Federal judge sides with Forest Service in Crazy Mountains access lawsuit

The federal magistrate judge considering a lawsuit over the Forest Service’s handling of access disputes in the Crazy Mountains has issued a preliminary order favorable to Forest Service leadership and landowners.

The plaintiffs, a consortium of sporting and conservation groups, sued the Forest Service in 2019 arguing that the agency has failed to maintain public access on trails traversing prescriptive easements in violation of its own policies and federal laws governing the agency’s conduct. Prescriptive easements, sometimes called historic or unperfected easements, involve right-of-way claims without an easement recorded on the deed. Prescriptive easements are common on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land, particularly in the West, where the expansion of railroads in the late 1800s left a legacy of checkerboard ownership that continues to complicate land management. 

Judge Timothy Cavan sided with the Forest Service and area landowners in the Findings and Recommendations order he issued Friday, Feb. 18. The parties have 14 days to raise objections to the order, which will ultimately go to a more senior judge. 

Read more from the Montana Free Press here...

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