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Comments on Mabee Rd. in Blngs Gazette Blog

Who is paid to enforce the law?

County attorney advises against fighting road closure
By Brett French/Gazette Staff

Mar 03, 2010 | 1:56 pm | (9) Comments

Fergus County attorney Thomas Meissner has advised the county's commissioners not to get involved in the Mabee Road closure, according to the Public Land/Water Access Association's latest newsletter.

The PLWA has been urging the county to step up and fight to reopen the road, which access public land in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.

"I am sure there are dozens of roads in Fergus County where the issue of prescriptive use could be argued," Meissner wrote to the commissioners, a copy of which was sent to PLWA's volunteer attorney. "I believe it would be a mistake for the Board of County Commissioners to support one position or the other in these situations."

That prompts the question: If public officials aren't going to fight for the right of the public to access public lands, who will?

You have to wonder if Meissner's advice is given with concern about the cost of fighting such closures, or if he believes it is simply not the county's concern.

Understandably, counties don't have any extra money to litigate such cases, which points to the need for a law establishing that landowners cannot close these access points without prior approval of the county commissioners following a public hearing and by showing just cause. That way, the county can be proactive instead of reactive, and landowners can't simply lock a road because they want to.

Whether you agree with landowners or the public, there has to be a better way to go about this rather than litigating every road closure. Any legislators willing to draft a bill?

billy banger said on: March 3, 2010, 6:19 pm
If there are any state or federal grazing leases behind these closed roads then the landowners should lose their leases

Robert R said on: March 3, 2010, 8:10 pm
I agree that private property owners have the right to what they want with there own land but I feel public land is the public's. We could have all kinds of crazy bills to force access to public lands. If access is denied by a land owner to access public land through his property then that land owner cannot access that land locked public land him self. Maybe the county commissioners should use eminent domain to condemn the land for an access road.

Kay Braddock said on: March 6, 2010, 9:33 am
Billy Banger's comment is interesting. Prairie County has a similar situation - landowner locks up Scenic View Road that runs thru portions of his deeded property and leads to a vast amount of BLM land and a popular Scenic View overlook. The road has been used by the community, maintained with county tax dollars for over 40 years & now we're LOCKED OUT. 2 years - gate remains locked and landowner maintains his BLM grazing leases! WOW! Guess BLM land really isn't public land after all! We're not talking about one allotment here - look at the map - it's a huge amount of land & the overlook provides an absolute stunning view of the Terry Badlands.

laurelite said on: March 6, 2010, 10:25 am
I would like to see the formal, written job description for the Fergus County Attorney, and a copy of any oath he may have sworn when taking the job. Also , the road in question is blocked by the Robins family - big time outfitters in the breaks. Good reason to enact the anti guaranteed license initiative.

tomcat said on: March 7, 2010, 4:27 pm
I=161 passing will help stop this abuse of public roads and public lands. If we start cutting the locks off then the landowner will call the game warden who will come out and write you a ticket. If the road is in dispute the warden cannot write you a ticket because the landowner may or may not own the road. What will then happen is that in order for the landowner to press charges he has to prove he owne's the road which will then put the burden of proof on the landowner. Shifting the court costs and legal fee's on these land grabbers will do wonders to stop this illegal behavior. Cut the locks !

hunter said on: March 7, 2010, 5:01 pm
I wonder if the gazette could get FWP to give us an opinion that the scenario in Tomcats letter is indeed correct?That would be nice although they will probably pass the buck like the county commissioners.

Chuck Feney said on: March 8, 2010, 7:12 am
I'd like to dedicate this poem today to the Robins family, and their clients, who need "special" conditions to be able to say they went hunting.

Big Pimpin' Outfitters Will Lease to Please

In Montana, things have gotten out of hand
With pimpish outfitters leasing up land
For instead of pandering pretty girls,
They sell big antlers and full curls
Because prostituted wildlife is in great demand.

Just like the early Market Hunters of old
Outfitters see wildlife as glittering gold.
They want to increase their yield
From all the beasts of the field
So they'll kill it, if the animal can be sold!

When an outfitter spies a piece of prime ground
He tries his best to get the landowner lease bound
Just like a pimp courting your daughter,
This outfitter intends to slaughter
Every bit of marketable game that's to be found.

Now the outfitters love the guaranteed tag
To help their limited skills clients to bag
All the game that they please
Off of land that they lease
So they can go back to the Big City and brag.

Yes, they sleep on Cabela's sheets of camouflaged flannel
Watching High Fence Horn Porn on their beloved Outdoor Channel
They get excited to blow
All their cash on the show
That promises untouched herds of big horns they can handle!

You see, their john-clients don't hunt out of need.
Instead they've got big Freudian issues to feed.
So the outfitters lock up lots of land
To grease their client's little issue at hand
And in the process, they satisfy their money greed!

But for the outfitters to be able to increase
The amount of land that they have under lease
It's set aside licenses they'd need
If they want to proceed
With their plan that public hunting should cease.

The Game Pimps always work at improving their stature
Every two years they gather at the Helena Legislature
They put on vests, neckerchiefs, and cowboy hats
When they should wear big fedoras, long mink coats, and spats
To get more rights to sell their crimes against nature.

When the Game Pimps hit the Helena scene
They perform like a well oiled machine.
To get more ram, buck, and bull
There's no strings they won't pull
Through the charms of their Lobbyist, Madame Jean!

Now, the average hunters of Montana have had enough
Of putting up with the Game Pimp's land leasing stuff
So they've decided to use the mallet
Of Initiative 161 on the ballot
To drive these New Market Hunter's balls into the ruff.

So if you see the I-161 petition, sign your name
If you value your God given right to hunt game
If you want to be able
To put game on the table,
End the game pimping outfitter's land leasing shame!
Charles Ulysses Feney

tomcat said on: March 9, 2010, 12:28 pm
There does need to be a bill past to stop this bad behavior. A landowner should not be able to close any road unless he does his due diligence. He should have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he in fact owns the road before he can make a claim or lock a gate. This would stop all these greedy self serving land grabbers where their claims are unfounded. The public's property rights are being trampled on and the government is allowing it to happen, this has to stop! A person can not get a ticket for trespass unless the complainant can prove a law is being broken,the burden of proof then falls on the complainant which will then put the financial burden on them.

lefty the cowboy said on: March 9, 2010, 4:38 pm
better late than never, huh, guys? PLPW's emailing this article might draw a few readers.

My guess is the County Attorney is comfortably nestled in the pocket of the landowner(s), and this is a personal opinion disguised as a legal one. I predict PLPW will win this fight! Send money, we're going broke fighting for your right to hunt and fish. I favor I-191, but it will not do much to prevent road closures by wealthy 'come latelys'. We need new legislation for that, too....or we could just insist local authorities follow the law, even when their new benefactors don't like 'em.

Chuck - amusing, but you can do better :o). I keep rolling it around on my tongue, but I just can't rhyme "please" with "lease".

Update 3/10/2010:

As an update to my previous post on the Mabee Road, I received a copy of the Fergus County attorney's letter to the commission detailing his reasoning behind his decision, which sheds more light on the situation.

The county attorney seems to be saying neither side is making a great case so leave the county out of it. Read the letter and let me know what you think.

tomcat said on: March 15, 2010, 1:11 pm
Then the road should remain open as it always was until the landowner can prove beyond a shadow of doubt that he own's it. If he cannot do that then it is a county road. Gas tax and historic records like water rights trump all others. A MONTANA SPORTSMAN'S AND RECREATION Bill of Rights needs to be drafted and enforced so these bogus claims cannot be made.

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