"Keeping the public on public lands & waters"


Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Email Newsletter
For Email Marketing you can trust

Donate via PayPal

Sand In The Wheels of Justice

Here we go again.

After 10 years of litigation , and a clear decision by the Montana Supreme Court , that Montanan's have right to access rivers and streams from public roads, Madison county has thrown some sand in wheels of justice.

To refresh the readers' memory, in the last 10 years PLWA won court cases and helped pass legislation that solidified the right of recreational stream access from county roads . However, a technical issue on "prescriptive" roads - roads created by public use - was the final chink and went to court as the Seyler Lane case . The case involved a bridge on that road . The Montana Supreme Court ruled that all legal uses including recreation were allowed on that prescriptive right-of-way including the bridge. They sent the case back to district court for determination of the width of the Seyler Lane road based on history and need. The key phrase in their ruling was that it had be "reasonably necessary and convenient" for foreseeable maintenance in the future.

However, according to the Bozeman Chronicle, Madison County Commissioner Dan Happel , apparently speaking for the entire commission , says they don't even need a right-of-way wider than the travel way for maintenance of the bridge . This , of course, does not make common sense , let alone pass legal tests.

As PLWA president John Gibson says :
"How can they claim they can create a safe and convenient public road with something like a 20-feet easement? You're lucky to pass two cars, let alone if someone has a breakdown. Are kids waiting for a school bus to be considered trespassing ? "

"We're asking the attorney general to step in and enforce state law. The commissioners want to say 'we're the monarchs of this county.' But they're not. Not when the state has the ultimate responsibility. If we have to, we will take this back to the Supreme Court ."

related articles

Ruby River Stream Access Victory
( 07/01/2016 )   7/1/2016PLWA, once again, has been victorious in the battle for the public's stream access on the Ruby River, from the Seyler Lane Bridge, likely the original stagecoach route from Salt Lake City, north to Virginia City and Helena.It has been over a decade that PLWA (formerly known as PLAAI) has been involved in a lawsuit over public access to the Ruby River from Seyler Lane and the Seyler Bridge, a public prescriptive easement right-of-way in Madison County.

"Dark Money" Brought to Light
( 07/01/2016 )   The June-July, Newscasts section of Fly Fisherman reported on the recent investigation by Montana's Commissioner of Political Practices, Jonathan Motl, into a dark money campaign that could overturn Montana's Stream Access.Fly Fisherman recounted the Montana Growth Network's campaign contributions to District Judge Laurie McKinnon's run for our Montana Supreme Court.

public land issues

Seyler Lane Update
9/24/2015Seyler Bridge Easement - More Than Just RecreationUpdate - Kennedys attorney requested a postponement of the September 21 hearing.

Tenderfoot - Four Years and Counting
9/24/2015Tenderfoot Creek is a tributary of the Smith River, joining the Smith a mile or so north of Camp Baker.

    18 more public land issues

Madison County Courthouse

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