Leupold Banner

Western public land access example

Big Fin

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 27, 2000
Messages
15,114
Location
Bozeman, MT
I know to many not living in the west, it is hard to visualize some concerns that will come with local control of Federal lands currently open to public accesss. On the surface, it all sounds good. And if not for crazy elected officials and the manner in which some people take "possessive interest" in these public lands, it would probably be less of an issue.

Below is a very good piece that serves as a great example of a local government, a county, using public land access as a prybar for their own agenda. Whether you agree with the agenda of the local County Commissioners, or not, the bigger issue is whether or not the County Commission should be allowed to take action on behalf of private parties, in this case public land grazers, that changes public access for all citizens.

In this case, the County sold a piece of land for "$10 and other valuable consideration" to a private party that then allowed the public access via that road to be controlled by the private party. As such, the group the County Commissioner is PO'd at, Western Watersheds, can no longer access the public lands without getting permission.

This is a very well written piece that is worth the time to read. Should a County Commission use its powers to carry out an agenda of one group, public land grazers, to combat the agenda of another group, WW, with public access being the football that gets kicked around?

We always hear the State/Local rights crowd talking about free markets and how government should not interfere, etc. Is this not government interference or misuse of government power on behalf of one interest, to the detriment of others? Maybe government interference only matters when it is the other side doing it.

http://www.wyofile.com/county-keeps-public-out-of-public-land/

There are tons of roads in the west that lead to public lands where counties get talked into abandoning the road or a claim is made against the county to close the road under some obscure legal premise. Maybe this is normal practice in Wyoming.

I am not familiar with other states, but in Montana, anyone can close a road and it is up to the County to prove it is not a public road, even if it has had public traffic for decades. In many rural Montana Counties, the person closing the road has close relationships to the County Commissioners. The Counties are not overflowing with cash, so the Commissioners use finances as a reason to not contest the road closure, even if the public has been using the road since it was built. Given they often have close ties with the party closing the road, you can easily see that it raises questions about how complicit the County might be in helping a close friend lock off public access for his own benefit. It is a way that some parties who have no use for public access, or who want to control the public lands behind the gate, go about getting their way.

It is this kind of stuff that we deal with way too often in the west that leads many western hunters to see how little interest state and local officials have in maintaining public access. I wish it was different, but if you are in favor of state take over of all these lands, this is just one more reality you probably have not dealt with in your travels. I, and I suspect many others who hunt the rural west, have had to deal with this issue of road closures for reasons that are hard to argue are in the best interest of the public.

Hopefully this article connects the dots showing trends that go on below the radar that impact your ability to access your public lands.
 

James Riley

Banned
Joined
Jan 10, 2015
Messages
1,821
Maybe government interference only matters when it is the other side doing it.

That's the lesson I'm learning this morning. It's okay to get pushed but never push back. Never turn the tables. You might make somebody mad.
 
M

MN Public Hunter

Guest
I get what you are saying, but why can't someone tell the person who closed the road to prove it's private and just open the road back up?

Or are you saying this is all a family thing to steal land and/or access to land? I believe the real problem is why do ranchers feel they should have their cattle on public land. I understand there are some grazing rights or some permits or what ever, but back in the day, if you had cattle you had them on your own land. :)
 

hank4elk

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 8, 2015
Messages
4,503
Location
SW NM
I get what you are saying, but why can't someone tell the person who closed the road to prove it's private and just open the road back up?

Or are you saying this is all a family thing to steal land and/or access to land? I believe the real problem is why do ranchers feel they should have their cattle on public land. I understand there are some grazing rights or some permits or what ever, but back in the day, if you had cattle you had them on your own land. :)

Here in NM we are back in the day. Open Range.
I've heard local ranchers say ,"If my cattle are on it ,it's my land!" Welfare ranchers on BLM & state land too. Kinda like Cliven.
How far in which direction are you willing to take this, or a new gate on public road?
Throw in the backing of a County Commissioner and who knows what happens......

I told the rancher," If I find one your cattle on my land , it's mine!" And my place is fenced.

Back in the day I lived in MT and they called it "Slow Elk Hunting".
 
Last edited:

Gerald Martin

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 3, 2009
Messages
5,590
That's the lesson I'm learning this morning. It's okay to get pushed but never push back. Never turn the tables. You might make somebody mad.

No. Hopefully the lesson you are learning this morning, is to not be a bull in a china shop and destroy the tables upon which the agreements of land use are being negotiated. :D
 

Big Fin

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 27, 2000
Messages
15,114
Location
Bozeman, MT
I get what you are saying, but why can't someone tell the person who closed the road to prove it's private and just open the road back ? :)

Because state law says if a landowner claims it to be private, it is private until the public proves otherwise. The burden is not on him to prove anything, rather all on the public to prove it.

Pretty screwed up, eh?
 
M

MN Public Hunter

Guest
Because state law says if a landowner claims it to be private, it is private until the public proves otherwise. The burden is not on him to prove anything, rather all on the public to prove it.

Pretty screwed up, eh?

Good lord...very messed up.
 

mtmander

Active member
Joined
Apr 29, 2014
Messages
845
Location
Philipsburg, MT or NC
I have seen 'landowners' close roads that go thru their property that go to public land that were used for decades because they could. They put gates up so they (or their friends or who leased their land) could get to the public land. And the local government will not fight them on the road closure.

I can only imagine what will happen if the federal land goes to the states and sold.
 

belly-deep

Active member
Joined
Oct 31, 2009
Messages
3,465
There are going to be issues and unfair treatment regardless of who owns the land.

At least with the Feds, the speed of the bureaucracy means that things move much, much slower if at all.

I still haven't heard a good argument for state ownership.
 

Bulldog0156

Active member
Joined
Mar 29, 2013
Messages
916
Location
Kalispell, MT
Because state law says if a landowner claims it to be private, it is private until the public proves otherwise. The burden is not on him to prove anything, rather all on the public to prove it.

Pretty screwed up, eh?

One of my favorite access roads got posted sometime prior to the hunting season; big time bummer.
 

bigskyblueman

Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2013
Messages
552
Location
Bozeman, Montana
This may or may not be helpful, as per the Madison County Attorney. A county may not abandon a road if it is the only public road to state land. The road is not considered abandoned simply because the county stops maintaining it. I disputed a closed road, got no help from the county commissioners, went to the county attorney and FWP, and the road was reopened.
 

MtnWest

New member
Joined
May 23, 2012
Messages
692
Location
Boise
I've hunted the land in question. Good elk and moose in there. I hope it gets squared away so we can access our public land.
 

MT_elk

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 2, 2012
Messages
2,684
Location
MT
Because state law says if a landowner claims it to be private, it is private until the public proves otherwise. The burden is not on him to prove anything, rather all on the public to prove it.

Pretty screwed up, eh?

Yes it is. I personally know of a county road that is listed at the county courthouse maps and was totally plowed up by a rancher who wanted to close it down. No amount of complaining with the county could push them to act against the rancher. Especially since he has a great deal of money and they didn't want to go to court over it. Crazy.
 
SITKA Gear

Latest posts

Forum statistics

Threads
94,509
Messages
1,408,411
Members
29,645
Latest member
Markleathers
Top