Don’t Take Your Stream Access for Granted
Too many of us Montanans take our stream access for granted. In Montana, from a public access point, we can float or walk any navigable stream. We can enter a stream from any public road and travel below high water mark for as far as we please. Compare that to Wyoming or Colorado where dropping an anchor into a stream passing through private land will result in a trespassing citation. Sportsmen from other states have lost what Montana sportsmen have protected from one attack after the other.
Montana's enviable stream access didn’t happen by accident. Hard work by individuals and groups protected what the Public Trust Doctrine provided. Since statehood in 1899 our stream access has been fought over time and time again. Greedy individuals have taken our access to court, such as Curran on the Dearborn and Hildreth on the Beaverhead. Recently, even the definition of a stream was challenged by the “Ditch Bill” in the 2011 Legislature. Another landowner on the Ruby River challenged legal access from a public bridge which was fought for years in courts.
We strongly encourage you to follow this link to read and download a paper written by Kathryn QannaYahu entitled “Public Trust Doctrine and Montana’s Stream Access”. It provides an extremely valuable and comprehensive history of the battles fought to protect our stream access. It describes who worked to protect and preserve Montana’s access laws, and who fought against stream access and against Montana sportsmen. It is a fantastic tool to use to educate yourself, family and friends on the importance of Montana’s current stream access laws.
If you are a sportsmen who cares about access for you, and your family and friends, you should read it, understand it, print it, and use it to actively defend our stream access. Imagine how your life would change if you could no longer access Montana’s streams or walk their banks. You can no longer trust that “somebody else will get involved” to protect what you cherish. Now, the future of stream access is up to you to protect and preserve. It is time to get engaged and prepare for battles which are certain to occur.