Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Public or private? Dispute pits access versus property rights
Howard Zehntner stops his four-wheel drive pickup high in the Little Belt Mountains 12 miles north of here. His son, Lee, hops out and unhooks the barbed-wire gate so his father can pass. “This is the gate that’s causing all the problems,” Howard Zehntner says. Attorney General Steve Bullock, on behalf of Montana, on Monday announced that he’s suing 73-year-old Zehntner for putting up the gate on a road through his remote private land, which is surrounded by national forest, state and private lands. Bullock says the road is public. Zehntner says it’s not. “This action is yet another escalation of efforts by the state and U.S. Forest Service to force a public access across a Montana landowner’s private property where they do not have proper access,” Zehntner’s attorneys said in motion filed Wednesday in Meagher County to dismiss a preliminary injunction sought by the state to remove the gate. The public access-private property rights dispute comes as Montana hunters prepare for this weekend’s big-game opener. Many will use old rutted roads like the one that crosses Zehntner’s land to access prized hunting spots — if they’re public. Meanwhile, Lewis and Clark National Forest is in the process of purchasing private lands in the area with the aim of making the Tenderfoot Creek area, known for its elk, trout fishing and stunning views, more accessible to the public. Lee Zehntner says it’s not coming down unless the order comes from the Meagher County sheriff or county commissioners. They contend Bullock doesn’t have standing in the matter...more