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Montana Passes Strong Stream Access Law

Posted: 04/14/2009
By: Kevin Colburn

Yesterday Montana Governor, Brian Schweitzer, signed into law a stream access bill that passed the Montana House and Senate with strong bipartisan support. The law recognizes that both rivers and roads are public highways and that the public can legally travel from one to the other.  At the same time the law meets landowner interests of protecting their land and livestock through attaching access-friendly fences to county roads and bridges through the public easement.  

“It’s been 24 long years since anglers and recreationalist have had a law pass the legislature that said, yes in Montana, you can access our rivers and streams from public bridges and yes we are going to maintain our tradition of access to our world-class blue ribbon trout streams,” said Governor Brian Schweitzer.

“Montanans have been asking for this for years,” said Rep. Kendall Van Dyk. “This law will keep anglers out of the courtroom and on the rivers where we belong. Montana public access laws have always been better than surrounding states and this law ensures that access will never be for sale in Big Sky Country.”

"As a father of three young Montanans, a sportsman, and as Attorney General, I'm proud to have played a role in protecting public access and I want to congratulate Rep. Van Dyk for bringing us across the finish line," Attorney General Steve Bullock said.  "In these uncertain economic times it becomes clear that access to public lands and streams is about more than bull elk and brown trout, it's about the economic vitality and viability of our state.  It's not hard to imagine what would become of many small communities without access to the places we love." 

The bill carried in both chambers with strong bipartisan, passing the Senate 48-2 and 96-3 in the House. “Passing stream access with this level of support is a testament to the bipartisan cooperation Rep. Van Dyk gathered for the bill. I am proud to sign this legislation today for all of Montana,” said Schweitzer.


American Whitewater applauds the hard work of Representative Van Dyk, and has supported this law on its path through the legislature.  We would also like to thank Trout Unlimited and other sportsmen groups that worked on achieving this stream access milestone.  This law serves as a superb example of how public and private rights can be protected while supporting stream access and reducing legal conflicts.

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