Montanans love our public lands, streams, and rivers. They are the backdrop for fond memories and the foundation for our livelihoods. My daughter isn’t even 2 years old yet, and we’ve already made memories on public lands and rivers that will last a lifetime for our family.
Odds are, you have many of those sorts of memories with your family as well. Public lands and waterways also represent a major part of our economy, with over 60,000 jobs and almost $6 billion generated through outdoor recreation every year.
Unfortunately, one candidate for Montana’s Supreme Court, Kristen Juras, is trying to hide her background and true beliefs on public access to our streams and rivers.
Montana’s Constitution says, “all surface … waters within the boundaries of the state are the property of the state for the use of its people.”
The Montana Legislature confirmed that statement by passing laws in 1985 and again in 2009 with a bill I carried, guaranteeing and clarifying our ability to access Montana’s streams and rivers. The Legislature acted within the Constitution, and the Montana Supreme Court has upheld our stream access law as recently as 2014.
With Juras on the court, there is no doubt she would be a foe to the average sportsman and woman and do everything in her power to chip away at our public access laws.
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Juras recently penned an article in which she seems supportive of stream access. However, in a law review article she previously wrote, Juras argued that Montana’s law goes too far to protect our right to access streams and rivers when she wrote that landowners should have more rights to block off access to Montana’s streams and rivers. In her law review article, she advocated for what she dubbed the “right to exclude.” Indeed, Juras is well known in the legal community for advocating an aggressive, anti-public access agenda.
Attempting to whitewash your record and your stance on public access just because you know it's popular among us voters is unacceptable. Montana doesn’t need a member of the Supreme Court who advocates for eroding our right to access streams and rivers. Our outdoors are why many of us stay and live in Montana and why others want to live or visit Montana. Not only is water a vital part of our outdoor heritage but it also drives our economy by helping to create jobs, support small businesses and increase tourism.
We don’t need a member of the Supreme Court like Juras who offers a skewed view on our stream access laws. Please join me in supporting Judge Dirk Sandefur, who has a reputation as being fair and balanced and has no agenda on this important issue of public access, because the law truly is on our side.
Kendall Van Dyk is an avid sportsman and a former state representative and state senator from Billings. Kendall and his family now reside in Helena.