Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Closed road in Little Belts spurs fight for public access

A rancher closed a dirt road in the Little Belt Mountains that the Montana Attorney General's office says is public, blocking access to federal lands and prompting a warning to Meagher County commissioners to reopen it. The Montana Attorney General's office says it's prepared to bring litigation if Meagher County doesn't reopen Tenderfoot Creek Road, which provides access to private, state and federal forestlands in the tributary of the Smith River north of White Sulphur Springs. Rancher Howard Zehntner, who locked the gate, isn't budging. He questions the state's contention the Tenderfoot is a public county road. He describes it as a "horse and buggy" trail unsuitable for safe travel. The road doesn't extend as far as the state says it does, he says. "I told the Forest Service if they wanted to take care of it 24 hours, we'll unlock it," Zehntner said. "Until they prove anything to us that there needs to be a road down there, it's going to be locked." "The county's inaction poses serious problems for the long-term management plan of the area, which is to consolidate public ownership through land exchanges with the Bair Ranch Foundation," Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Anders wrote in an April 24 letter to Meagher County Attorney Kimberly Deschene. The Forest Service, in partnership with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and The Tenderfoot Trust, is in the process of purchasing 8,200 acres of private land in the area from the Bear Ranch Foundation. To date, money from the Land and Conservation Fund has been used to purchase 3,120 acres including $2 million appropriated last month. "To purchase these lands for public use, we need to certainly provide reasonable public access to those lands," said Bob Dennee, a lands program manager for the Forest Service...more

The LWCF causing more problems...got to have those federal funds.
The foundations should purchase access and maintain the road.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No taxpayer dollars should be spent for more federal land ownership, PERIOD! The government should not be in the process of more land acquisition because it can not manage the lands it currently holds as steward. Just review the huge fires in the past 5 years. Is that what you want?