Monday, April 7, 2014
Montana Fly Fishing: The Bridges of Madison County Saga...
...continues despite the Montana Supreme Court's denial of LORD KENNEDY's latest attempt to deny public access to all Montana rivers and streams but his very rich pals and cohorts. Will it ever end? I, for one, harbor grave doubts...
As you may recall, James Cox Kennedy requested a rehearing of the January Montana Supreme Court decision in the Seyler Lane bridge case. This was the case which effectively settled the issue of stream access at prescriptive road bridges and reaffirmed the stream access law. On March 6th the court found no merit in the legal argument that it had retroactively overturned case law in regard to prescriptive easements and that it had overlooked other significant arguments of Kennedy. Here is the court order .
The Seventh Inning Stretch
The next step in the continued fight over stream access in Montana
By George Bauer
If the Bridges of Madison County saga on the Ruby River was a baseball game then we would be at the seventh inning stretch. This historic case was filed in 2004 and was finally heard after eight years of early inning maneuvering. The score was PLWA - 2, Media Mogul - 0 when Kennedy was ordered to remove his "No Trespassing" signs from Duncan Road and Lewis Lane. The ruling reinforced Montana's 2009 Bridge Access Law which says a public road right of way extends the full width of the road and over the bridge to a stream's high-water mark. That law, passed after much compromise between anglers and landowners to help gain public access to public waters, came on the third try and only after lots of hard work.
Before the hearing the parties (PLWA v. Madison County) stipulated Seyler Lane was a public road right of way - it is one of the oldest roads in the state. And yet District Judge Loren Tucker ruled there is a distinction between the public's right and the county's right to access the river. Judge Tucker's ruling did not get to first base - it was thrown out by the Montana Supreme Court. The January 2014 ruling stated the roadway could to be used by the public "for all foreseeable uses, including recreation." The case was sent back to District Court with instructions to hear evidence on the width of the right-of-way.
And now, like a big league manager who didn't like the call at the plate, Kennedy filed a petition for rehearing. This would have reopened the case for further arguments on the grounds the court abandoned property law principals and converted Kennedy's private property to public land. The court denied the petition and in effect said "Nonsense". The Supreme Court has never been eager to plow the same ground twice .
The Supreme Court took nearly a year to reach a decision this last time so it could be 2016 before the fat lady sings at the bottom of the ninth.
Later this year another District Court will hear evidence of decades of public access to the Ruby from Seyler Lane and then could take months to issue a ruling. Don't be surprised if Kennedy appeals, whatever the decision.
Step up to the plate and take a swing at those who would rob the public of their access rights. Join PLWA or make and additional contribution. Let's keep on winning.