) moved accordingly at the time, but this western route was first, was primary, and still retains the name." The Old Yellowstone Trail South goes right to the area of the iconic Roosevelt Arch leading into the Yellowstone National Park, dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt on April 24, 1903, with the inscription - For The Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People.Forest Service public land surrounds 3/4s of the private property at the southern end of Park County, just south of Miner, Montana. The county road, just west of the Yellowstone River goes through the middle of the private parcel. Old Yellowstone Trail South goes through Yankee Jim Canyon and accesses the Yellowstone River along with a great deal of National Forest.   ... (more)


Modesty Gulch Road

     Modesty Road remains dedicated to public use
10/7/2014In the latest episode of a long running dispute, Butte District Judge Kurt Kruger found that roads leading to both the lower and upper branches of the Modesty Road remain "dedicated to public use".Modesty Road connects to about 12,000 acres of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, and a number of otherwise difficult to access lakes.Signs will have to be installed noting that the land surrounding the road is private. At issue was a Modesty Road gate on the Letica Ranch. The road was established in the 1800s, but had been shut down for 30 years. The ruling determined that the lower portion of the road began as a county road and was never abandoned by the county, and that the upper portion of the road was a "public preservation easement", a classification that relies upon continuous public use and an assumption of public control.The primary litigant in this case was Anaconda Deerlodge County.   ... (more)


Old Dunn Road - Y-stone River - Park Ct

     Power of a PLWA Hat
The Old Dunn Road is now a trail but it provides access to a mile and a half of the upper Yellowstone River near Emigrant, Montana. Other roads on different locations now serve the purpose once provided by the Old Dunn. road.Because of access and historic values the Park County Commissioners did not abandon the 60 foot easement on the road . Instead, they turned it into a non motorized trail. In 2007 a developer, planning a large subdivision, requested the easement be abandon. The commissioners refused and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed to the effect that the trail would remain open to the public with interpretative signs and trail head facilities.   ... (more)



JUNE 2013 -SETTLEMENT REACHED ON "CHERRY CREEK" ROADYEARS OF PLWA EFFORT PAY OFFOUTSTANDING COOPERATION BY FOREST SERVICE AND LANDOWNERSAfter years of negotiations, legal action , and public comment, settlement has been reached on regaining permanent access via a new public access route to National Forest System lands in the Cherry Creek area, south of Big Timber, Montana.The landowners Mr. George Matelich and Mr. Michael Goldberg have reached an agreement with the USDA Forest Service to jointly construct a new road approximately ten miles south of Big Timber that will provide permanent public access from State Highway 298 to NFS lands . This will open up about 16,000 acres of public land heretofore only accessible a long, challenging foot, horseback, or motorcycle trail from the East side of the divide .The planned road will be identified as West Deer Creek Road No. 421.   ... (more)


Lodgepole Creek Road (2013)

     Lodgepole Rd.- Myers Creek Ranger Station Stillwater County
Lodgepole Road - A MAJOR SUCCESS STORY ! The status of the northern end of this county road which extends northerly from the town site of Limestone, northwest of Nye, MT has been an issue for many years. It is now open for public travel. The last two miles which access thousands of acres of the Beartooth front and an extensive trail system, had been gated off by an adjoining landowner / outfitter who attempted to control the road. After extensive negotiations and action by PLWA and FWP, Stillwater County now acknowledged that it was a county road .(It was also critical for access in fighting the Derby fire in 2006. ) The road had fallen into disrepair and dropped off the county road system.   ... (more)
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Fiddle Creek - Shields River

     Illegal Signs Removed
FROM PRESIDENT JOHN GIBSON - MAY 8, 2013 - After meeting with Park County Commissioners and the Assistant County Attorney, I am pleased to announce that the Illegal No Trespassing signs on the Fiddle Creek Bridge and road easement across the Shields River will be removed shortly. The combination of the Bridge Access Law and the District Court Decision by Judge Tucker on County Road Easements across the Ruby River make it hard to defend any posting on bridges on County Roads.We can thank Lou Goosey and George Bauer for the following thru on this one.If anyone else knows of other bridges that are illegally posted, let us know.   ... (more)
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Lilly Pad and Crater Lakes - July 2014

     Beautiful Lakes on School Trust Land
Lily Pad -and Crater lakes lie in a school section about one and a half miles off the West Rosebud road across from the Lazy EL ranch in Stillwater county. They are a wonderful opportunity for day hikes or trail rides. Legal access on the closest and most scenic route is available across BLM and school trust land from the West Rosebud Road, but there was no trail .Without a trail, it was a real bushwhacking effort to find the lakes . As of July 2014 the trail is now complete and available for public use . Much of the work was done by crews from the Montana Conservation Corps - young adult volunteers from all over the U.S.   ... (more)
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Swimming Woman Road Settlement (2011)

     County Successful
After several years of uncertainty and negotiation a settlement has been reached on the Swimming Woman Road, leading to thousands of acres of Forest Service land in the Big Snowy Mountains. This will be of great value to hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts because it is one of the few public access points to the Big Snowy Mountains northwest of Ryegate. (The road had been washed out this spring, so resolution was urgent before reconstruction started.) The Golden Valley County commissioners and representatives of the Lazy S Ranch agreed on to reroute Swimming Woman Road west of its old easement and onto the Lewis and Clark National Forest. Apparently the county recently gave the landowners an option to either have the road rebuilt along its existing route, which runs next to the ranch’s residence, or provide an easement to have the road moved. The landowners wanted to close the road but research aided by PLWA officer Bernie Lea, showed the county had a legal right and easement to in its existing location. The county found 1933 documentation that the landowners sought and were given approval to establish a county road through the private property for the purpose of providing access to the “forest reserve.   ... (more)
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Scenic View Road (2011)

This is a case in which PLWA has had active involvement since the original closure in 2008 . Early on we recognized the significance the closure from both symbolic and practical standpoints. Although not active party to the litigation , PLWA maintained a steady advocacy and lobbying pressure until settlement . was reached. This included court house research, visits to the site, letters to officials, attendance at public meetings and coordination with attorneys . We also encouraged the Montana Attorney General office to become involved , which they did to highlight the critical importance of the case. The PLWA law firm of Goetz and Company out of Bozeman, in the person of Devlan Geddes, represented the county in the mediation.   ... (more)
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Wise Lane - 2010

     Opened by Yellowstone County Commissioners
Wise Lane is an official county road leading to the north bank of the Yellowstone River between Billings and Laurel. In addition to leading to the river, PLWA research indicates it also leads to an important public island at that point. The road was created when “Petitioned” by citizens in the early part of the last century. Sadly, it was unilaterally closed by the adjacent landowner in the 1980’s.PLWA had been unsuccessfully talking with the Yellowstone County Commissioners for years on this issue. However, in 2010 PLWA took direct action to again notify the commissioners of the continued closure and demand action. Finally, in a meeting with the Commissioners in early November of 2010, the Commissioners agreed there was no doubt that the road was an illegally blocked, official county road.   ... (more)


Perkins Gulch Road (2010)

     Schillo v. Lampert
Montana Third Judicial District Court, Deer Lodge County - Judge Ray Dayton Although PLWA was not a party to this action, the results were extremely favorable to the cause.It involved closure of a road leading to private property of the Schillo's , other parties, and the national forest. The plaintiffs made the case that the road had been in existence since 1869, and that they and other parties had used the road without permission since the 1800's. The uses included, logging, stock movement, and hunting. The court found that clear and convincing evidence had been presented to prove a prescriptive easement existed on the road through "open, notorious, exclusive, adverse, continuous and uninterrupted" during the 5 year statutory period." (These are the esoteric and arcane legal tests of a prescriptive easement. ) The court examined testimony proving public use from the late 1800's up through the time when the Lampert's locked the gate.   ... (more)


Bridge Access Bill Passed in 2009

     An Important Part of Stream Access
Even though the stream access legislation had survived challenge all the way up to the U S Supreme Court, the efforts of those trying to defeat it focused on blocking access at bridges. Soon one landowner with three bridges over one river became the focal point. At the forefront of the conflict over stream access at bridges runs the Ruby River, a small tributary of the Beaverhead that flows through four iconic, pine-covered mountain ranges in Madison County. Access to the Ruby has been challenging since early problems in 1995.Those problems persisted, and in 2000 another Montana Attorney General Joseph Mazurek issued an Opinion on stream access at bridges specifically to address the controversies stemming from access at the Ruby River. In it, he upheld the legal concepts for which PLWA and other groups have been fighting for years. In essence, Mazurek held that the public “may gain access to streams and rivers by using the bridge, its right-of-way, and its abutments” (Mont.   ... (more)
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Mitchell Slough - 2008

     A natural side channel of the Bitterroot
In a unanimous decision of Nov 17 ,2008 the Montana Supreme Court decided the Mitchell Slough is open to recreation under the state’s stream access law. The court ruled the 16-mile long slough/side channel roughly followed the century old historic course of a waterway and therefore was subject to public access and permitting like other natural waterways. Local ag interests and residents of an affluent subdivision which was crossed by the side channel , had closed access, claiming the slough was essentially a ditch belonging to them . They claimed their improvements on the ditch changed the nature of it to the point that it was not subject to stream access law. The Bitterroot River Protection Association argued that the "slough" was, and remains, a natural side channel of the Bitterroot branching from and returning to the main stem of the river. Montana FWP joined in the suit and argued that if landowners could manipulate waterways, they then could get them declared "not natural" and subsequently declared private property The decision overturned two earlier rulings by state district courts that ruled the slough was not a “natural, perennial-flowing stream.” If these decisions had not been overturned , the implications for stream access could be very dangerous.   ... (more)
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Circle R River Ranch - 2008

     State creates 9000 acre Public Wildlife Habitat
The Circle R River Ranch and adjacent BLM land sit along nearly 5 miles of the north bank of the Yellowstone River, 30 miles east of Billings and northwest of Pompeys Pillar National Monument.Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks purchased the ranch for $5,298,300, which is $267,000 less than its appraised value and nearly $1 million less than the $6.25 million listed price. The money came from a combination of sources, including FWP's Habitat Montana program and the Governor's Access Montana Initiative. Habitat Montana is funded exclusively by hunting license fees. It is now called the Yellowstone River Wildlife Management Area . The new state park includes 3,976 deeded acres, 621 acres of leased State School Trust land managed by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and 69 acres of federal Bureau of Land Management land.   ... (more)
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A CASE WITH STATEWIDE IMPACT. In 2004 Mr. James Cox Kennedy, a major stockholder in the Cox Communications empire and owner of a 3,200 acre ranch on the Ruby river in Madison County took action to stop the public from entering the river on his property. Three public road bridges cross the Ruby river on the ranch and had been used frequently by anglers for decades. Fences at the bridge abutments on Duncan Road , Lewis Lane , and Seylor Lane were wired up to keep people from accessing the river - including electric fences at some places. This infuriated local anglers and floaters who organized a symbolic “float in” to bring attention to the situation. PLWA, not wanting to see this go unchecked brought action against the Madison County Commissioners to require them to stop Mr.   ... (more)
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State Land Northwest of Billings (2008)

State lands are by law open to recreational public access unless very special safety issues dictate otherwise. However , State Land Sections 8 and 20 northwest of Billings had been closed by the local DNRC office for the better part of 20 years. DNRC Area Office Manager, Dick Moore made a decision on July 22 ,2008 to open the sections to the public. PLWA and PLWA members have been lead advocates for this opening. Because of their close proximity to Indian Cliffs and Lone Eagle Subdivisions, hunting will be restricted to archery. Both sections are bisected by Highway 3. Section 8 is bounded on the North by Alkali Creek Road.   ... (more)
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Carten Creek Road (2008)

     Settlement Reached
Carten Creek Road near Gold Creek is a county road that had been used for decades to access a state section and a large block of BLM land. In 2003 a new owner installed locked gates at both ends of the road. This was a blatant attempt by a private party to privatize public land by blocking access. The Carten Creek Protective Association working with the Powell County Commissioners and private parties brought suit to challenge this closure and were successful in getting a temporary injunction keeping the road open in mid 2007 . On April 29, 2008 a settlement was reached in a public access case involving Carten Creek Road. The road is used for logging, mining activities, recreational use and access to private property, and in this case, Abel Trust and the Dutton Hereford Ranch sought to have the road declared private and not open to the public. Under the settlement the road will eventually be closed and a according to a press release by the Powell County Attorney's Office, the public will use Brock Creek Road instead.   ... (more)


Alexander Road (2007)

     PLWA and The Billings Rod and Gun Club
Alexander Road leading to a state section just north of Billings was closed at the request of landowners a number of years ago. PLWA took the lead and with cooperation from other groups, prevailed with the Yellowstone County Commissioners to have the road be reopened to the corner of the state section . The FWP working with Montana DNRC and PLWA volunteers have opened a parking lot at the corner of the state section. This now opens 640 acres of state land for hunting, hiking, and wildlife watching neat the state’s largest urban area.   ... (more)


Highland Road (2007)

     Historic access restored
(Butte -Silver Bow county – 2007 ) Although the Highland Road had been open to the public since 1866. the C bar D ranch and the ranch owner locked up a gate, informing the public that the road was now private. The ranch owner advertised the ranch for sale at $4,000.000 hoping to capitalize on private access to thousands of acres of public land. PLWA officer Tony Schoonen spearheaded community action which resulting in Butte-Silver Bow commissioners voting unanimously to officially designate Highland Road as a county road and open to the public. In late 2007, District judge Kurt Krueger ruled that the county had acted within its jurisdiction to remove gates and locks from the well traveled route.   ... (more)



On December 12, 2007 the Fergus County Commissioners recognized County Road 606 as a county road as petitioned from Middle Bench County Road to Surenough Road . Road 606 had been padlocked up by a private party . PLWA attorney Devlan Geddes was hired by a group of citizens to stop the closure. The evidence was so overwhelming the defendants accepted the commissioners decision and chose not to go to court. Revised Statute 2477 ( "RS2477") , which presumptively creates a right of way for roads constructed on public federal land prior to 1976 was used to support the case. Because the dispute was between private parties, and did not involve access to public land, PLWA was not a party to the action. However, it is a great text book example of how citizen action can defeat illegal road lock ups .   ... (more)
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Bundy Bridge Fishing Access Site (2006)

     An Island returned to public ownership
Recreationists are now able to use the Fishing Access Site and a new boat ramp on the Yellowstone river near Pompey’s Pillar National Monument . PLAAI (Now "PLWA") working with Magic City Fly Fishers, Billings Rod and Gun Club, and others were able to determine that the island on which the site is located was , in fact, owned by the BLM. It had been claimed by a private party . This was the culmination of a five year effort .   ... (more)
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Bundy Bridge Access - 07/11/2009


Jellison Road (2005)

     800 public acres opened near Billings
The Jellison Road once served as an access to a section of Montana State School Trust Land near Billings. Back in 1964 County Commissioners closed the road crossing state land. In 2005 PLWA requested that the closed portion of the road be reopened for public use. Due to the efforts of PLWA and the Magic City Fly Fishers the road is now open to over 800 acres of state land with more than one half mile of frontage on the Yellowstone River.   ... (more)


Cherry Creek in Madison County

     opening access to anglers
The fence that restricted recreationists from access Cherry Creek where it flows into the Madison River was removed giving unrestricted access to the recreational corridor along the creek for approximately one mile, and then access at the bridge under Montana Stream Access Law. This was an out of court settlement of the Turner Land Exchange that PLAAI ( now "PLWA" ) had contested in the courts.   ... (more)


Big Elk Canyon

     North End of Crazy Mountains
( North end of Crazy Mountains – 2006 ) Senator Conrad Burns inserted a rider into an appropriations bill granting a rancher outfitter out of Two Dot, access to large areas of the national forest across public land, without granting reciprocal access to the public. President John Gibson led the successful fight and large scale PLWA lobbying effort to get this removed . Had it gone through, the rancher would have made his nearly private access to almost 10,000 acres permanent, and would have presented the bill for the EIS to the public. (See also story in billingsgazette.   ... (more)


Roads to Public Land or Water Protected

     Victory in 2005 legislature
With the support of PLAAI and other sporting organizations, legislation was passed in the 2005 legislature which prohibited abandonment of highways providing recreational access to public lands or waters unless another road provides substantially the same access. (HB269) Here is a portion of the resulting statute :Montana Code Annotated (Montana Law) 2007 60-2-107. Abandonment of highways -- exchange of roadways -- public notice required. (1) Except as provided in 60-4-213 through 60-4-218, the commission may abandon highways on the federal-aid systems and state highways. (4) The commission may not abandon a highway, road, or right-of-way used to provide existing legal access to public land or waters, including access for public recreational use as defined in 23-2-301 and as permitted in 23-2-302, unless another highway, road, or right-of-way provides substantially the same access. Caveat : Provided for information only. Always seek appropriate legal advice before taking any legal action .   ... (more)


Dillon Area

     Opening of State Section 36
A agreement was reached with two landowners near Dillon to open state section #36 to the public, plus much of adjacent private lands. The road will be jointly built by the landowners.   ... (more)


State School Trust Lands

     Opening 5.2 million acres for recreation
( 1988 )As part of the original statehood action 5.2 million acres were deeded to the State of Montana to be used for school funding . . These lands are leased for farming, ranching, and logging. Prior to 1988, a citizen who wanted to recreate on school trust lands had to get permission from the lessee. This was often difficult because many lessees had contracted with outfitters or restricted access to friends or relatives. In 1988, two members of Public Lands/Water Access Association, Tony Schoonen and Jack Atcheson, filed a lawsuit against the State Public Land Department to open these public lands to the public.   ... (more)
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Bridge Replacements and Access

     A Sream Access Issue
Prior to the 2005 legislature, The Department of Transportation was under no obligation maintain stream access when replacing a bridge . In fact, when negotiating right-of way for new bridges, MDT was negotiating away access to save money. PLWA I working with MWF and other sporting organizations was instrumental in getting legislation (HB269) signed into law requiring MDT to insure that access at new bridges could be no less that at the old bridge. Here is a portion of the resulting statute from the 2007 Montana Code Annotated (Montana Law ) .Montana Code Annotated (Montana Law) 2007 60-2-107. Abandonment of highways -- exchange of roadways -- public notice required. (1) Except as provided in 60-4-213 through 60-4-218, the commission may abandon highways on the federal-aid systems and state highways.   ... (more)


Montana Stream Access Law

     The Best in the West
In the late 1970’s , harassment of anglers and floaters on Dearborn and Smith Rivers lead to a lawsuits by which culminated in a historically important Montana Supreme Court ruling . One of the cases involved the Dearborn River and the late Michael Curran of Wolf Creek . The other involved the Beaverhead River and Lowell Hildreth of Dillon. Attorney Jim Goetz working with PLWA members Tom Bugni, Jerry Manley , and Tony Schoonen in the name of the Montana Coalition for Stream Access, prevailed in both cases. In 1984, after an unsuccessful attempt had been made to resolve the issue in the legislature, the Montana Supreme Court ruled “The public has the right to use Montana’s rivers and streams that are capable of recreational use, up to the ordinary high water mark.”. ( It is interesting to note that the unsuccessful legislation asked only for access to the larger navigable rivers.   ... (more)
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Turley Lease - Bull Mtns Section

     DNRC denies closure
DNRC denies closure of Bull Mountain area state section.PLWA testifies at hearing.On July 27th 2012, the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation formally denied a nearby landowner’s request for recreational closing of the state section 36 in T7N R28E . (This is in the north end of the Bull Mountains about 10 miles south southeast of Roundup. ) The ruling against the landowner Michael Turley was made by - Southern Area Manager Matt Wolcott after a hearing a few weeks prior. Four members of PLWA testified at the hearing in addition to several local hunters. These hunters testified that they had been repeatedly harassed by Mr.   ... (more)


Trail Creek Trail –

     “Old Indian Trail” opened
(Madison county – 1988 ) The opening of this trail was one of the earliest projects of the Public Land Access Association . Closed by a New York businessman, it lead to the “ Cowboy Heaven” east of Ennis lake. PLAAI (now "PLWA" ) initiated legislation and won the judgment. Following the court order, Montana Power and BLM financed construction of a handicapped fishing access site and a trail head which exist to this day.   ... (more)


German Gulch Road

     Road kept open
(2005)The road, near Fairmount Hot Springs, leading to the Hye Rye Ranger Station and the Mount Haggin Wildlife Area was locked up by a privatge landowner. PLAAI (now "PLWA" ) working with local sporting clubs and the Goetz law firm ,supplied the Silver Bow authorities the information necessary to verifying public status of the road. Evidence was overwhelming and no lawsuit was required. Commissioners agreed and the gate and signs were removed.   ... (more)


Big Hole River

     PLWA works with BLM to open road
PLAAI (now "PLWA") worked with BLM to open road along lower end of Big Hole River.New gates were installed and the locks removed.   ... (more)


Washington & Jefferson Gulch

     Outfitter tries to restrict access
(Powell County – 1998 )These roads leading to extensive public lands in the Lincoln Ranger District , were padlocked closed by a landowner outfitter . After extensive research by PLAAI (now "PLWA" ) the status of the roads as public roads was acknowledged by the county attorney, and action taken by the sheriff to keep the roads permanently open.   ... (more)


South Cottonwood Canyon

     Bozeman's own mini-wilderness
(Gallatin County - 1983) The road leading to a spectacular canyon just a few miles southwest of Bozeman had been illegally closed by a landowner for over 20 years. Efforts by a PLWA member with a cabin permit in the area resulted in a ruling by a district judge that the road was a prescriptive easement right of access. Now an established county road leads to a trailhead and 20,00 acres of public land. Bozeman’s own mini--wilderness is permanently open for to public access .   ... (more)


Scenic View Road

     Judge orders pre-trial mediation
Judge orders pre-trial mediation on Scenic View Terry Tribune: 3/2/2011 http://terrytribune.com/node/806 Prairie County officials will take part in a court ordered mediation later this week, in an attempt to bring resolution to a three-year dispute over public access on Scenic View Road, according to Prairie County Attorney Becky Convery. The pre-trial mediation, ordered by District Court Judge Richard Simonton, will take place Friday, March 4 in Billings. Retired District Court Judge John Christensen will act as the mediator between the county and Michael and Terry Karrels. Confidential settlement papers have been submitted by both sides to Christensen. “I think the county is very hopeful that we will settle this matter in mediation,” Convery said Tuesday morning. Convery, along with commissioner Todd Devlin and co-counsel Devlan Geddes of Bozeman will represent Prairie County.   ... (more)



     Commission filing compaint.
IMPORTANT LOCAL ATTRACTION CLOSEDPrairie County commissioners are taking action approximately 2 years after a landowner erected a gate, installed a cattle guard and posted a sign across a road that leads to a popular scenic overlook northwest of the town of Terry. (As of April 2010 the gate is still locked.) Note that in the latest article written in February of this year, the county attorney is saying the county is suing the landowner Karrels ("filing a complaint") in order to resolve status of the road. To that end they have engaged a Dell, Mont. lawyer, Wally Congdon . PLWA is closely following this case. The Terry Tribune website has all the articles written about the road closure.   ... (more)
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Public Land/Water Access Association Inc. or PLWA, is a citizen group organized and operated under the Montana nonprofit corporation act.

Articles and Information on this site represent the opinion of the writer and are not intended as legal advice. Legal counsel may be needed in dealing with specific access situations and issues.
      PLWA.ORG   -   Public Land & Water Association