"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."

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. Let's break this down to bite size pieces.Since 1933, Montana Code Annotated (MCA, law) recognized the public's right to use the water and banks up to the “high water flow line” of “navigable” rivers, streams, and sloughs for fishing. Stream Access and the Public Trust Doctrine even entered into Montana's 1972 Constitutional Convention discussions, adopting two proposed constitutional provisions involving a clean and healthful environment, now a part of the ratified Constitution by the people of Montana. One became an inalienable right – Article 2, Sec.   ... (more)

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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)

Letter to Ducks Unlimted

Mr. Dale Hall November 20, 2015Chief Executive OfficerDucks UnlimitedOne Waterfowl WayMemphis, TN 38120Dear Mr. HallI am president of the Montana Public Land and Water Access Association, PLWA.   ... (more)

Elk Sellers

Montanas big game herds have become big business. Several properties now advertise a hunt for bull elk at $15,000. It might include a trespass fee or a guided hunt but the elk is the product.   ... (more)

This Land is Your Land

The idea has been around for a while now, dating back to the Nevada-based Sage Brush Rebellion of the 1980s. Like a lot of bad ideas, it can be dressed up to look good at first glance: Get those vast, "mismanaged" tracts of western public land out of the hands of the distant, incompetent federal government and into the hands of people who know how to use it right. However, in its current iteration the push to disburse these federal lands represents a greater threat to the future of American hunting than anything the anti-hunters could have come up with in their wildest dreams.   ... (more)

public land news

"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.

West Deer Creek Rd. Now Open!
( 07/15/2015 )   Big Timber, Montana - On Wednesday, July 15, at 9:00 a.m.

know your rights

Caveat and Disclaimer
( 11/28/2008 )   Information on this site is provided as a matter of information and education only. It is not intended to provide legal advice or counsel .

( 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.

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