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Montana: Group Says Special Interest Politics Killed Common-Sense Public Access Bill    
The Montana House of Representatives voted to kill a bill that would have strengthened the authority of county governments to remove illegal barriers on county roads that block access to public land for hunting, fishing, and other recreation.

The bill, HB 295, would have authorized county governments to remove illegal gates on established county roads and impose higher fines on people who place such barriers. It would also have allowed counties to issue permits for landowners with legitimate encroachment needs. The bill was sponsored by Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls.

HB 295 would have addressed the problem of illegal gates on public roads that block access to public land. As documented by the Montana Wildlife Federation in a report last year, these barriers are a real problem for too many Montana hunters, anglers, and outdoors people. The bill was developed over several months of negotiations with public hunters, county officials, and other stakeholders to ensure that it would balance public access with private property rights and legitimate maintenance needs.

"Montana lawmakers who really care about public access and private property rights supported this common-sense bill," said Jacobson. "Thank you to the Montana Wildlife Federation, the Montana Association of Counties, and other stakeholders for your hard work to find common ground on this issue."

Despite strongly supportive testimony from sportsmen, county governments, and other stakeholders, HB 295 was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee. Today's vote would have allowed for consideration of the bill by the full House of Representatives.

"HB 295 had no opposition except the anti-access fringe groups who have repeatedly attacked Montana's stream access and habitat conservation laws. We worked in good faith to increase county authority and local control, helping end conflicts before they become expensive lawsuits," said MWF Executive Director Dave Chadwick. "It is sad to see some Montana lawmakers cave to special interest politics and oppose common-sense solutions."

Contact: Nick Gevock, 406-533-9432