Access for hunters and anglers

February 12, 2009

During the last election cycle, part of my campaign promise to you was to work in a bi-partisan manner in Helena, to guarantee hunting and fishing access across the state. For too long the Montana Legislature has bogged down on stream access wasting precious opportunities to pass legislation that guarantees the rights of outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen to access their publicly owned waters. This Monday, January 26th, HB 190 sponsored by Representative Kendall Van Dyk, of Billings, looks to finally ensure our inherent rights to stream access as citizens of Montana. I strongly support this bill.

HB 190 seeks to clarify Montana law on public access to state waters from county roads and bridges. For the past 16 months a broad coalition of interests from across the state to have worked together to craft this bill. The only opponents to HB 190 represented wealthy landowners who are trying to close off access to Montanans who want to float or fish. It is not Montana tradition to allow wealthy part-time residents to lock up our public lands and fisheries from ordinary Montanans. Access is not for sale in Big Sky Country.

The bill would settle questions related to a 2000 attorney general’s opinion that held that using a county road as an access point from one public right-of-way, like a road, to another public right-of-way, like a stream or river, is consistent with the public’s right to travel on county roads.

Under the proposed legislation, a person may gain access to state waterways for recreational use by using a public bridge, right-of-way or abutment and a county road right-of-way. HB 190 also provides specific examples of legal fences and creates a public protocol for landowners and the state to resolve disputes related to fencing and public access.

As always, it’s my pleasure to serve you as the Montana House Rep. in HD 54. I’m thrilled to be able to vote yes on this piece of legislation with broad bi-partisan support. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me. Here in Helena, we are looking forward to guaranteeing, through law, the rights of outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen to access Montana’s wealth of fishing waters.

Rep. Margaret MacDonald


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