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Ranch owners file lawsuit to close road to public hunting grounds
BILLINGS - A ranch couple has filed a lawsuit against Blaine County in an attempt to close a road that goes through their property and leads to public land valued by hunters for its elk, deer and bighorn sheep.

William and Olive Robinson filed the lawsuit last week contending the county had no basis in 2007 to claim a 3.8-mile length of the Bullwhacker Road was public where it crossed the Anchor Ranch.

The Robinsons have owned the ranch since 1955 and controlled access to the road until Blaine County Attorney Donald Ranstrom ruled the road was public.

"This has been an ongoing problem for some time," Ranstrom said. "It always comes to a head during hunting season because the road accesses a huge amount of public land."

The road leads to a 78-square-mile area of Bureau of Land Management Land north of the Missouri River.

The Robinsons want the road to be declared private, and also want to be paid their attorney costs and fees.

Ranstrom said he would file a response to the claim. He said that would be followed by a discovery period.

A Billings-based group that seeks public access to public lands, called Public Lands/Waters Access Association, previously researched historical records concerning the road.

It said the road has been used by the public since at least 1917, and that the earliest land patent for acreage now owned by the Robinsons was filed in 1926.

Under the Homestead Act, those patents secured land ownership and helped settle the West in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Full story at http://www.missoulian.com/news/state-an ... 002e0.html
 

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We must be ever vigilant about losing access to public land. Hard enough to find a place to go hunting.
 

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Do the owners want to stop people from hunting, or do they want a trespass fee for hunters to use the road to go hunting. Is there another access road or easement to get to the property? Maybe the agency that controls the public land just declare Eminent Domain, pay the for the road and declare it public property.
 

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The owners apparently want to stop vandalism. They're going to have a tough row to hoe, however. Public access laws in MT are pretty strong. Given the evidence already presented, they don't have any ground to stand on. What likely needs to happen (if it hasn't already) is have a sign posted indicating that the public road crosses private land. There will always be idiots out there more interested in screwing around, however, and there will always be problems - giving honest hunters a bad name in the process. Just like there will always be some idiot shooting up signs and gates on public land, etc.
 
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