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What Others Are Saying About PLWA

From the Fall / Winter 2009 edition of THE DRAKE (A national fly fishing magazine.)

(In regard to the Ruby River / Madison county case.) “The amazing thing is not that PLWA won the case---all the judge did was uphold the law. What’s impressive is that they were ever able to bring it at all, against a man whose resources surely dwarf their own. PLWA is an organizational model that should be copied in every state, as more and more wealthy landowners try turning the West into a series of English chalk streams. There will be plenty more public access battles, that is for sure. And each of them will be expensive. This country fought the Revolutionary War because we figured a monarchy was a pretty lame idea and we preferred independence instead. It’s nice to see at least one small organization that is still willing to fight for it.”

Billings Gazette - 11-6-09

There's an access storm that continues to brew in Montana that may be nearing critical mass.Ranchers and farmers are worried that radical environmentalists and sportsmen are going to demand access to every acre of public land, no matter how remote.Rural counties with tight budgets have little money or inclination to take on landowners when they close off access to public lands.Hunters and anglers are angry that traditional access routes they've used for years can easily be gated and closed off, yet take years and thousands of dollars to reopen, if at all.State legislators are going to have to hammer this issue out. Granted, no matter what they decide, someone will be angry. But the issues are too important to keep ignoring or dealing with on a case-by-case basis.

The Public Land/Water Access Association has been a leader in fighting for public access to public lands, while also recognizing private property rights. Whether some landowners lump them in with the "radical" element, I don't know. But here's a list of what the PLWA is proposing to address the issue of access in Montana. It is taken from their fall 2009 newsletter. The nonprofit group is also seeking a legislative sponsor for their ideas. Are any legislators willing to accept the call?

From Randy Newberg Online publisher of www.onyourownadventures.com "You guys are doing great work. I thank you for your tireless commitment to the preservation of public access in Montana.You have done more for access in Montana, than all the rest of us combined."
From July/August issue of MONTANA SPORTING JOURNAL : "In recent years , the Public Land and Water Access Association has tenaciously fought to maintain and expand access to public lands by combating illegal road closures and working proactively to open routes historically used by the public that have been barricaded or posted by renegade landowners. " (Article by Jack Ballard )


From member Bonnie Pascucci, Billings , MT - July 2009

"I can't think of a better legacy to leave to my (someday) grandchildren than access to public lands in good shape."


From member Dr. Bill Mealer, Bozeman Montana - May 2009

Thanks again for the foresight, dedication, hard work and courage to work for our and my grandchildren's right to enjoy what we fondly call the " Montana outdoors".

I think that conservation is a little like fishing: 10% of the water holds 90% of the fish; 10% of the fisherman catch 90% of the fish. I see that 10% of Montana conservationist hunters and/or fisherman get 90% of the good things done which protect the right to hunt and fish in Montana for the other 90%.


From Member Garry King , Denton Montana - April 2009

"I am a full supporter if PLWA, and take my hat off to each of you for the work you have done for all of us. I am hoping to spread the word to all that PLWA is the single most important force working for the sportsman in Montana and America today. If it were not for your perseverance, we would be like Wyoming. "


From "Southwest Guy" May 8, 2009

It would be wise for ...... the State of Montana (and the citizens of Montana) to purchase as much river access as possible. Well over a century back a few wise national political leaders protected an area we call "Yellowstone National Park". There were those in power that did not want to preserve Yellowstone. Many wanted to chop down her trees, and excavate her minerals. Can anyone imagine what western Wyoming, northern Idaho, and western Montana would be like today without Yellowstone? Hopefully the politicians in Montana, and Wyoming, will wake up and set aside as much potential recreational area as possible. Our children, and their children, and their children will love us for this action. Nothing is more exciting than watching as a 5 year-old lands that first monster 6" trout. Sadly, too many children are locked in prisons we call "homes" and relegated to some stupid computer game. Children that grow up accessing real outdoor recreational areas tend to avoid doing bad things later in their life. Enough said?

Montana Attorney General - Steve Bullock - April 2009

"Every time someone locks a gate leading to public land or water , it makes Montana a little smaller for all of us . "


From " FLY FISHING IN YELLOWSTONE PARK " website - October 2008

"Only vigilance and continued action and involvement will keep our traditions and laws in favor of the general public and not the entitled few. We are reminded of our Samuel Adams quote ". . . it does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds."

.. We take this opportunity to thank the participants in the latest court battle and especially the staff of the non profit organization Public Lands Access Association. Their web site is constantly updated and informative - put it on your feed reader. These folks are hard working, dogged and talented. THANK YOU! "

The Ruby River Decision (bottom of page)


From "TROUT LINE" - newsletter of Montana Trout Unlimited - Fall 2008 - Re: Ruby River Decision :

"..anglers owe a debt of gratitude to to PLWA for taking on this cause. Please contact PLWA at www.plwa.org . Thank them and ask them how you can help the organization."

From The Montana Wildlife Federation - On the Ruby River Decision :

 "River recreationists across the country owe a great debt of gratitude to the dedicated members and leaders of PLWA. Anglers, family water enthusiasts, and floaters- old or young - we should all be allowed to walk on the public right-of -way attached to a public road and bridge to get into public water. There is NO strategy or intent to rob a landowner of any rights or to expand any law, nor does the public want to engage in litigation measures against counties. River recreationists do not want to violate private property rights – we would simply like access to waterways in the least intrusive manner and at appropriate locations that already exist as a public right.

 PLWA, an affiliate of Montana Wildlife Federation is a grassroots 501 (c) 3 organization supported by membership dues and contributions – as is MWF. MWF was one of the original partners that crafted and successfully passed the Montana Stream Access Law and it has favorably advanced every legal challenge upholding the law.

 This legal challenge is precedent setting and far from over! Legal costs are significant. If you support public access at county roads, bridges and public right-of-ways – MWF urges financial support. For more information on PLWA or to make a contribution call John Gibson, (406) 656-0384 or go to: www.plwa.org. "

The Ruby River and the Bridges of Madison County Public Access Lawsuit


From "The Trout Underground"



From the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law


"After numerous postponements, the Public Land/Water Access Association, Inc. (PLAAI or PLWA) will likely have its stream access case heard by the 5th District Circuit Court of Montana before the year is out. Barring legislative resolution in the interim, the precedent set in this case will guide future landowners' decisions to create private waters by fencing out the public, and may determine the future application of the Montana Stream Access Law.

James Cox Kennedy (Atlanta media millionaire of Cox Newspapers fame) has joined as a defendant and filed counter suit to PLAAI's original claim against Madison County for allowing Mr. Kennedy to limit public access to the Ruby River by fencing off access bridges. The dispute arose in 2003 when Mr. Kennedy erected electric fences and other impassable barriers to discourage public access along county bridges at Seylor and Lewis Lane. Kennedy's countersuit alleges that the county's failure to halt public access at county bridges on his property violates his constitutional rights to privately owned property by granting public access without compensation. He seeks a judgment enjoining the public from accessing the Ruby River at any of the county bridges along his 4,000 acre ranch.

The case at bar is the latest in a line of disputes arising when wealthy nonresident landowners attempt to bar public access in Western states traditionally offering unfettered public access. This stance is sharply contrasted with typical Montana landowners' willingness to grant public trespass by permission to hunters, fishermen, and other recreational enthusiasts. Though the case pertains only to Ruby River Access near sparsely inhabited Virginia City, the decision may prove a harbinger for the future of the notably progressive Montana Stream Access Law. Scholars also believe the decision will have implications for the virility and enforceability of the Public Trust Doctrine.

PLAAI is comprised of Montana anglers, hunters, and environmental advocates concerned with public exclusion from traditionally accessible state lands and watersheds. Siding with PLAAI are a number of environmental grassroots organizations determined to overcome Cox's significant financial and legal resource advantage to protect public stream access in Montana."

Vermont Journal of Environmental Law

Sarah K. Stauffer
Lewis & Clark Law School
Portland, OR

In this Comment, Ms. Stauffer highlights the problems associated with recreational stream access in Montana and examines a range of potential solutions. The Comment argues that the state has an affirmative duty to provide for reasonable access to the state’s streams because access is necessary for the public’s enjoyment of its water ownership.


From: Best Fly Fishing Yellowstone.com

Montana River Access: Chalk One Up For the Good Guys

From: AnglingTrade.com

The Access Issue


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

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.
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