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Private land, public wildlife: Finding a balance


Missoula, Montana—At the Montana Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting November 9, 2009, PERC’s Terry Anderson and Reed Watson gave a presentation on Montana’s ever-expanding Stream Access Law and the implications of that expansion for the state’s farmers and ranchers.

During two workshop sessions, the pair described how the recent Montana Supreme Court case granting the public access to the privately owned Mitchell Ditch is the latest example of a state-wide erosion of private property rights in the name of public hunting and fishing access. Anderson and Watson described to approximately 100 farmers and ranchers from across the state just how such decisions simultaneously threaten the rights of private land owners and create disincentives for private environmental conservation. Paired with a video documenting the Mitchell Ditch controversy, the PERC presentation caused quite a stir among Farm Bureau delegates.

With additional support from private property owners, PERC will deliver the presentation to individual Farm Bureau districts throughout southwest Montana. By communicating the importance of private property rights to Montana’s agricultural community and to private environmental stewardship, PERC hopes to shift state policy away from unlimited public access and towards a more vigorous enforcement of constitutionally defined private property rights.


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