Access to public lands
March 25, 2021
This past week, HB 418 came to the floor of the House of Representatives. There was and is some confusion of what this bill could have done. On the surface it sounded like it would simply open access to public lands. That was the intent of the bill, but the unintended consequences were worrisome. It could have taken any old trails, logging railroads, and even pack trails that lead to public lands and created an access to public lands. The problem with the bill, it would have threatened private property rights. If these wagon trails, mining trails or even old railroad grades existed on private property without legal easements, they could be challenged to open them as public roads, even on private property. As we know in western Montana, most valley lands are private property and backed up by public lands. The can of worms this bill would have created could have been very costly in legal fees for property owners as well as the State Attorney General.
It is being said that since I was against this bill I was against access to public lands. This is not true. Anyone that knows me, knows I have fought for years to get access to Forest Service lands and open their roads to the public. I have pushed for ATV trails and access as well as firewood cutting roads to be open. I also have 4.5 lineal miles of my private property that borders public lands, and all of this land has been open to public hunting, thus providing access to public lands. As I stated, the intent of this bill was good, but the consequences and my respect for private property were my higher priority. We all have the options to go to USFS meetings or comment on their proposed projects to get better access, as well as access options available through some Fish, Wildlife and Parks programs.
Rep. Denley M. Loge
(406) 544-5220 or [email protected]