Monday, May 9th, I saw an article on the Montana Cowgirl Blog about Gianforte trying to sue our Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
" to get rid of a fishing access point that residents of Bozeman had
used for almost 40 years to go fishing on the East Gallatin River." You
know me, I am all about the Public Trust, so I started researching.
After a little online research that night, I quickly found a Bozeman Chronicle news article from June 5, 2009
about the lawsuit, about 2 weeks after it was filed by Wittich Law
Firm, P. C. (Art Wittich), but not yet served to FWP. In fact, according
to internal FWP emails from that time, they didnt know anything about
the filing until reporters began calling them asking questions. Makes
you wonder what alerted the reporters?
"There are several other
points to access the river in that area, said Art Wittich, the Bozeman
attorney representing East Gallatin. So the easement is not necessary
for public recreation needs, and, he said, his client's property is
being harmed by public wear and tear.
'There's been damage to the property, and what they want to do is avoid that,' Wittich said.
has refused to terminate the easement and will fight the suit, said an
attorney representing the agency, Becky Jakes Dockter.
much of the East Gallatin River is flanked by steep banks, the Manley
Road access plays a significant role in ensuring public access, she
It's important to the department, and it's important to the public,' she said."
Thank you FWP for standing up for the Public Trust!
I was curious about the Complaint, the exact language used in it, so
Tuesday, May 10th I went to the Clerk and Recorders office and bought a
copy of the Complaint filed by the Gianfortes (linked below). Something
caught my eye, Line 6. of the Complaint states, "In 2008, one of the
members of the LLC was informed that FWP claims an easement across the
NW corner of the Parcel that allows for public access across the Parcel
for recreational purposes."
Understand, that the Gianfortes have
owned this land for about 3 years, with the public accessing the
easement all during that time, where there is a fence and this is the
first time the Gianfortes found out about the easement? It was on the
Certificate of Survey No. 1988, which was part of their land purchase
documents and referred to each time they transferred the land to
themselves, under various names over the years.
In a recent
article by Lee Enterprise Newspapers, Gianforte is quoted as saying,
"his family first learned of the state easement when they received a FWP
letter in 2008 and subsequently discovered that the title company had
missed it when preparing the deed for his family's purchase of the
property." How can that be when the Certificate of Survey No. 1988
clearly shows the FWP Recreation Site Easement? 3 years after purchasing
it and transferring it to themselves 2 more times referencing the
Survey? I contacted Security Title Company to see how they could have
missed the easement when I got it less than 5 minutes after walking into
the Gallatin County Courthouse and it is referenced on the Certificate
of Survey. I have been playing phone tag with them.
So I went to
the Courthouse Wednesday, May 11th, suspicious that the East Gallatin
LLC was created after they had already owned the land and transferred it
to themselves in 2008, which was the case. The article quoted Gianforte
as stating, " the original easement boundaries remain and much of the
misunderstanding had arisen from the agency thinking it extended farther
south than a survey showed it actually did." Please note below, the
1993 FWP Easement stated, "The dimensions & description are based on
record information and they do not represent an actual field survey."
An actual field survey was conducted 4 years later in 1997, 8 years
before the Gianfortes bought the property.
The documents and maps
are all provided at the link above, so that you can see for yourselves
the Gianforte efforts against our public easement and access in this
matter. I think there has been more to this matter than presented by the