“… during a public meeting called by an ad hoc group of public land users in 1984 when Gene Hawkes, a former Gallatin National Forest Supervisor, threw his $25 on a table at the Bozeman Public Library and said, ‘Here’s my start-up dues. Let’s organize a public land access group.’
After more people threw their $25 on the table that night, nine of us from Bozeman, Three Forks, and Livingston signed on as Founders and first Board of Directors of the Public Land Access Association. PLAAI was incorporated as a Montana Corporation on April 18, 1985 by the Secretary of State.”
Excerpt of Our Vanishing Roads by Perry Nelson, one of the 9 Founders.
In 1990 the Los Angeles Times Magazine wrote an article on the increasing public lands access issues, especially in Montana. Don’t Fence Me Out by Grace Lichtenstein. PLWA Executive Director Gene Hawkes and President Ron Stevens explained about public land ownership, “It was a warm summer morning, and he and Gene Hawkes were about to show me how one landowner tried to block the public’s entrance to a chunk of Montana that they believe everyone should be able to enjoy. Along a trail between a rocky ridge and granite-faced mountains, we paused to take in the view. ‘See this?’ Hawkes said, sweeping his arm at the landscape. ‘This is your ranch.’
‘All Montanans are ranchers,’ Stevens chimed in. ‘Their ranch is the Big Sky ranch, and it includes 8.1 million acres of BLM land, 10.2 million acres of National Forest and 5.2 million acres of state school-trust land. Our brand is the Flying R, which stands for freedom to recreate.’ ”
President – Lewis E. “Gene” Hawkes, Bozeman (retired Forest Service Supervisor)
Vice President – Perry H. Nelson, Bozeman (retired Fish, Wildlife & Parks)
Treasurer – Richard. F. Creed, Bozeman (retired Forest Service)
Secretary – same as above
William “Bill” A. Fairhurst – Three Forks (Civics)
Mark A. Simonich – Livingston
Robert “Bob” Garner – Bozeman
Sandy Buchaklian – Livingston
Robert Edwin Olson – Livingston
J.L. Lawellin – Livingston (Montana Sportsmen’s Association)
PLAAI later added stream/water access to their mission objectives, changing their name to Public Land/Water Access Association with the acronym of PLWA you see today.
To maintain, restore, and perpetuate public access to the boundaries of all Montana public land and waters.
Public Land/Water Access Association Inc. or PLWA, is a citizen group organized and operated under the Montana nonprofit corporation act. The Internal Revenue Service has made a determination that PLWA qualifies as a tax- exempt organization under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code and that it is a public charity.