"Keeping the public on public lands & waters"


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"The mission of PLWA is to maintain, restore, and perpetuate public access to the boundaries of all Montana public land and waters."

Hughes Creek Road Victory

After decades of Public Exclusion, Hughes Creek Road VictoryFor over 30 years, the residents of Hughes Creek County Road, in Ravalli County, have enjoyed exclusive access to thousands of acres of our public lands. That just ended on January 25, 2017.The Ravalli County Commission voted to reject a landowner petition to abandon a portion of Hughes Creek County Road. Following the majority vote, on January 25, 2017, to reject the petition, the Ravalli Commissioners finally had to deal with the illegal gate that had obstructed the public from their lands, which previous commissions has simply ignored, in what was described as a “kicking the can down the road” situation.The grueling meeting lasted about 4 ½ hours, hearing landowners desperately try to claim their right to privatization, with one landowner sharing how his young daughter has grown up on these lands, portrayed as a mountain goat, an opportunity the public has been denied.Public lands advocates who succinctly and specifically advocated for the public's rights and the law were: Dave Campbell, retired USFS District Ranger from that area; Jim Olson for Ravalli County Fish & Wildlife, also a PLWA member; USFS District Ranger Ryan Domsalla and PLWA attorney, Kyle Nelson, from the Goetz, Baldwin & Geddes law firm. Like a wrestling tag team, each member calmly hammered the facts and law before the reluctant county commissioners who seemed unaware of the “legal significance of a public highway created by statutory petition”, as well as it's 60-foot right-of-way as a matter of law.   ... (more)

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take action

Have you traveled the Mabee Road?

01/20/2017We need your help right now…We need your help again, but this time we're not asking for money. In the process of a court case the defendants want to know if any PLWA members have traveled the Mabee Road, just north of Roy, Montana, in Fergus County. If you have, please contact us at membership@plwa.   ... (more)

Ruby River Stream Access Case is Finally Over !

It is Over. The controversy on the Ruby River, a legal battle that that has continued for nearly twenty years, has finally been resolved. The last date for either side to appeal the case to a higher court has passed.   ... (more)

Did You Know You Have A Public Trust Duty?

There's some misinformation floating around this election cycle, some candidate co-opting of the stream access issue, as well as some general lack of understanding of how Montana achieved some of our recreational access. We didn't have it handed to us on a silver platter, it was fought for and at times paid for by some key individuals who were passionate about access. We thought it a good time to shine a light on some truths, otherwise, we could be looking at an “Access” Ground Hogs Day in our future.   ... (more)

Illegal Road Closures in Montana

“The time has come the walrus said, to speak of many things”. We in the Public Land Access Association (PLWA) say, “OK let’s speak about roads.”As the reader might know, our organization has been dealing with road and trail access to public land and water for over thirty years.   ... (more)

public land news

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.

Boadle Road Settled After 15 Years of Litigation
( 10/26/2015 )   Nov. 15, 2015On October 15th the Montana Supreme Court delivered a stunning 8 to 1 decision Boadle Decision in favor of PLWA in a case that has been around for 15 years.

Swimming Woman County Road Update
( 09/01/2015 )   Swimming Woman Road provides one of the few access points to the south side of Big Snowy Mountains and is popular route for public hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. The public's right to access the road has had to be fought for in 2008, 2011 and again in 2015.

know your rights

( 12/16/2007 )   If you encounter a closed road or trail ( which is obviously not a federal highway , a state highway, or a city street ) and you believe it may be a legally accessible road, here are some things you can do to check it out :FIRST, is it in a National Forest ? If so check with the Regional Forester office to see if a private easement or fee tile exists.

( 12/16/2007 )   STEPS TO DETERMINE THE STATUS OF POSSIBLE COUNTY OR RS2477 ROADS1) Determine the exact location, including the county, township and range, section and quarter-sections (NW1/4, SW1/4, etc.) of the road in question.

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.

Tenderfoot Acquisition Advances
Tenderfoot Acquisition AdvancesThis is truly one of the most significant public access actions by a government agency - working with private entities - of all time.

Sixteenmile Creek
Updated June 1,2013Efforts underway since 2006 to acquire 5 miles of railroad right-of-way stretching west from Ringling along Sixteen mile Creek, and accessing an otherwise isolated section of DNRC land for another mile, are now nearing conclusion.

    16 more public land issues

Public Access Objectives

  • Educating and informing the public on their ownership and access rights.
  • Monitoring public access routes and identifying access problems.
  • Initiating legal action when access has been illegally blocked.
  • Monitoring public land sales exchanges, and purchases to insure that no transfers are made without full consideration of conservation and recreational values.
  • Initiating programs and policies to expand public land and water access.
  • Pursuing every legal and ethical avenue to protect and maintain your access to public lands and waters.

What can PLWA Do For You?

Primarily we help hunters, anglers, and other recreationists fight back against the tide of privatization of public land and waters. Montana is changing and part of this change comes from outside interests who think they can grab “ownership” of a river or public land with "No Trespassing" signs, orange paint, barb wire, chains, lawsuits, legislation and other tactics. It takes an organization with “pit bull” mentality like PLWA to deal with these situations. In many cases we are the ones who initiate appropriate legal action and are on the firing line.

PLWA is an all volunteer organization with little overhead. Your donations are almost totally used to press the issue of maintaining access. Member contributions are our only source of income. Usually the deep pockets are on the other side.

We hope you'll take a moment today to join us in our mission to retain the traditional value of access to the public landscapes which make Montana such a special place.

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