Affiliate's Corner

PLWA Continues Access Efforts

The MWF Affiliate, Public Land/Water Access Association (PLWA) keeps soldiering along on behalf of sportspersons to ensure public access. They continue to be involved directly or indirectly in several specific issues as well as the general effort to preserve public access and public thoroughfares. A few of the specific issues PLWA is working on include:

Stream Access Gets its Day in Court 2013

Boadle Road (“Sun River Slope Canal Road”) Choteau County photo

The Boadle Road or “Sun River Slope Canal Road” leading to the south side of the Pishkin Reservoir, a Wildlife Management Area, and public lands beyond had been illegally locked off by a private party claiming ownership. PLWA brought suit based on testimony that gas tax money had been used for public maintenance of the road and that it had been used by the public continuously for many years. PLWA won a court decision to get the road open. However, the landowner then went further down the road and blocked it again - beyond the point not included in the court decision. The basic case of illegal closure for the second portion of the road went back to District Court. In June of 2010, the hearing was conducted in the District Court, in Choteau. Finally, in November, the court ruled in favor of PLWA ending nearly a decade of illegal closure.

Wise Lane - Yellowstone County

 Wise Lane, a county road leading to the north bank of the Yellowstone River between Billings and Laurel was unilaterally closed by the adjacent landowner in the 1980s.    PLWA has been working with the Yellowstone County Commission for years; in early November, Commissioners agreed there was no doubt that the road was an illegally blocked, dedicated county road.

Bridge Access - Madison County

 Many folks believe that the debate over public access at county bridges is over, but expensive litigation by PLWA continues in regard to Seyler Lane Bridge. The issues in need of resolve are: the location of the road during the prescriptive period, and the width of the right of way at bridges on prescriptive roads.

Mabee Road - Fergus County

 Running into the Missouri River Breaks from near Roy Montana, the road was barricaded by a landowner/outfitter in 2007.  Despite the presentation of significant evidence by PLWA to the county that the road is both a prescriptive easement and an RS2477 road, Fergus County Commission and County Attorney have deferred from taking action to open the road. 

Scenic View Road - Prairie County

 A 27 page legal brief was filed by Prairie County in late September claiming the road which runs into the Terry Badlands and thousands of acres of public land is indeed public by virtue of a prescriptive easement.  It had been closed by the landowner for the past three years, despite the existence of agreements between the landowner, the county, and the BLM.  Shortly after the filing, BLM officials unilaterally withdrew  a 1965 range improvement agreement at the request of the landowner without consulting the county who provided maintenance and structural improvements to facilitate public usage of the road.

Lodgepole Creek Road - Stillwater County

 PLWA action opened this road in 2008. However, use of the road, which provides access to the entire northeast corner of the Beartooth Absaroka portion of the Custer National Forest, was limited due to the lack of culverts. PLWA provided financial support to purchase the culverts which have now been installed.

Thorgaard Road - Mc Cone County

 PLWA is exploring implications that a landowner has damaged the Thorgard Road roadbed and installed a “private road” sign, even though the county has maintained it as a public road since at least the 1950s. A main artery for firefighting and moving farm equipment, this “gas tax road” provides access to several sections of state and BLM land. The McCone County Commission and County Attorney are aware of this situation but they have offered no action at this time.

 For detailed information on any of these issues, go to the PLWA website. If you have personal knowledge of any of these situations contact PLWA President John Gibson at 406-656-0384 or use the feedback button on PLWA’s website.

Montana Wildlife Federation      5530 N. Montana Ave., Helena, MT 59601      Mailing address: PO Box 1175, Helena, MT 59624
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