Corner crossers win, but the access war forever rages

May was a busy month, and I'm more than a little behind here. This column about the victory for corner crossing hunters in Wyoming, was published early in the month. In it, I suggest what I've long believed, that our battle for access to public lands in the West will be a long one.

Sadly, there are a lot of folks with a lot of money who have convinced themselves that wealth entitles them to what belongs to everyone. If you think they're going to lay down and let the riff-raff freely access public lands we own, just because a jury of riff-raff tossed the trespassing case against a group of hunters who never set foot on private property, you are well on your way to losing the access you cherish.

The wealthy considered themselves entitled to the exclusive use. They won't be satisfied until they've taken it all.

Hunting Photo Manifesto

I've been mulling the value of hunting photos posted on social media for a long time, nearly as long as I've been on social media. Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram seem to amplify the impact of these images. I've seen the effects, felt my own stomach turn when distasteful dead game, dumb hunter photos turns up online.

Here's my column on the subject. I think we can do better. We must do better. Hunters are an ever decreasing minority. If hunting is to survive, we can't afford to turn the non-hunting majority against us.

Inappropriate images are a great way to fast track that animosity toward hunting.

Ten Years and Counting

I wrote my first "Out of Bounds" column for the Flathead Beacon in March 2012. Approximately 520 columns later here's my 10th anniversary column. The highlights of this run include winning first place in the Outdoor Writers Association of America Excellence in Craft contest in 2021, and anything I wrote about spending time outdoors with my daughters.

Lowlights include every week when deadline approached and I was still a long way from done.

Thanks for reading.

Stream Access, if You Can Keep It

Montana's Stream Access Law is considered the gold standard for river access in the West. Just try anchoring your drift boat in the wrong place on some Wyoming rivers if you doubt that.

Maybe the fact that Montana's law is so good is the reason a small, but wealthy and powerful minority are so committed to getting rid of it. That was the case in the 1990s on Mitchell Slough, a branch of the Bitterroot River in the braided reach between Victor and Stevensville. That's when wealthy landowners, who had bought up the old ranch property that lined the Slough, hung trespassing signs along the water and waged a war to keep the riff-raff — a club of which I am proud to proclaim membership — out.

"Bitterroot Star" newspaper owner and reporter Michael Howell, along with a band of rabble-rousing old school Bitterrooters, formed the Bitterroot River Protection Association and went to work protecting the Stream Access Law on Mitchell Slough, finally winning a unanimous Montana Supreme Court decision in 2008. That fight is chronicled in Howell's new book, "Saving the Mitchell." Here's a link to my column reviewing the book.

While the topic is maddening, the book is a worthy retelling of a good fight. I know many of the characters in the story as I lived in the Bitterroot for six years in the 1990s and even worked for Howell at his newspaper, the "Bitterroot Star" for a couple of years. It was nice reading about some of my old friends, many who have faded from my life with time. It also helped that I knew the story has a happy ending.

If you can't find the book in your local bookstore, you can purchase it through the website of the Bitterroot River Protection Association.

I've written about Mitchell Slough and the SAL often enough. Here are links to a few of my earlier columns.

Bring on the Roaring Twenties

A Fight Now Decades Old

Ruby Access Battle Over, For Now