Saturday, June 30, 2018

Another Public Access Victory - Wonder Ranch Appeal

  Public Access Victory

Public Access Victory - Wonder Ranch Appeal

I have been checking my PACER legal case locator account on the Wonder Ranch appeal case, at least once a week, sometimes twice, since the video hearing in March, anxious to see the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling. I woke this morning to the news of yet another public access victory and this one dealing with Indian Creek Trail # 328, in the Madison Ranger District of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. The Texas owners that purchased the ranch had appealed the District Court Judge Haddon's ruling that the public had a historic prescriptive easement on Trail # 328.

The Court of Appeals ruled on the 28th of June, affirming the ruling from Judge Haddon of the United States District Court for the District of Montana.
  • "Open and Notorious" qualification for prescriptive easement was achieved by maps, signage, use and maintenance
  • Not permissive use - the vast majority of public and [Forest Service] use of the Trail was not
    the product of neighborly accommodation.
  • 5 years adverse use - elements of a public prescriptive easement had been met for the statutory period no later than 1973.
  • Forest Service offering to pay for an easement - the Forest Service’s attempts to secure an express
    easement were not inconsistent with the existence of a public prescriptive easement.
This public access victory is made even sweeter with the historical prescriptive easement attacks by special interests, in the last few years.

On that note, I finally received another batch of my Crazy Mountain FOIA for the west side, the Porcupine Lowline Trail # 267. I was told the CGNF did not want this information released to me. But we, the public, have a right to information from our public agencies that manage our public trust, on our behalf. Accountability demands it; transparency demands it.

I downloaded the files and drove to the printer, to get the 351 pages printed before they closed. Tony Schooned called when I got back, asked what I was going to be doing on the 4th of July weekend. I laughed, you know that kind of empowered laugh, telling him that I was NOW, going to be chronologically ordering all the documents, reading and making notes. While this may bore the hell out of some, not only does this excite me on the data level, but it works towards our main objective of getting public access restored - for future generations. ;)

Out-of-State Ownership Distribution in Montana Map
A guy on the Montana subreddit, created a map of landownership using the Montana Cadastral data, involving out of state landowner's. It is an interesting map, color coded by the larger state's ownership. Click on the magnifying glass to enlarge the map.
Map Link

Also on the Public Lands, Public Access front...
Gianforte, Williams Split On Multiple Use, Access On Public Lands
"We need to ensure we're not interpreting multiple use as every single use on all miles of forest service road," said Kathleen Williams. "The Forest Service, in my opinion, is always in a constant balancing challenge on how to provide those multiple uses which often means that public use, for example, in critical wildlife areas, needs to be compatible with that kind of management directive that they have for those areas." 

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Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
Helena, MT

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