River access bill gets overwhelming support in Montana's House

Looks like the Stockgrowers opposition was far from fatal-

The bill passed 95-5. It must also go to the Montana Senate.

River access bill gets overwhelming support in House. Proposal could be on its way to the Senate as early as today. By JENNIFER McKEE. Billings Gazette State Bureau



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  1. jdubya Avatar

    Meanwhile a law in the Utah legislature (yet to be published much less debated) appears to be focused on taking away the angler access to streams and rivers awarded by a unanimous Utah supreme court ruling last summer. What a difference in attitude between these two western states.

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    This is a public trust issue. What was the reasoning of the Utah Supreme Court to the contrary?


  3. jdubya Avatar

    Robert, this was a case of the Utah supreme court ruling in favor of a couple of tubers that were floating down the Weber River in Utah. They were arrested for trespass and the case made it to the supreme court. Their ruling opened all rivers and streams for public access basically saying the state owns the water in the stream bed and thus owns the stream bed itself. The people are the state, thus as long as we stay in the stream bed, have fun. The law(s) coming out of the legislature this year will attempt to either completely over-ride this ruling, or modify it to only include a set list of rivers. You can read more about the ruling here:


  4. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    My understanding of the public trust, and I’ve done some research on the question, is that the USC’s ruling is correct and that the bill you describe the Legislature as working on to overrule the judicial decision could itself be challenged as a violation of the public trust.


  5. jdubya Avatar

    Robert, I agree. There are potentially two bills floating around on this issue, neither submitted yet. One would try to completely reverse the decision and one to limit access to a number of named rivers. I would prefer the former because it would be unconstitutional under the Utah law, it would be unconstitutional under US Supreme court rulings, and the gov would likely veto. The latter would be more problematic.

  6. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    J Dubya

    I don’t know of a public trust scholar at the U of Utah law school, but Dale Goble at the U of Idaho law school is. Someone to keep in mind as this proceeds. Good luck.



Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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