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  • Wednesday, April 08, 2009

    Gone To The Gov.

    Just Needs Signature
    (P.S. Hebgen Flows To Remain "normal")
    .. We told you we'd let you know. The third, and final, reading of the Montana "Clarify Bridge Access" bill has been completed.
    It passed by a vote of 96 - 3.

    .. It's headed to Governor Brian Schweitzer for a simple stroke of the pen.
    .. The bill's language is HERE - HTML, or HERE - PDF. The PDF Version has line numbers, and is new this year. The history is HERE.
    .. It's not a perfect bill, but it goes a long way toward clarifying access stipulations and provides the means for public access as well as attachment of fences to bridge abutments for property management and stock control.
    .. Montana has a stream access law that is the envy of fisher folks throughout the nation. It's provisions are a goal for many other state's fisher folks.
    .. It even has it's own Wikipedia page, in case you need to know the definition of "ordinary high water mark." The page also describes the legalities of portage above the ordinary high water mark to avoid obstacles and obstructions. It's worth a read.
    .. The clarifications in this bill are a good compromise and they protect the rights and detail the obligations of both fishers and land owners.
    .. As far as fishers are concerned the important part of the bill is Section 3:
    Section 3. Fencing for livestock control and public passage -- negotiation -- costs. (1) At county road bridges for which public access is authorized pursuant to [section 2], each fence attached to or abutting a county road bridge edge, guardrail, or abutment for livestock control or for property management pursuant to 7-14-2134(4) must provide for public passage to surface waters for recreational use pursuant to this section.
    .. As far as land owners are concerned the same section is important for detailing the kind of access to be provided and the negotiated costs associated with the provided access.
    .. We would hope that both state and local sportsman groups would get on board and establish programs to provide the means of access and defray the costs associated with them. This would be an important step in relieving the cost burden assigned to counties and Montana FWP by the current bill.
    .. We greatly appreciate the hard work done by all of our state legislators and the consulting agencies and organizations.
    .. Last session this issue was a morass of name calling and pigheadedness. This year, conversational cooperation won the day.
    .. We may soon see access stiles sprouting across the landscape. It won't happen over night, but it will happen. This is a good thing.
    .. With the population growth and in-migration of wealth to Montana there will continue to be conflicts and concerns about the issue of stream access. We hope that the conversational tone of this rational compromise will set the stage for civil reconciliation in the future.
    .. P.S. a note in the Bozeman Chronicle details the repair plans for the intake structure at Hebgen Dam. Check it out if you are interested in fishing between the lakes, or the rest of the downstream Madison River.