Stream access law still under attack in southwest Montana

2013-04-10T00:00:00Z Stream access law still under attack in southwest MontanaTony Schoonen Montana Coalition for Stream Access Butte Helena Independent Record

There will be a crucial Supreme Court hearing in Bozeman, April 29, in the Strand Union Ballroom. The oral arguments will start at 9:30 a.m. and will conclude that morning. The Montana Supreme Court will consider if a Madison County Judge erred when he ruled that the public cannot use certain county bridges to access Montana streams.

If the Supreme Court sides with the Madison County Judge, then it will be a major erosion on Montana Stream Access rights. If recreational users of our public waters can afford time from work to attend the hearing, it would be very enlightening on what wealthy non-residents are trying to do throughout Montana.

James Cox Kennedy, a billionaire media mogul from Atlanta, is busy overturning access to Montana streams from county and prescriptive rights-of-way as well as public bridges. Kennedy has been in court in Madison County since 2009 regarding these issues. He owns property bordering the Ruby River from Sheridan to the confluence with the Beaverhead River. He doesn’t want locals and their families to fish on “his” river.

Our groups sponsored a Ruby River float a few years back to force removal of electric wires across the river. Nearly 200 participants attended to help send a message to Kennedy that floating the Ruby River is legal.

Two groups have entered into the lawsuit on Kennedy’s side: PERC- the Property and Environment’s Research Center, headquartered in Bozeman, and the United Property Owners of Montana. Both groups, in our opinion, would like to see everything in private hands.

Montana Trout Unlimited has filed an amicus brief on our side. They represent all of Trout Unlimited in Montana. Support your Trout Unlimited chapters and recreational access groups. Numbers make a huge difference.

All of our groups need to send a clear message that “the rights of the many shall not be trampled on for the benefit of the very few.”

We Montanans own our public waters, which are gold mines. Let’s just give the mega-rich the shaft.

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(5) Comments

  1. dietz1963
    Report Abuse
    dietz1963 - April 12, 2013 1:56 pm
    Don't know what political affilliation the judges are but if they're democrats, they'll side with the other judges ruling. Reducing freedoms, the democratic way of life.
  2. MTfisher
    Report Abuse
    MTfisher - April 10, 2013 4:58 pm
    Mr. Schoonen and commenters: With all due respect, you and too many others on both sides of this and many other issues seem to be willing to sacrifice the very good on the slim chance of obtaining what you think is perfect.

    Your legal loss on Seylor Lane was trivial in terms of stream access for Montana anglers. But given the recent unanimous US Supreme Court ruling on PP&L along with your appeal, you have opened a legal avenue for serious and likely restrictions on waters available for access. It may be too late, but PLEASE try to settle quietly and out of court!
  3. frenchy
    Report Abuse
    frenchy - April 10, 2013 4:21 pm
    Be careful what you ask for. Not every landowner is a billionaire and this ruling will effect every landowner. Private property rights are crucial to a free society. If this ruling is not entirely constitutional, it is just another incremental loss of everyone's constitutional rights.
  4. FlamingLiberal1
    Report Abuse
    FlamingLiberal1 - April 10, 2013 1:29 pm
    Public access is crucial. We cannot allow a privileged few to deny the people access to that which is theirs. The river is NOT Kennedy's river, and the stream access law settled the issue decades ago. Smack him down HARD.
  5. waterunderground
    Report Abuse
    waterunderground - April 10, 2013 11:46 am
    I will plan on floating the Ruby at least a few times this season. Thanks for your work on this.
    After taking our access to our waters away these greedheads will be after the air we breath.

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters. If you receive an error after submitting a comment, please contact us.

If your comment was not approved, perhaps:

    1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).

    2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.

    3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.

    4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.

    5. You believe the newspaper's coverage is unfair. It would be better to write the editor at This is a forum for community discussion, not for media criticism. We'd rather address your concerns directly.

    6. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.

    7. You accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.

    8. Your comment is in really poor taste.

    9. Don't write a novel. If your comment is longer than the article you're commenting on, you might want to cut it down a bit. Lengthy comments will likely be removed.
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick