UPOM Comments on EQC HJ 13 Road & Access Study

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"Porcupine Trail" by Elliot P. is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Environmental Quality Council has spent a good part of their time during the interim in putting together a study to assess access on public land in Montana, in particular on how road closures on federal land have affected access.  Their study also looks at elk distribution and how less access may have affected elk harvests.  A copy of the draft report can be found here.

And below you can read the comments that we submitted to the committee:

Elections Matter, Ep. 1 – Legislative attempts to seize your property

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Photo credit: Kelly Minars

Elections Matter is a series of articles about issues from the 2015 Montana Legislature that were decided by only a few votes.  The objective of the Elections Matter series is to underscore why it’s so vitally important to elect officeholders who support our rights to own, use, and enjoy our property.

Should landowners in Montana have to apply for permission from their county governments before placing a new gate on their property?  Of course not, such a scenario seems nonsensical.  But that’s exactly what would have resulted had legislation by a pair of Great Falls lawmakers been enacted last year.

House Bill 286, sponsored by Rep. Tom Jacobson (D), would have required a landowner to file a notice of intent with the county commission for any planned “fence, barrier, or sign” to be installed on a road on his property.  From there, the law would have required the landowner to appear before the commission in a public hearing to justify the planned addition and provide evidence to prove ownership of the road in question.  And the kicker, any road on your property would be assumed to be a public road unless you convince the commissioners otherwise.

In other words, the commission would be given the power to deny you the right to put up a gate anywhere on your property.  Members of the general public would be given the power to weigh in on whether you should be allowed to do so.  And your property would be considered open for public access unless you can convince the commission otherwise.

It seems like a completely ridiculous idea, but believe it or not this bill died on tie vote in Committee.

What’s worse, a companion bill, HB 304, sponsored by Rep. Mitch Tropilla (D), would have imposed a $500 per day fine on a landowner who keeps a gate closed without getting the commission’s permission.

Vilifying, suing Montana ranchers no way to improve access

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“Respect for private property is essential to Montana’s outdoor way of life …”

So says a report published by Montana Wildlife Federation and its affiliate, Public Land and Water Access Association.

Montanans would be better served if MWF and PLWA actually demonstrated some respect for private property rights, rather than paying lip service to it while agitating for the confiscation of thousands of acres of private land every year through questionable political and judicial means.

LA Times: Supreme Court deals setback to rails-to-trails movement

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“The Supreme Court dealt a setback Monday to the popular redevelopment trend of transforming abandoned railroad lines into public bike paths, ruling that buyers of such lands are not required to continue granting a federal right of way…

“In an 8-1 decision, the justices ruled in favor of Marvin Brandt, a Wyoming man who controls 83 acres of land that was formerly used by the Wyoming and Colorado Railroad, located near the Medicine Bow National Forest. When the U.S. Forest Service told Brandt that the government retained the railroad’s right of way across his land and planned to use it for a bike trail, he filed suit.

“Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the Railroad Right of Way Act of 1875 gave the rail lines a temporary easement across the land, but once the rail line was abandoned and the property was sold, the government no longer had a right of way.

“So when the Wyoming and Colorado Railroad abandoned the line in 2004, ‘Brandt’s land became unburdened of the easement, conferring on him the same full rights’ to keep others off his private property, Roberts said.”

Click here for the full story in the LA Times.