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What Others Are Saying About PLWABillings Gazette - Novemeber 6, 2009
The Fight for Access
Brett French - 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?
• Legislation that would require anyone desiring to close a road that is also used by the public to appear before the local road authority with compelling evidence that the road is private and not public. The appearance would have to occur prior to any signing or barrier to travel being created. The local road authority would advertise the meeting to discuss the closure to allow opponents a chance to object.
• Land management agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Montana Department of State Lands should be prepared to claim prescriptive rights in the name of the public on access roads leading to the land and water they administer.
• A willingness by the agencies to enter into any proposed road or trail closure early with strong arguments that access is critical to their land management programs. (Some landowners, however, are willing to grant administrative access to the agency but not public access.)
• The agencies should close private roads on public land. In other words, any road unavailable to the general public but used by a few adjacent landowners and outfitters should be closed. The exception would be for limited entry by permit holders to manage permits.
• Land management agencies should not issue outfitting permits to those who block access to large sements of public land.
Posted in Gazoutdoors on Friday, November 6, 2009 11:05 am
Sunny Hill Rd. Closure Sheridan County