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Smith River Special Privilege for Landowners

Landowners adjacent to the Smith River have applied to the Montana State Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission for a ruling that would establish a right for landowners to obtain special privileges and guaranteed access to the river, whereas the access to the public is rigidly controlled and restricted by permit.

Each year 4,000 individual floaters apply for the 750 public permits. That leaves 3,250 disappointed applicants who were not lucky enough to win a permit. Now comes a new user group, made up of riverfront landowners, asking for special privileges and guaranteed access to the river which is tightly controlled by Montana State Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. If accepted, this ruling would allow landowners with a half mile of deeded frontage two boat tags for unlimited daily use by them, their families and guests. For $7.50 per person both boats can float the entire reach on any given day. Those landowners whose put-in and take-out is limited by steep banks and rock cliffs would launch at the closest available spot and take out at the next available take-out site below their property line.

This would establish a law for unlimited floating by landowners and create and identify a new, permitted user group in competition with the floating public and permitted outfitters. If this rule allowed only land maintenance activities by landowners or their employees, we would not see a problem, but for recreational use these landowners should have to go through the same selection process the public goes through. The commissioners must be convinced not to allow this rule to benefit a new, elite floating group with special privileges and guaranteed access. It would squeeze more floaters on the river, increasing conflicts along with an impossible patrol and enforcement situation. ~

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