Sixteen Mile Creek Easement

Efforts underway since 2006 to acquire 5 miles of railroad right-of-way stretching west from Ringling along Sixteen mile Creek, and accessing an otherwise isolated section of DNRC land for another mile, are now nearing conclusion. Funding has been provided by the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, and the land is under contract with the Western Rivers Conservancy to act as an intermediary. It’s now up to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks to complete the land acceptance process and close the deal

However, we understand local landowners appealed the EA with FWP, and have raised legal issues challenging validity of access to property. We understand the Conservation Trust running out of patience with funding commitment. At best we may have one more year to make this happen.

Past public support from sportsmen for this project has been overwhelmingly positive, and essential in moving it forward. A February/March Northwest Fly Fishing article on Sixteenmile Creek mentions this acquisition and quotes a FWP staffer saying “The proposed project generated more public comments than any other project in my entire career.” Your continued support will help make fishing access to this fabled and historic water a reality. It’s time to push this to a conclusion.

A second round of public comments closed April 30, 2012. From what we understand thousand of comments were again received and have been evaluated by Region 3 of Montana FWP. We understand the comments have been about 2/3 positive but as usual, the local nearby landowners are negative. FWP staff who are directly involved with this project include Allan Kuser, Pat Flowers, Ray Heagney, and Travis Horton. Jeff Hagener FWP Director, is also well aware of this effort. A “Notice of Decision” on the EA has been approved by R3 director Pat Flowers. This decision is subject to appeal for a decision by FWP Director. We do expect it will be appealed. If the resolution of that appeal is still protested, the matter could be pursued in the courts. After all that, this must be approved by the FWP Commission, and subsequently by the Land Board.

FWP Biologist Ray Heagney, the point person on this at R3, can be reached at 406-994-4042. PLWA member and Big Sky resident Steve Johnson at 406-539-6660 is also active and knowledgeable about the project.

Without the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust this would not have been possible. This trust was set up by Sen. Max Baucus to hold funds coming from sale of Canyon Ferry cabin lot lease holders. PLWA President John Gibson serves on the trust advisory board which recommended allocation of income to this project. The appraised value and purchase price of the property is $315,000.

At the Meagher County Commissioners hearing, some of the locals said the acquisition was a bad deal because “there are no fish in there”. However, here is what a real estate ad for a near by property had to say:

“The live water on the property can only be described as exceptional. It is very rare in Montana to find truly private trout water with Montana stream access laws. Fishing on Sixteen Mile Creek Ranch is virtually private water; anglers can fish this property all season and not see another person, let alone another angler. This is due to the large landowners that surround Sixteen Mile Creek Ranch and the limited access. Pick your favorite dry attractor or terrestrial pattern and head out for a day of some of the best top water action found anywhere. At about 25 feet wide, Sixteen Mile Creek is the classic fishery to wear your wading sandals and walk the creek casting 15 to 30 feet to eager trout. The fish do not pay attention to anglers, thus are quick to take any well-placed offering. “

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.

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.