Saturday, February 12, 2011

Stop House Bill 309 and protect Montana's Stream Access Law

I would be remiss if I did not mention Montana House Bill 309 and it's potential to limit the public's access to Montana's great rivers. While the genius Dillon Republican Jeff Welborn says it would just clarify the definition of an irrigation ditch, there is worry that it the definition may include any stream or river that relies on the return flow of irrigation water, which would include a great deal of Montana's great trout streams.

The bill has made it through the House and is on it's way to the Senate. If it passes, it would then fall to the big G.O.V. (Brian Schweitzer). I am late to the blogging party with regards to this issue, so I will instead refer you to those who have been covering it from the beginning. Check out Chi Wulff, Trout BugsWill Fish for Work, and the Missoulian (an excellent editorial by Bruce Farling of Montana TU) for some great coverage of the apparent attack on access to public waters.

Many people have made the connection between this year's attack on public access to streams to past attacks on public access like the recent Mitchell Slough case (damn you Huey Lewis and your crappy 80s music). If HB 309 makes it through the senate, I can only hope that history repeats itself and Gov. Schweitzer vetoes this bill like he did with the Mitchell Slough case. And I quote (from the NY Times):

“If you want to buy a big ranch and you want to have a river and you want privacy, don’t buy in Montana. The rivers belong to the people of Montana.” - Brian Schweitzer


Gary Thompson said...

Living in Colorado, and being able to witness what the future holds with the successful passing of such legislation, I can say with great enthusiasm that this would completely suck if it were to pass. For a state that has such low population base, I can't imagine it would do much for the state economy either, assuming you rely significantly on tourism dollars to fill the state coffers.

I would ask Mr. Lewis and other such McRanchers, what value would the land hold if not for the melting snow that passes through their property? The water that travels over the land from snow melt belongs to all of us.

I think the most compelling argument indicated in the NY Times article emphasizes the water reading at the head of the property entering at 15 cfs and exiting at 300. How can that be anything but a natural waterway?!

Guess I better get up there again soon to knock the remainder of my bucket list.

Ivan said...

@Gary - My current mindset is one of disbelief. I can't believe that this would be a logical decision to make in the state of Montana. Especially when it comes to recreation on these rivers and as you pointed out, the associated tourism dollars. Let's hope that there are enough NO votes in the senate to fend off yet another attack on our stream access law.

Dustin's Fly Box said...

How i miss the park :( Moved from last chance idaho to vegas ... AMAZING PICTURES

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