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Stream Access for the few

Let’s talk crazy people. Why is it that even though the will of Montana citizens has been made abundantly clear through the ballot process, there is always some dope, or dopes in the legislature who think they know better? We passed I-161 to eliminate outfitter-sponsored non-resident big game licenses. Unhappy outfitters corralled Larry Jent D-Bozeman to say that we didn’t really mean to vote that way so he sponsored SB-118 to nullify our wishes.

We passed, and overwhelmingly support, a medical marijuana law. Several GOP lawmakers think they know better than we do what is good for Montana so, Mike Milburn R-Cascade floats HB-161 to repeal the law that we, the people of Montana, just authorized.

The vast majority of Montana citizens support our constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. Well, Dan Kennedy R-Laurel thinks we’re just too stupid or whacked out on medical marijuana to know what we really want, so he is sponsoring HB-292 to make the Montana Environmental Policy Act more polluter friendly.

So, what about HB-309? Twenty-six years ago the citizens of this great state passed our stream access law to guarantee that Montana anglers would have access to the waters of our state. That has not stopped various landowner and business interests from trying to lock up our waters for private benefit. After all, we are only voters, we don’t know what is best for the state. The latest affront to our legal rights is HB-309 sponsored by Jeff Welborn R-Dillon at the behest of rich ranchers with no input from Montana fishermen. This bill would lock up many of Montana’s best angling waters by calling them irrigation ditches. Like to fish the Bitterroot River? Sorry, within the language of the bill, it could be classified as an irrigation ditch and off limits to fishing.

Any stream that receives waters diverted for irrigation can be classified as private water under HB-309. What water do you fish in Montana that is not used at some point for irrigation? The bill redefines what a ditch is under law and would include many natural waterways that happen to exist in an irrigated valley. This bill is one more end run by wealthy landowners, many from out of state, to lock up some of our best fishing streams as private preserves. The bill has nothing to do with irrigation or trespassing. The original law already contains protections for landowners.

Call or write your representative today and let them know that HB-309 stinks. Just because we vote, doesn’t automatically mean we are stupid, but many of our legislators are way to easily bought or duped by folks who think we don’t really mean what we say. Our stream access law is one of our most valuable rights as citizens of the Treasure State. Don’t let the GOP screw it up for the benefit of rich landowners!

Find contact information for your representative here.

One Response

  1. […] The Editor over at Button Valley Bugle hit this story – a subject at which BVB […]

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