08-23-2005, 12:35 AM
Montana steam access comes to for front again...
when i visited montana a few years ago, I heard rumbling and grumbling about this, from folks on both sides of the fence, pun intended... Other's thoughts???
08-23-2005, 10:06 PM
The stream access issue has never gone away in Montana because those landowners who want to prevent folks from using the river (either by floating through in a boat or raft, or by wading) have never stopped trying to get the stream access law overturned.
Mr. H., who is quoted in the article, owned a ranch on the banks of the Beaverhead River and he wanted to get paid a "tresspass fee" for people to float the river through his rather large ranch. He also strung barbed wire accross the river to pucture rafts and damage drift boats (needless to say, this action of his got a lot of folks upset with him because of how dangerous barbed wire accross a navigable stream is). He was never happy with the law or the various court decisions upholding it.
And having a wealthy, non-resident of Montana such as Cox buy a fair sized ranch with a river flowing through it and then blocking access from bridges and the public right-of-way adjacent to public bridges on public roads is also nothing new. What has always surprised me is these folks keep trying to get their way by attempting to get a judge to agree with them, blocking access on public rights of way, using employees to intimidate fishermen or damage fishermen's vehicles, boats, or rafts, and trying to get the legislature to change the law. I suppose if you have a bunch of cash and are used to getting what you want because of it, you feel entitled to doing what you please. Then they run smack into the Montana Stream Access Law, which prevents them from stopping folks from legally using the river between the normal high water marks and find out that most Montanan's don't want the stream access law messed with.
The Ruby River valley has been a problem that has been getting worse over the last 15 years as more non-resident, wealthy folks buy the ranches when the get put on the market. And these folks are advertising "private water" on the Ruby despite their being no rivers in Montana that are private water since the stream access law forbids private ownership of the river.
There have been times before when legislators, fishermen, ranchers, judges, and county prosecutors have gone out to a river in a fairly large number on a designated day to fish and show the new landowner that he doesn't own the river. I suspect it is about to happen in a pretty big way on the Ruby.
Personally, I'd like to see Montana's stream access law replicated around the country because it takes all the ambiguity out of stream access and clearly says the state owns the water and the stream bed up to the high water marks, which it holds in trust for the public.