Rally in orange

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For those of you who have not heard, Rep. Ellie Hill from Missoula has introduced a bill, HB 235, which would allow corner-crossing in Montana (see “Sportsmen seek definitive answer on corner-crossing,” Jan. 30). Corner-crossing is when a person comes to a corner where four parcels meet and steps over the corner onto another property. For example, as I am facing the junction of these four parcels, the parcel I am standing on is public property while the parcels to my right and left are private property, but the parcel directly in front of me is also public property. HB 235 would allow me to step from the public property over the junction onto the other parcel of public property. This bill would only allow for foot traffic.

Currently, there is no statute allowing corner-crossing and the legality is a gray area. By placing a statute into law specifically allowing corner-crossing, the gray area is removed and people will be able to access public land from public land. There are estimates that corner-crossing could possibly allow access to over one million acres of public land in Montana!

There are those who claim corner-crossing violates their private property rights and constitutes a “taking.” The Goetz law firm in Bozeman, who successfully argued the Stream Access Law in the Supreme Court, has issued a memorandum on HB 235 wherein the last paragraph states: “For the reasons set forth herein, HB 235, if passed into law, will not constitute a taking and is constitutional under the Montana and Federal Constitutions.”

In 2005, a legislator brought forth a bill to allow corner-crossing that never made it out of committee. Times have changed and with today’s technology thru the use of GPS and the associated landownership software/chips, a person can find the actual “corner” where the parcels meet. This was not the case in 2005.

This is not just an issue impacting hunters, but also fisherman, hikers and bird watchers. Recreational hiking in Montana is prevalent throughout the state. Think about the opportunities to legally hike on the vast amount of public land which currently is not legally open. Many of these parcels are in the National Forest with beautiful landscapes, small streams and a variety of wildlife and birds.

HB 235 was defeated in the House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 30. Rep. Hill is now going to try and “blast” it out of committee by requesting a vote on the House Floor. She needs 60 out of 100 votes to make this happen. This “blast” motion is going to take place on Monday, Feb. 18, which is the President’s Day holiday. There is a rally scheduled on that day, at the Capitol. Though we cannot testify at the hearing, which will start at 1 p.m., we can be in the gallery showing our support for HB 235 and letting the legislators see how important this bill is to Montana. All those wishing to attend, need to be at the Capital by 12:15. Please wear a hunter orange vest.

We are arranging for a bus to take us—for free—to and from Missoula and Helena. If you are interested in being on the bus, please email rswood.msa.treasurer@gmail.com to reserve space.

If you support the concept of accessing public lands from adjacent public lands, please contact every legislator you know from both parties with your thoughts and, if possible, be at the Capitol at 12:15 on Feb. 18.

Robert Wood

Montana Sportsmen Alliance

Hamilton

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