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Old 03-15-2013, 03:59 PM
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Default Re: Montana Stream Access Law in front of Supreme Court ... AGAIN

Hey Dan,

Some years ago I had a great fishing buddy here. One February we left Missoula every Sunday morning and drove to the upper end of Rock Creek and would fish all day - which in February is only about 6 hours - covering a mile or two of river each time. Next time we would go in where we had ended the week before, we wanted to cover one long section of river. It was great until about the 4th week we went up, the weather was nicer and there were a few other fisherman around. We pulled off the road at a spot where the river is directly below the road grade and slid down into the river. There is also a nice old ranch in that section. Well Steve got in front of me heading downstream through the ranch...no big deal, right? Hell it's ROCK CREEK, and access is unlimited. Well we'd just started fishing and I look up and Steve is talking to someone, the body language is confrontational. Then Steve is heading back toward me and the road.

This landowner yelled at him for basically being from Missoula. "You guys think you can just come out here from Missoula and fish whenever you want to...then YOU tell us to stop irrigating in the summer for the fish...well I'm giving the fish a break now, the river is closed!" That is paraphrasing of course, it was 12 years ago, but I do remember well because Steve was frazzled.

Those were some bad drought years and the rivers were not in good shape a few summers in row then. Tension and emotions were high. If you live in Missoula you are automatically guilty by association with all the "tree huggers" enviros "green nazis" etc. It's really too bad.

I'm not sure what I'd have done if I were the one getting yelled at, but we left because my buddy didn't think it was worth a fight. But this was a guy, probably a 3rd generation rancher in that valley, who was feeling the pressure and over-reacted. I like to think that I could talk to someone like that. Maybe I'd still leave, maybe he'd end up letting us use his driveway to access the river further away from the road. Who knows.

But these guys, these multi- millionaires that buy up a 10,000 acre tract of land, all the land bordering a river and then fight the State to try to not allow folks to use a bridge on a county road to get into the river to fish...that is just BS. That is was pisses off the people that live here. I fully respect private property, but the law states, and was reaffirmed a couple years ago by the court, that citizens have the right to use rivers if they stay within the river's high water mark. I've seen barbed wire tied to the guard rails of bridges just to make it hard to use the public right of way at a bridge crossing. It's BS.
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