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Swimming Woman Road Settlement (2011)
Swimming Woman County Road UpdateWhy the public needs to be ever vigilant about our public access
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.
In 2011, flooding damaged the road to the extent that it was impassable. The county gave the landowners an option of rebuilding along its existing route, which ran next to the Lazy S Ranch residence, or move the road to the west away from the creek on easement through the Lazy S. But the ranch owners questioned whether the county had a legal easement and wanted the road closed. Research, aided by PLWA's Bernie Lea, showed 1933 documentation that the county had a legal right and easement to in its existing location, establishing a county road through the private property, providing public access to our “forest reserve” public lands. After 2 years, Swimming Woman roadwork was completed and then opened in October 2013.
However, In 2011, the Wilks Brothers purchased land accessed by the road just north of the Montana DNRC parcel, at a cattle guard crossing on the public county road, We don’t know when it got there , but in 2015 N-Bar Private Property “No Trespassing” sign was found right next to the road at the cattle guards - an apparent violation of Montana code. MCA 45-8-115 states that it is illegal to post on state or federal land, to restrict access or use of state or federal land. MCA 45-6-201 states that a landowner cannot place a sign closer than 30 feet of the centerline of the roadway where it enters the private land. The illegal sign was about 12 feet from centerline, giving the appearance that to continue on Swimming Woman Road, crossing the cattle guard, you would be trespassing on the Wilks private property.
In early July, 2015, Montana conservation hunter, Kathryn QannaYahu, was investigating access issues and documented the illegally posted sign. The Golden Valley County Sheriff was contacted and provided with photographic and GPS documentation of the Wilks illegal sign. August 2015 she physically checked the Swimming Woman Road and found the illegal sign had been removed from the road easement and moved to a legal distance from centerline, ensuring that the public's access is no longer in question or obstructed . Many thanks to her and the county Sheriff for their work.
“The price of victory is eternal vigilance” Anon.
Swimming Woman Road
Swimming Woman County Road Sign
Wilks NBar No Trespassing sign