Stream access proponents claim win in bridge case over Ruby River

by Brett French, Billings Gazette

“Stream access proponents are hailing a judge’s Wednesday ruling as a victory for public access at a long-contested Madison County bridge.

District Court Judge Loren Tucker determined that the public easement for the Seyler Lane bridge across the Ruby River extends 5 feet past the bridge abutments.

‘This is a win because people can get to the water,’ said John Gibson, president of the Public Land/Water Access Association.

Opponents

PLWA’s opponents in the case seemed less certain of the judge’s ruling.

‘It’s not clear if that grants public access or not,’ said Reed Watson of the Bozeman-based Property and Environment Research Center, which had sided with Madison County in the dispute against PLWA.

Also intervening on the county’s side were the Montana Stockgrowers Association and James Cox Kennedy, the billionaire chairman of Cox Enterprises.

Whether the ruling ends a 12-year-long court fight is unknown, but for now the PLWA is savoring the victory.

‘If we hadn’t fought this, I’m afraid we’d be looking at “No Trespassing” signs and electric fences across the state,’ Gibson said. ‘Somebody had to stop these people.’ ”

Seyler Lane
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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.

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