Monday, April 21, 2014

EVENT SET TO CELEBRATE STREAM ACCESS VICTORY FOR MONTANANS

Below is an alert we recieved from our friends at the Montana Wildlife Federation. Hellgate Hunters & Anglers is a proud affiliate of MWF, along with our partner organizations, Public Land & Water Access Association, who fights valiantly every day to ensure our right to access public land and water is never infringed. We are proud to be associated with such great advocates and stewards of our land & wildlife!

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A celebration of the recent Montana Supreme Court decision that upheld public access to the Ruby River at the Seyler Lane Bridge near Twin Bridges will be held 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at Missouri Headwaters State Park near Three Forks.

The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. The celebration is sponsored by several local and state conservation organizations.

The recent Montana Supreme Court ruling settled the issue of stream access at bridges throughout Montana. Seyler Lane is a prescriptive right-of-way that crosses private land owned by billionaire James Cox Kennedy, who has tried to block public access to the Ruby River for two decades.

The ruling also reaffirmed Montana's Stream Access Law and reinforced Montana's hard-won 2009 Bridge Access Law, which upheld the public road right-of-way as the full width of the road and over the bridge to a stream's high-water mark. The lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court ruling was filed against Madison County in 2004 by the Public Land/Water Access Association (PLWA).

"The Montana Supreme Court once again ruled that Montana's streams are not for sale," said Tony Schoonen, a founding member of the Montana Coalition for Stream Access, which filed the suit in the late 1970s that led to the passage of Montana's Stream Access Law. Since then Schoonen has been in the forefront in the fight for stream access inMontana and serves on the board of PLWA.

"We thought we should have a party to celebrate this victory that impacts so many Montanans and their ability to use our rivers and streams," Schoonen said.

The event is being sponsored by PLWA, the Montana Wildlife Federation, George Grant and Madison-Gallatin chapters of Trout Unlimited, Skyline Sportsmen in Butte and the Anaconda Sportsmen.

For more information, please contact event organizer Rich Day at 490-3902 or Nick Gevock, MWF Conservation Director, at 533-9432. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Good Deeds

We have long been advocates for the Land & Water Conservation Fund. LWCF has provided funding for about 70% of our fishing access sites, given us permanent access to quality hunting grounds like the Marshall Block & Fish Creek in the west and Tenderfoot in the Belt Mountains of Central Montana. All of these projects and acquisitions work to ensure vibrant wildlife populations on the most important habitats of Montana.

LWCF enjoys widespread support in Montana. Now, our congressional delegation is united in ensuring that the Land & Water Conservation Fund continues to work for Montanans. Yesterday, Congressman Steve Daines issued a press release calling attention to the Fund:

“As our nation continues down the path towards economic recovery, LWCF should be adequately funded to ensure that it plays the strongest possible role in revitalizing local communities,” Daines wrote. “America’s outdoor recreation, conservation and preservation economies contribute $1.06 trillion to the nation’s economy each year and support 9.4 million American jobs. Support for public lands among the American public remains consistently and overwhelmingly strong.”

This follows closely on the heels of Senator John Walsh’s co-sponsorship of S 338, the full funding and reauthorization of the Land & Water Conservation Fund. Senator Walsh, in a press release, had this to say:

“In Montana, we have a proud outdoor heritage that brings JOBS and billions of dollars into our state every year,” Walsh said. “We value our natural resources and public lands, and preserving access for all Montanans and visitors from around the country. With tourism as one of our state's largest economic drivers, it is important to take responsibility to fully fund the LWCF.”

Montana’s Senior Senator, Jon Tester, has been an advocate for public access to public lands and the Land & Water Conservation Fund for his entire time in the Senate. His “Making Public Lands Public Act,” which would provide 1.5% of all LWCF funds to be dedicated to unlocking land-locked public land has earned broad, bi-partisan support as well. Recently, Congressman Daines introduced similar legislation into the House.

It’s not often you get all three of Montana’s congressional delegation on the same page. With LWCF, however, it’s a no-brainer. Public Lands are huge economic drivers and assets for Montana’s diverse economy. Access to public land is at a premium. Only by working together and fighting for constituents who hunt, fish, hike, play and work on these public lands are we able to continue the promise first made in 1965 when Congress passed the Land & Water Conservation Fund enabling act.

Access matters. So does habitat conservation. Our Senators and our Representative are working together to ensure that Montanans continue to have both through the Land & Water Conservation Fund. That is something to truly celebrate.

The only piece of the puzzle missing is support of Full Funding & Reauthorization from Congressman Daines. When that comes, we’ll be dancing a jig on Higgins Avenue.