Public land access case could set precedent (by Brett French)
A public land access case won by the Forest Service last year is again in court after the landowners appealed the Montana District Court judge’s ruling. The contested route provides public access to Indian Creek in the Madison Mountains, southeast of Ennis. Much of the mountainous area is part of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area. The landowners are saying that public use of the route, which was documented back to the 1800s, was not hostile. Hostile use is one of the conditions for proving a prescriptive easement, or an easement by long-term use. The case is in the hands of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. If the Forest Service wins again, the court’s decision could provide clarity on public access to other trails in Montana, including the Crazy Mountains.
(Written by Brett French – Outdoors Editor for the Billings Gazette/Montana Untamed)