Yesterday, House Bill 190, the Stream Access Bill, passed the Senate Fish and Game committee. This has been a long hard fight over the last couple of legislative sessions. The bill clarifies the right of Montanans to access rivers and streams at county road bridges. It passed the House 97-3 and got through the committee on a 7-2 vote (Balyeat and Brendan voting nay). Although this has been a fairly popular bill, it has taken somewhat of a pounding all along the way. The bill is supported by Montana Trout Unlimited, the Montana Stockgrowers Association and FWP. Landowners like it because it gives them the right, for the first time, to attach their fences to county bridges. Stream users like it because, for the first time, findings by the courts and the attorney general will be written into law. The bill provides for access structures at bridges to be built and maintained by FWP with the help of conservation organizations, so the landowner isn’t required to pay for gates, stiles, etc.
There were some concerns in the committee about prescriptive easements, landowner liability and the number of access points that would be sufficient at each bridge. These concerns were addressed by amendments before passage. Hopefully, finally having access at bridges written into law will stop some of the silly lawsuits. The primary sponsor of the bill was Kendall Van Dyk (D) of Billings. Even though this bill is expected to pass the Senate without too much trouble, it would be a good idea to contact your local Senators and let them know that you would appreciate their vote in favor of this really nice, amiable bill. You can find your local Senators and contact information at the Legislature Website.
HB483, the crappy anti-public-involvement bill sponsored by Llew Jones was bumped from second reading in the Senate again today. It will likely be voted on tomorrow, so you still have time to needle your Senator about voting this one down.