by E. Donnall Thomas (Don Thomas), Outside Bozeman
“Seyler Lane isn’t much of a road. It isn’t even much of a lane, and chances are most of us never would have heard of it except for three accidents of geography. First, Seyler Lane is a public road with an established prescriptive easement. Second, it crosses the Ruby River by way of a bridge, a popular point of river access for anglers and recreational floaters. Third, the land surrounding the bridge is owned by James Cox Kennedy. Couple these facts with Kennedy’s wealth and arrogance and pit them against the determination of a small group of Montanans daring enough to believe that the public should actually be able to utilize public resources, and you have the makings of a legal storm that has rocked the state to its core.
The legal history will emerge in due course. Since I don’t like reading court cases any more than you do, let’s meet the cast of characters first.
Wearing the white hat—Montana’s very own Public Land and Water Access Association (PLWA from here on in), a group of unpaid volunteers that for years has played a crucial role in reopening illegally blocked access to public lands and waters throughout the state. Most Montanans wouldn’t realize how much public land access has been denied this way save for efforts by PLWA. Although basically a ragtag guerilla group fighting an odds-against battle against powerful, well-financed interests, its record of success in the courts has been remarkable.”