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Bridge access bill wins approval, governor's praise

by Molly PriddyCommunity News Service
| April 7, 2009 12:00 AM

HELENA – The state House gave final approval last week to a bill that would allow anglers, floaters and hikers to gain access to the state's rivers and streams via public bridges on public roads.

House Bill 190, sponsored by Rep. Kendall Van Dyk, D-Billings, allows recreational access to waterways at bridges while also allowing landowners to connect fences to bridges and abutments to contain their livestock.

Landowners would have to modify those fences to allow access. Such work would be administered and paid for by the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The measure initially passed the House in January and was recently amended in the Senate. Those amendments included allowing landowners to use wood-rail fences on their property and changing the number of access points along a stream from four to one.

The House accepted the Senate’s amendments with a 96-3 vote.

In a press release, Gov. Brian Schweitzer said the bill provides a bipartisan solution to a 20-year dispute between anglers, hunters, environmentalists and landowners.

“This bill will protect our Montana tradition of public access to our world-class blue ribbon trout streams and lets out of state landowners know that in Montana our streams and rivers are not for sale,” Schweitzer said.

(Community News Service is produced by the University of Montana's School of Journalism).