Sunday, March 6, 2011

Something Stinks in Montana

Something I’ve been watching the last several weeks is the current controversy in Montana over protecting public access to streams. Apparently some wealthy landowners feel that owning land adjacent to a river gives them exclusive rights to fishing the river, despite the fact that the laws of Montana, and many other states protect the rights of citizens to accessing public waterways. HB 309 which has already passed the state house and is headed to the senate next week is a bad idea for a lot of reasons both economic and ethical, but what it really comes down to is, cutting off public access to rivers flies in the face of a long held tradition of land and river use in the US. Bowing to wealthy landowners who hope to secure private rights to angling on many of the West’s greatest fishing rivers would set a terrible precedent and reeks of the type of aristocratic entitlement that Americans loathe.

In the UK river front lands have been controlled by the wealthy elite for centuries, making angling for trout and salmon the exclusive realm those who can afford expensive daily rod fees, and memberships to private clubs. Part of what makes anling in North America unique and special is the relative equality in access for all members of society. Fishing transcends economic categorization and anglers range from deeply working class to extremely wealthy. The fact that so many Americans partake in fishing and other outdoor activities stems from the fact that we have followed a very different model of land ownership. The western United states was practically given away to settlers, railroad companies and investors to stimulate settlement and economic growth. In the same way we have long given private individuals and companies access to our public lands and resources for grazing, logging, irrigation, mining and other economically important activities. The west is built on the ability of individuals to share common space, while simultaneously protecting the rights of individuals and their property. Access to the outdoors is deeply ingrained in the culture of Western North America and it is critical that we protect the right of all members of society to enjoy these opportunities. Stream access laws are an essential part of the fabric of the culture and economy of the West. The rights of landowners should absolutely be protected, however public access to rivers has long come with the stipulation that river users respect private property and remain below the highwater mark while fishing adjacent to private land.

Montana is trout country. Every year thousands of anglers from all over the world make pilgrimage there to fish the legendary rivers of the state. The fly fishing industry and associated travel makes up a significant portion of Montana’s GDP, however angler visits to the state are largely contingent on individuals having access to rivers. Why Montana is even considering abolishing public access to rivers is practically unfathomable given their long reign as a North American mecca for fly fishing. The only conceivable explanation is that wealthy, influential land owners have effectively lobbied Montana’s state government to consider a law that does not benefit the vast majority of the state’s citizens. That stinks so lets call it what it is, bullshit. If you’re from Montana, let your state senators know you oppose the passage of HB 309. If you’re a non-resident of the state, email the governor and tell him that while you have enjoyed traveling to Montana in the past your interest in visiting the state is contingent upon open access to rivers.

The bill goes before the Senate Agricultural Committee this Tuesday March 8th and a rally at the state capitol building is planned for 2:00 that day.

Contact the governor at:

Here is a list of the Senators:
SD 01: Chas Vincent (R)
34 Paul Bunyan Lane
Libby, MT 59923

293-3839 /

SD 02: Ryan Zinke (R)
409 West 2nd Street
Whitefish, MT 59937

862-0823 /

SD 03: Bruce Tutvedt (R)
2335 West Valley Drive
Kalispell, MT 59901

257-9732 /

SD 04: Jon Sonju (R)
PO Box 2954
Kalispell, MT 59903

270-7113 /

SD 05: Verdell Jackson (R)
555 Wagner Ln
Kalispell, MT 59901

756-8344 /

SD 06: Carmine Mowbray (R)
PO Box 1202
Polson, MT 59860

883-4677 /

SD 07: Greg Hinkle (R)
5 Gable Road
Thompson Falls, MT 59873

827-4645 /

SD 08: Shannon Augare (D)
PO Box 2031
Browning, MT 59417

450-0020 /

SD 09: Rick Ripley (R)
8920 Highway 200
Wolf Creek, MT 59648

SD 10: Bradley Hamlett (D)
PO Box 49 
Cascade, MT 59421

264-5885 /

SD 11: Anders Blewett (D)
PO Box 2807
Great Falls, MT 59403

231-8618 /

SD 12: Mitch Tropila (D)
PO Box 929
Great Falls, MT 59403

899-3474 /

SD 13: Edward Buttrey (R)
27 Granite Hill Lane
Great Falls, MT 59405

250-5103 /

SD 14: Llew Jones (R)
1102 4th Avenue South West
Conrad, MT 59425

271-3104 /

SD 15: Jim Peterson (R)
1250 Buffalo Canyon Road
Buffalo, MT 59418

374-2277 /

SD 16: Jonathan Windy Boy (D)
Box 269
Box Elder, MT 59521

395-4718 /

SD 17: Rowlie Hutton (R)
2 Lila Drive
Havre, MT 59501

SD 18: John Brenden (R)
PO Box 970
Scobey, MT 59263

783-5394 /

SD 19: Donald Steinbeisser (R)
11918 County Road 348
Sidney, MT 59270

433-2187 /

SD 20: Frederick Moore (R)
487 Signal Butte Road
Miles City, MT 59301

234-3562 /

SD 21: Sharon Peregoy (D)
PO Box 211
Crow Agency, MT 59022

639-2198 /

SD 22: Taylor Brown (R)
775 Squaw Creek Road
Huntley, MT 59037

348-2070 /

SD 23: Alan Olson (R)
18 Halfbreed Creek Rd
Roundup, MT 59072

323-3341 /

SD 24: Kim Gillan (D)
750 Judicial Avenue
Billings, MT 59105

248-6063 /

SD 25: Kendall Van Dyk (D)
PO Box 441
Billings, MT 59103

690-1728 /

SD 26: Lynda Moss (D)
552 Highland Park Drive
Billings, MT
252-7318 /

SD 27: Gary Branae (D)
415 Yellowstone Avenue
Billings, MT 59101

245-2127 /

SD 28: Jeff Essmann (R)
2101 Grand Ave #5
Billings, MT 59108

259-8404 /

SD 29: Edward Walker (R)
4221 Rimrock Road
Billings, MT 59106

697-6967 /

SD 30: Jason Priest (R)
PO Box 743
Red Lodge, MT 59068

425-0674 /

SD 31: Ron Arthun (R)
285 Shields River Road
Wilsall, MT 59086

578-2340 /

SD 32: Larry Jent (D)
506 East Babcock
Bozeman, MT 59715

587-1210 /

SD 33: Bob Hawks (D)
703 West Koch Street
Bozeman, MT 59715

587-1403 /

SD 34: Joe Balyeat (R)
6909 Rising Eagle Road
Bozeman, MT 59715

539-5547 /

SD 35: Art Wittich (R)
3116 Sourdough Road
Bozeman, MT 59715

585-7418 /

SD 36: Debby Barrett (R)
18580 Highway 324
Dillon, MT 59725

681-3177 /

SD 37: Steven Gallus (D)
2319 Harvard Avenue
Butte, MT 59701

494-3914 /

SD 38: Jim Keane (D)
2131 Wall Street
Butte, MT 59701


SD 39: Terry Murphy (R)
893 Boulder Cut Off Road
Cardwell, MT 59721

285-6937 /

SD 40: Mary Caferro (D)
PO Box 1036
Helena, MT 59624

443-4066 /

SD 41: Christine Kaufmann (D)
PO Box 1566
Helena, MT 59624

439-0256 /

SD 42: Dave Lewis (R)
5871 Collins Rd
Helena, MT 59602

458-5511 /

SD 43: Gene Vuckovich (D)
1205 West Third Street
Anaconda, MT 59711

563-2313 /

SD 44: Bob Lake (R)
PO Box 2096
Hamilton, MT 59840

363-4091 /

SD 45: Jim Shockley (R)
PO Box 608
Victor, MT 59875


SD 46: Carol Williams (D)
3533 Lincoln Hills Point
Missoula, MT 59802

728-8735 /

SD 47: Ron Erickson (D)
3250 Pattee Canyon Road
Missoula, MT 59803

549-4671 /

SD 48: Tom Facey (D)
418 Plymouth
Missoula, MT 59801

728-6814 /

SD 49: Dave Wanzenried (D)
903 Sky Dr
Missoula, MT 59804

543-2775 /

SD 50: Cliff Larsen (D)
8925 LaValle Creek Road
Missoula, MT 59808

728-1601 /

1 comment:

  1. I've just found your blog and find it extremely interesting, I read almost all of it .. keep it up!

    Regarding what's going on in Montana it is extremely bad and I hope the American anglers manage to preserve the public access to their most outstanding fisheries... private waters like in the UK or private access like in South Argentina is terrible...

    Cheers (from France!)