"Keeping the public on public lands & waters"


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As part of the original statehood action 5.2 million acres were deeded to the State of Montana to be used for school funding . . These lands are leased for farming, ranching, and logging. Prior to 1988, a citizen who wanted to recreate on school trust lands had to get permission from the lessee. This was often difficult because many lessees had contracted with outfitters or restricted access to friends or relatives. In 1988, two members of Public Land/Water Access Association, Tony Schoonen and Jack Atcheson, filed a lawsuit against the State Public Land Department to open these public lands to the public. They continued on this path and won every motion to dismiss the suit filed by the Stockgrowers and other parties . It appeared that they were on the right track and the issue was picked up by Rep. Dave Brown. who introduced the State Trust Lands legislation that became law. This statute opened up about five million acres of School Trust Lands for recreationists use as well as millions of adjoining acres of BLM and Forest Service land.

In general, these lands are open for recreational access subject to the rules established by the managing agency, the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) . Legally accessible state land is state land that can be accessed by dedicated public roads (roads usable by the public under state or federal law, or which are under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Transportation, or a county or municipal government); public rights-of-way or easements; by public waters such as rivers and streams that are recreationally navigable under section 23-2-302, MCA; by adjacent federal, state, county or municipal land if the land is open for public use, or by adjacent private land if permission to cross the private land is secured from the land owner. Entry from state land onto private land, regardless of the absence of fencing or proper notice by the landowner, without permission from the landowner, is trespassing!

Hunters and anglers have a permit to use these lands for recreational use by virture of purchasing a conservation license. Others must buy a permit from the DNRC.


related articles

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.

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.

    18 more public land issues

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