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
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
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