Access Issues,    HB 309,    montana stream access,    News,    willfishforwork

The Post Anti-HB 309 Rally News (or, Montana Anglers Step Up For Stream Access Rights)

Posted by Tom Chandler 3/9/2011

Yesterday, a crowd of (mostly) anglers jammed the Montana Senate Hearing on HB 309 = the anti-stream access "Ditch Bill" currently under consideration in the Montana legislature.

The byproduct of the Montana Supreme Court's decision designating Mitchell Slough as a public waterway - a decision bitterly opposed by landowners who would rather the riff-raff recreate somewhere else - HB 309 defines irrigation ditches so broadly that many of Montana's most popular fisheries (including big rivers) would qualify.

Bad move. Here's are the links:

Wayne at offers his usual insightful commentary.

ChiWulff puts together an and impressive array of news links

Headhunters blog offers information from the frontlines of the rally itself

The Missoulian newspaper offers an interesting angle on high school students who skipped school to stand up for what they believe in.

The Billings Gazzette offered a headline of "Big crowd opposes bill that addresses access to ditches" and a generally good article, which included:

Sen. Jim Shockley, R-Victor, criticized the bill, saying: "Real ranchers don't have a problem with the law as it is."

He said property rights are important, but so are public property rights because the public owns the water.

"This would be economic development for lawyers," he said. "The only persons who would benefit from this is a few landowners in the Bitterroot and lawyers."

The crowd cheered his remarks, but was admonished by committee Chairman Don Steinbeisser, R-Sidney, to refrain from applauding.

Sen. Kendall Van Dyk, D-Billings, said that if you take away the Mitchell Slough issue, there is no real problem over stream access in Montana.

"Access is not for sale in Montana," he said. "We have created the best legal structure for stream access across the West and probably in the country."

It seems clear that proponents of HB 309 weren't ready for the opposition, which was apparently the biggest group to appear at any Montana legislative hearing this session.

Good on everyone who made the trip; let's hope this sucker dies in committee.

Oops, we missed [this one from Fly Fishing in Yellowstone] (


Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

TC - your continued attention is much appreciated. While we fly fisher folk are a fairly optimistic clan by nature, there's apparently some backroom dealings going on to amend the bill to squeeze it out of committee. Bottom line - the bastard's still alive. We're still betting lipstick gets put on this pig and it comes out of committee for a full senate vote. We all need to keep squawking.
The turnout was great - less than 20 proponents and close to four hundred opponents. Now its up to the legislature to do the right thing. The opponents are not going away from this one.

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