BUTTE – Conservative property rights groups and conservation organizations have become involved in the bitter, eight-year legal fight over access to Montana streams from bridges.
Two conservative groups – the United Property Owners of Montana and the Political Economy Research Center – have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the case between a sportsmen’s group and Madison County. In addition, Montana Trout Unlimited has entered the fray on the other side to support the Public Lands Access Association in the case.
The lawsuit, originally filed in 2004, was against the county over access to the Ruby River, near Sheridan, from a bridge on the property of James Cox Kennedy, a billionaire media heir. The case prompted the passage of a law by the Legislature that guaranteed bridge access from established county roads, but this year a Madison County district judge ruled that access for recreational use is not guaranteed on roads established by a historic use through a prescriptive easement.
Bruce Farling, Montana Trout Unlimited executive director, said the case has become the latest in a series of attempts to overturn the state’s stream access law. That law guarantees anglers and recreationists the right to access public waters by staying within the ordinary high water mark of rivers and streams.
“They want to wreck the stream access law to keep people off of three bridges,” he said. “It could have some pretty big implications around the state.”
Follow the link to read more. More groups join stream access suit.
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