In the latest episode of a long running dispute, Butte District Judge Kurt Kruger found that roads leading to both the lower and upper branches of the Modesty Road remain “dedicated to public use”.
Modesty Road connects to about 12,000 acres of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, and a number of otherwise difficult to access lakes.
Signs will have to be installed noting that the land surrounding the road is private.
At issue was a Modesty Road gate on the Letica Ranch. The road was established in the 1800s, but had been shut down for 30 years. The ruling determined that the lower portion of the road began as a county road and was never abandoned by the county, and that the upper portion of the road was a “public preservation easement”, a classification that relies upon continuous public use and an assumption of public control.
The primary litigant in this case was Anaconda Deerlodge County. Kudos to them for the guts to represent their county citizens! Other counties need to go with this kind of chutzpah. Much of the research was done by folks from the Skyline Sportsmens Association of Butte and the Anaconda Sportsmens Club. PLWA is happy to provide support for local efforts as much as possible, and in this case provided expert witness testimony by Bernie Lea. It was a great collaborative effort and just one more chink in the armor to defend against illegal usurpation of the public estate.
The full story is in the Butte Montana Standard of October 14, 2014.