By Montana Grant

Posted: July 13, 2023


Some wealthy people feel entitled to do whatever they want. Their money and connections give them a free ticket to do whatever they please. The rules and regulations are not for them due to their assumed privilege. Thank goodness for the wealthy ranchers and landowners that still allow access.

Recently a Colorado, nonresident, landed his private helicopter in the Grand Tetons National Park. The park rangers heard about the landing and rushed, by boat, to discover the couple having a picnic. They are being charged with 2 misdemeanor charges that could require $10,000 in fines and a year in jail. These types of incidents are becoming more common throughout Big Sky Country.

The only public access to this remote location, on the west shore of Jackson Lake, requires a 10-mile hike.  When asked why they had landed, the man claimed that bad weather forced them to land, and he did nothing wrong. His lawyers and connections will wheel and deal to try and give him a break.

Unauthorized landings of aircraft are prohibited on Federal property and National Parks. This law exists to protect wildlife and the environment.

A few years ago, I was ice fishing on Hyalite Lake, near Bozeman. The lake is on Federal land. A red copter hovered around the dam and then landed in the parking lot. Snow, gravel, and debris went airborne from the propwash. Apparently, a woman passenger needed to use the potty, so the pilot landed by the vault toilet for her needs. Another helicopter landing occurred on the remote Kootenai River, where the fishing was harder to reach.

Some hunting outfitters also offer helicopter rides into landlocked State and Federal lands. This is a huge advantage to hunt areas that the rest of the population have no legal access to. There are large areas blocked off to public access in Montana.

 Half of Montana’s State School Trust Lands can’t be accessed by the public. Corner crossing is banned in the state and private landowners have secured any other legal ways to get to these properties. The private landowners that border these lands get free access for their cattle, use, and hunting. Outfitters lease these areas to allow private access for just their clients. Why can’t citizens get access?

These abuses need to change. Until real penalties are enforced, trespass will continue by these entitled abusers. Confiscating the helicopters is a good start. Enforce the law, assess the fines, and jail time. Public lands are for the public. Their care, management, and maintenance are paid for by taxpayers. If State Lands are blocked to public access, a fee needs to apply to the landowner that prevents access. No tax breaks for no access allowed.

Some politicians have made fishing access a priority. Our Fishing Access Law is proof that this can be done. If violators continue to have their way with our public lands, Montana and our wonderful public places will just end up as private playgrounds for the rich and entitled. The rest of will just get to watch them play from afar.

It would be nice to be fair for all, with our public lands access, and rules.

Montana Grant

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