PLWA officers and President John Gibson have been active in advocating for this major access opening to both public land and water in central Montana. This is both by John’s advancement of funding through his position on the the “Canyon Ferry Trust” advisory board, lobbying for funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and working with Attorney General Bullock in regard to action on the closed gate. Yup, it is a complex situation but don’t give up – read on for more information.
The Smith River canyon running from just north of White Sulpher Springs to just south of Great Falls, is one of great natural features of central Montana. The west side is mainly private land but the east side is primarily Lewis and Clark National Forest. The Tenderfoot creek runs into the Smith, and the South Fork Tenderfoot Creek road opens access to a large chunk of adjacent National Forest. A great opportunity exists to execute a land purchase which would open up even more of the National Forest and add to it.
Tenderfoot Creek Road area is included in a proposed land purchase in which a private land foundation has offered alternate sections of land to the U.S. Forest Service. Funds are available from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. On April 6, 2012 the Forest Service announced that $2 million had been allocated for Part 1 of the project as part of the FY 2012 Land and Water Conservation Fund allocation. Other involved organizations include the Forest Service, the Montana Fish Wildlife Trust (“Canyon Ferry Trust”) and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. We are following this closely and doing all we can to lobby for finalization of the deal!
However, a local landowner/outfitter has placed a locked gate on the county road leading to much of the land involved in this purchase. The Meagher County Commissioners apparently refuse to confront the landowner. Research by the Gallatin National Forest and The State of Montana (Department of Natural Resources & Conservation) shows that the road in question is an official county road, established December 5, 1889 and recorded in the County Commission Journal Book 6, page 22.
PLWA recently received a copy of a letter from Attorney General Steve Bullock’s office to the Meagher County Commissioners relative to the closed road. It included the following, “In order to to ensure public access, this office is prepared to bring litigation if the county is unwilling to fulfill its duties to properly manage the road”. It very satisfying that the Attorney General’s office stepped up to the plate and is resolving this case without PLWA having to pursue further legal action.