Gianforte FWP Lawsuit Documents

Documents Below

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.

FWP has refused to terminate the easement and will fight the suit, said an attorney representing the agency, Becky Jakes Dockter.

Because much of the East Gallatin River is flanked by steep banks, the Manley Road access plays a significant role in ensuring public access, she said.

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!

But, I was curious about the Complaint, 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 their easement all during that time, where there is a fence and this is the first time they 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? 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. I have been playing phone tag with them today.

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 Gianfortes 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 below so that you can see for yourselves the Gianforte efforts against our Public Lands/Water and Access in this matter. A legal easement that existed before the Gianfortes bought their land.


1993 FWP 1.01 acre (more or less) Recreation Site Easement and Grant of Custody of Land Document with a note: "The dimensions & description are based on record information and they do not represent an actual field survey." The actual field survey was conducted in 1997, 4 years later and 8 years before the Gianfortes purchased the land, showing the easement.

May 23, 1997 Certificate of Survey No. 1988 showing the 1.01 acre Recreation site easement. Detail A shown above, which also states, "Dimensions of Record Description Extend Outside of Property Boundary."

April 2005 Gianfortes purchase land under trust names: Greg Gianforte Revocable Inter Vivos Trust & Susan Gianforte Revocable Inter Vivos Trust. They then transfer it to themselves as individiuals on February 16, 2006.

2006 Quit Claim Deed based on Survey No. 1988 (which shows the Recreation Site Easement).

The Gianfortes create and register the East Gallatin Limited Liability Company, filed with the Montana Secretary of State on May 27, 2008. The registering agent was Susan Gianforte.

The Gianfortes then transfer the land from their individual names to the East Gallatin LLC with a Quit Claim Deed on October 3, 2008. Again, referencing the Certificate of Survey No. 1988, which shows the 1.01 acre FWP Recreation Site Easement.

On May 21, 2009, the Gianfortes, through Wittich Law Firm, P. C. (Art Wittich), filed a Complaint For Quiet Title against FWP to take the Public's land and access. "12. FWP refuses upon demand to voluntarily extinguish the easement." Since FWP wouldn't just hand over the Public's legally acquired land and access, the Gianforte's LLC sought to "extinguish all improperly conveyed property rights and to achieve clean title to the property without burdensome encumbrances, such as this alleged Easement."

The Complaint was never served to FWP and was Dismissed Without Prejudice on February 1, 2013 by District Judge John C. Brown (First two pages of the above complaint PDF).



Research by Kathryn QannaYahu

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