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A fence crosses the Ruby River in southwestern Montana. The Ruby is another Montana waterway where public access debates have escalated. Photo by Jonathan Weber.

Trout Unlimited Proposes Backing Out of Stream Access Debate

Trout Unlimited, one of the nation’s largest and most active conservation organizations, is considering pulling itself out of the debate over public access to America’s rivers and streams.

A proposed TU resolution states: “Involvement in stream access disputes is divisive and a distraction from the mission. ….The proposed amendments would prohibit TU involvement or participation in disputes that pit claims of public stream access against claims of private property rights.”

For some anglers, that move will be seen as cowardice, others will see it as a decision to fight other, more important battles with full-troop strength and without alienating crucial allies. Almost no one, not even within Trout Unlimited, will be pleased with the debate, or the subsequent answers, in part because both are indications of just how difficult it is to accomplish any kind of wildlife or fisheries protection in a world swollen with human beings and their conflicting needs, beliefs, and desires.

Trout Unlimited’s Chris Wood says that the issue of public access to rivers and streams has become an energy sink for his organization, and one that alienates the very landowners that are critical to the efforts to protect and restore fisheries.

“We are at the point of deciding who we are as an organization,” Wood says. “We’ve only had two real access issues come up over the years, and they were extremely contentious. We cannot afford to let this one issue define us. To be effective on any kind of large scale we work with landowners to remove barriers to fish, to restore and maintain instream flows. It is all about habitat, and most of that habitat is on private land. Advocating for public access divides us from those landowners, and if we let that single issue dominate our work, we are not going to be able to accomplish our work.”

The question over fighting for stream access, by conservation groups or anyone else, has become more complex as economic disparity in America has become more intense.

And Montana has become ground zero for the debate. The right to walk along a river or stream and cast for rising trout below the high water line, which is written into Montana law, is certainly one of the most powerful advantages of living in Montana, both in the freedom it offers, and in something less easily defined — a recognition that some things are so beautiful and important that no one should be able to deny them to others. That unique recognition helps define the state, and is one of the reasons so many people across the nation revere the place (and want to move there). But as the state becomes more crowded, that public right, always a delicate balance of goodwill on the part of the public and the landowners, becomes ripe for misuse by people for whom fishing or swimming is secondary to their anger at the wealthy.

“It has become a surrogate for class warfare,” Wood says.

Indeed, it is furious (and seemingly endless) access fights like the one over Mitchell Slough in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley (widely covered here at New West by Greg Lemon and others), that have sucked in Trout Unlimited through its local chapters and helped to drive the new push to abandon the issue. The Mitchell Slough case pitted wealthy landowners like Ken Siebel, Charles Schwab and rocker Huey Lewis against access advocates over a side channel of the Bitterroot River that was, depending on which side you were on, either a natural stream or a man-made ditch. The case has turned into an ongoing emotional and legal tug-of-war: Landowners along the slough argued that what their opponents were fighting for was an expansion of the stream access law that was never intended by those who wrote it — an expansion which violated private property rights.

Fights like those dramatically illustrated that a conservation organization could not afford to involve itself in a battle that began with some local fishermen calling up the newspaper and a game warden and then testing the stream access law by venturing onto the property of Huey Lewis and taking big trout within sight of his windows. It began as a clear case of using the access law as a boot to kick sand in the face of a conservation-minded landowner who had undertaken, at his own expense, work to restore fisheries and habitat on his property.

There were no winners in that fight, and it awakened landowner opposition to stream access laws far from the tiny arena there in the Bitterroot.

The issue continues to surface in policy decisions and this year, the Montana Legislature is trying to clarify the stream access law to keep such fights out of the courts. But even just finding consensus on clarifying the issue is a challenge. One bill, however, Senate Bill 78, does stand a chance of making it to the governor’s desk and would at least clarify how fences are constructed near county bridges.

Chris Wood says, and documents from Trout Unlimited confirm, that the organization plans to work to expand fishing access though incentive programs, among them, using money for restoration in return for access agreements. Documents state that the organization needs to borrow from the model of the Nature Conservancy, or Ducks Unlimited, which work closely with multiple partners and who do not overtly advocate for contentious goals like stream access on private land. But the documents also explain that many Trout Unlimited members will recognize that, without the guarantee that new generations will have a place to fish and wander the rivers and streams, the very future of the organization is at risk.

For one TU member in Montana, it’s not a risk worth taking. “We understand here (in Montana) that TU is involved in numerous issues that are extremely important, and that access is only one of them,” says Marshall Bloom, a longtime TU advocate in the Bitterroot Valley. “But in the West, in the heart of America’s trout fishing, access is inextricably linked to every other element of the TU agenda. You cannot divorce access from any of them.”

Bloom has no patience for the proposed decision by the national board to abandon the access issue. “This decision was made in the shadows by a bunch of East Coast city slickers who caved in to some rich landowners.” Bloom says, “What’s the point of this decision, anyway? Let’s say that Plum Creek Timber was going to give TU $70 million, and then a Plum Creek executive said, “Well, TU’s advocacy in timber issues is detrimental to our timber harvest plans….would TU then stop advocating for forest plans that don’t harm trout or fisheries?”

Bloom says state chapters have not been consulted about the proposal and if the decision is made, it won’t sit well in Montana. “They can reconsider it, or there can be consideration by us to break off and form our own group, ” Bloom says.

The Chairman of Montana Trout Unlimited, Tom Anacker of Bozeman, is more measured in his response, but no less adamant. “We do not agree with this proposal. What brings people to TU is the experience of fishing our streams and rivers, and that experience is what inspires me to do the work that I do. Montana’s stream access law is part and parcel of who we are.” Anacker adds that, in Montana, unlike other states, access is guaranteed by the law. “We want to continue to protect those legal rights,” he said.

And if the National Trout Unlimited decides that is no longer part of the mission? “This is still a proposal. We hope they will not pass it. I will not speculate beyond that.”

About Hal Herring

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27 comments

  1. This move by TU is nothing more than the continued commodification of wildlife and recreation by the wealthy. TU is afraid that the wealthy will stop giving if they cross the perceived property rights of the rich. You are right, this will not go over well in MT or other states where hunting and fishing is still the past time of the blue collar class. It is a pity the wealthy as able to swing thier weight around without accountability to anyone. I predict this decision will spell the end of the MT stream access law in this state and others.

  2. jdj,

    I agree with all of your comments except perhaps your conclusion that this “collaborative” move on TU’s part will “spell the end of the MT stream access law.” Correct me if I am wrong and let me begin by saying that I have the greatest respect for TU and its relatively high level of effectiveness. I also do not like this change of policy and admit that it will have some impact; it reflects an internal policy perspective that has been infesting TU for nearly a decade and it’s a trend that I don’t like. On the other hand, TU has never been able to call the shots on its own on any issue, nor has it ever been possible to predict an outcome simply on the basis of which way TU was going. Sure, we’ve won some fights, especially back in the early 90s when we were genuinely pretty ferocious; but, if TU was any sort of perfectly reliable weathervane, native trout species from the Flathead to the Gila would all be in a whole lot better shape than they are today. Again, TU is a good group; but, don’t abandon ship too soon just because the infiltration levels in TU are starting to show. Just keep fighting; use (cautiously use) TU when TU looks to be a good ally; and, if we do go down, go down fighting. We will only be remembered for who we were; the rest is just fodder for accountants. Strength and Honor.

  3. Hal

    Thanks for this report. No surprise, though.

    Wildlife conservation depends absolutely upon the public trust, or wildlife as a commons. It is clear that TU has abandoned the public trust in favor of private power and greed. TU has made a choice is what truly is a class war that is manifesting itself in every part of American life to destroy the public good and replace it with elite, private power, which is tyranny.

    Where that class war is most symbolic as well as down and dirty is in wildlife and land use. Look at the history of game management in Europe, which may summed up as the “problem of the King’s Deer.” In the American system, sometimes called the “North American Model of Wildlife Management,” the King’s Deer became the Peoples’ Deer, and wildlife prospered because we all had access to it, because we all had a stake in it. Private rights did not trump public responsibilities.

    TU seems to prefer the European model, which is one of feudalism, perverse aristocracy, and facism, where the rich and powerful control access to land and wildlife, not to mention everything else.

    Well, we’ve seen this Neo-Republican policy change coming from TU for a long time. It certainly puts into perspective the vaunted (and mis-named) Public Lands Initiative. TU has abandoned hunters and anglers to undertake the “Kings, Dukes, and Earls’ Initiative.” To hell with the public.

    If Chris Wood and the other mucky-mucks at TU want to bootlick rich landowners for the money, that’s their business, but I hope that the rank and file of TU will abandon the organization for something that remains true to the public trust. That’s the only option.

    Best,
    Robert

  4. Sounds like TU is trying to figure out whether they are Trout Unlimited or Fishing Unlimited.

    I have to wonder how much support a non-profit that focuses primarily on biodiversity protection would get. Without the public having access to the recreation potential of local fisheries, how many people would care or learn to care about the habitat?

  5. While this article says, in a understated way, that the proposed TU Policy is only that, a proposal, the article itself implies that the policy will in fact be adopted. As a member of TU’s National Leadership Council and also the existing Stream Access Work Group (which administers the current policy) I must correct this misimpression. The proposal comes from individuals within the board who disgree with the existing policy. The new proposal has yet to be discussed by the National Leadership Council (the grassroots leadership of TU from it numerous state councils).

    All the issues addressed in the article and many of the previous comments on this site are going to be fodder for the upcoming NLC discussion. Those of us who have dedicated many of our personal hours to the mission of TU know full well that this issue is difficult and pits various legitimate interests against each other. No one should draw any conclusions at this point other than that this is an emotionally charged issue that needs to be handled in as rational and respectful way as possible. Please stay tuned.

  6. I would not hazard saying that I understand everything here but I don’t see this changing much of what TU does. Remember, TU is not a fishing club. TU is a cold water resources group. I see TU saying that they are no longer going to get into these long drawn out expensive battles over access. Access does not necessarily conserve cold water resources, so may not fit the goal of the organization. I don’t see it saying that they won’t promote access, just that they are not going to spend money, that could go toward fixing cold water habitat, fighting over it .

  7. I just want to echo mike, “keep fighting”. The pressures to privatize access and wildlife (whether this discussed initiative passes or not) will be relentless; we must be just as relentless.

    Robert, I’m not exaclty clear on what “neo-Republican” is supposed to mean, but PLEASE, try to keep democrat/republican politics out of these discussions. This is about the policitics of MONEY, and that’s all. Rich democrats are just as likely to shut you out of access as rich republicans.

  8. Last time I checked, money is inherently political, so I will continue to tie this topic in to politics.

  9. I’m not saying money isn’t inherently political; I am saying it has nothing to do with democrat vs. republican. And, in the bigger picture, what I’m really saying is that if folks continue to frame arguments for [insert cause here] in a republican vs. democrat mindset, you immediately fragment your audience, and you will end up accomplishing nothing to further your cause (which is stream access, right?).

  10. What a load of BS, you planning on going into politics?
    No stance on stream access, NO RENEWAL!!!
    Get your wealthy contributors to make up the difference.
    BYE!

  11. If TU backs away from the access issue. I too will leave the membership roles after nearly 30 years, 15 of them spent as the publications editor for the largest state council in the organization.

    It is pretty much that simple for me.

    When this is discussed by the board, I exhort the board to consider that in some ways, it may even be an act of organizational suicide. The future of access is going to determine the future of recreational sport fishing in this country and this in turn is going to determine the future of TU as a meaningful force for cold water conservation.. TU will not survive without its legions of non-gentrified volunteers.

    That too is the simple and unalloyed truth.

    I hope they decide in the best interest of both TU and the future of fishing.

  12. Tu will soon be done in Pennslyvania. We have been sold out, the
    rich have spoken. Pay to play is now Tu’s new slogan. I myself
    own prime riverfront property. It is now closed to Tu members,
    all else are still welcome.

  13. You’ve written a dandy article, Hal, and one that actually addresses and discusses a great big bunch more than “just” Trout Unlimited.

    Stream access is only one subject of debate that is being used “… as a boot to kick sand in the face of … conservation-minded landowner(s) who (have) undertaken, at (their) own expense, work to (protect and) restore …” the wild and the wonderful throughout the West.

    When you state that “There (are) no winners in that fight …” or many others now being waged you have taken a very large sledge hammer and squarely landed it upon the head of the nail, so to speak.

    Not only has private ownership throughout the ages proven to be immensely superior, in almost all instances, to that management and care given by gov.org to protect the wild and the wonderful throughout the West, it is also a very vital fabric woven within the structure and benefits each and every citizen of this Great Nation has historically been able to relish that is not available to people in any other nation in the world.

    Those who would erode or discount the importance of retaining our right to own and use private property in the name of “The Public Good” have certainly not taken a good hard look at those parts of the world that have followed such a policy nor have they taken note of the detrimental aspects that accompany such a loss or non-existence of those private property rights.

    Right on, Hal: “… (this indicates) just how difficult it is to accomplish any kind of wildlife or fisheries protection in a world swollen with human beings and their conflicting needs, beliefs, and desires.”

    Be careful what you wish for now …
    … or so it seems to me.
    That picture when wide-angle might
    Land hard upon YOUR knee.

    The geese that lay the golden eggs,
    Though this one feasts on trout,
    Are all related to YOUR nest;
    What YOU are all about.

    It has been said that:

    “Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.”
    James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)

    “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.”
    Winston Churchill

    “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.”
    Thomas Jefferson

  14. I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s comments on this. I’ve always noticed there’s a tendency on all sides to see stream access as an issue driven by emotion and philosophical debate. Let me take a slightly different tack, and talk about TU’s real-world experience with the issue of stream access over the years.

    TU’s greatest strength is its ability to mobilize a nation-wide membership of conservation-minded anglers. TU has built this membership by recognizing that when people develop a passion for fishing, they develop a passion for conservation. While TU is not a fishing club, its activities have always included things that promote an interest in fishing, including fly-tying demonstrations, casting lessons, kid’s fishing days, and preserving stream access.
    That’s what we’ve been doing for over three decades in Montana, and people tell me you all have been doing it in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, and other places as well.

    I’d say the results have been pretty impressive. As someone always brags at the annual meeting, we’re “the greenest of the hook-and-bullet groups and the hook-and-bulletest of the green groups.” That gives us a particular credibility that the Sierra Club and the NRA can never claim.

    We are now hearing that stream access is not “essential” to our mission, that it’s divisive, and that it distracts us from our “real” work. We hear that TU does not “need” to be involved in access to be effective. That may (or may not) have been true 20 years ago, but by now the train has long since left the station. TU has built an impressive cadre of grassroots activists based in part on promoting access rights, and in some places — including Montana — is seen as a respected leader on access issues. Our members have come to expect this, and have re-paid us in spades with their conservation work and support.

    In short, while some donors at the national level may not belive that stream access is “essential” to TU’s mission, that is decidedly not the experience of TU chapters and councils around the country. What will it say to the rank and file if the organization makes a sudden U-turn at the behest of a few people they’ve never heard of? Around here, I’ve heard angry threats of chapters seceding from the organization and individuals canceling memberships. I think that would be a mistake. But if it happens en masse, TU will not be “the greenest of the hook-and-bullet groups and the hook-and-bulletest of the green groups” any more. We’ll be a top-down, national environmental group like so many others. And there will be a lot fewer of us.

    That’s what’s really at stake here. Stream access will never be an easy issue for an organization like TU, but I’ve always been impressed with how TU has handled it in the past. My hope is that TU can work through this latest flare-up without sacrificing one of our greatest strengths, and that we’ll ultimately write this whole episode off as growing pains. We’ll find out soon enough.

    Matt Clifford
    Montana Trout Unlimited

  15. As with any group of persons identified by either a use or an activity conducted within what we commonly reference as “The Environment”, your biggest enemies are not private property owners but those who engage in those uses or activities with no respect for either the water, the land or the property owners that they wish to bow to their wishes and desires.

    I have some back-dated personal experience with some of what you might reference as “serious anglers” that I allowed to stock and use a water storage facility on my land. They were, without a doubt and without exception, extremely respectful and protective on my land which made it a joy for me to share both my land and my water with them. They were not, however, representative of The Public as a whole and I would never willing open my land or access through it to The Public as a whole.

    However, a friend of mine in Montana was forced to do so when The Public was given stream access. Not only did The Public not stay below the high water mark, they also encroached upon the balance of his ranchland and some of the most repulsive and abusive amongst them even entered into his yard to pee outside the picture window of his home. This was not a singular incidence and it was not an incident that was his alone to endure. When law enforcement personnel were called to enforce the no trespassing laws on private land bordering those rivers and streams they were slow to appear on the scene or even refused to come at all, copping a plea (pun intended) that they just did not have the resources or the personnel to patrol and enforce the law on the banks of all the waterways throughout the state … or the county … or any portions thereof. I do suspect the militia itself would have had the resources and the personnel available instantly had those ranchers failed to allow that stream access to The Public that the law then demanded.

    I also suspect that few who are politicizing for stream access by The Public would care to open their own homes and yards or acreages to such an intrusion; and, I suspect that few would be willing to volunteer their own time and be deputized to police the legal boundaries of such an access or pay security personnel to do so.

    It is unrealistic for any of you to overlook the reality of that old truism regarding “… give an inch … they take a mile …” when you expect any private property owner to meet your demands.

    It is also very important for TU to take a firm stand against trespass up so-called “waterways” that are not navigable, or barely so, of which there are many … each becoming nothing more than an access for trespass into private property by The Public.

    That IS the reality of it all for many private property owners. Private property is not only owned by the mega-rich of the world. A large portion of it is owned by people who have worked hard to purchase what they own and have sacrificed much to do so.

    If you are a conscientious person who wants to float downstream through private property then this is a great subject of concern and one you need to address and solve for private property owners that you are now asking to join forces with you to accomplish it all. Unfortunately, most of you ~ conscientious or not ~ will be satisfied to sit on the sidelines, voice you strong opinions, make you DEMANDS and not feel any obligation whatsoever to even address “the rest of the story”.

    I wonder why that is? TU membership includes The Public, does it not?

    Please do not reach your hand to TAKE
    Unless you reach your hand to MAKE
    An effort to reach out and touch
    The ones from which you ask so MUCH.

    … or so it seems to me …

  16. You “… had to watch some SOB standing in his picture window and brushing his teeth”?

    Thanks, Pat, for proving my point.

    Spoken like The Public warrior you obviously are.

    You neither own nor do you pay taxes on the land under the sidewalk in front of your house, by the way. Of course, if you are not a “private fief holder” you don’t know that because you don’t own a house, right? Right! Not that it would matter to you, but my friend’s front yard was miles from the river bank.

    Your “.. little good will and sense of community..” is truly outstanding.

    Somewhere “out standing” right below the seat in the outhouse me-thinks.

  17. William J Griffin

    Since I enjoy trout fishing, own a small parcel of land in Montana, and plan to retire there in a few years, I am seriously concerned about Montana Trout Unlimited’s proposed decision to pull out of the debates on stream access. They now state their major goal is trout habitat. That is fine, but you can have the greatest trout habitat in the world; if there is no public access it only benefits the rich landowners.

  18. We are fishing outfitters in Montana and also own land on the river and also recreate on all the waterways with family and friends…. not to mention the years worth of donations and time to TU… folks shoot ducks and fish for trout literally in our backyard on a daily basis – we knew the law when we purchased the land and are all about seeing that everyone has a right to the resource, If Rose Mary sees a need to “police” her land she should try engaging the anglers and hunters in conversation – just letting them know you know they are there is “policing” enough – it works for us- We see no reason why the national organization should seperate public access from the agenda… they need anglers and so do we… If TU avoids facing stream access issues we will simply avoid donating trips and time to the organization – Thanks Hal, for getting on this timely issue.

  19. Hal’s article is about ” Trout Unlimited, (as) one of the nation’s largest and most active conservation organizations …” which extends beyond the boundaries of Montana, believe it or not.

    Although he also accurately states that “Montana has become ground zero for the debate”, TU is not just in or about Montana nor is this issue ~ far from it.

    John, your situation where you recently purchased your land, use it and cater to the public on it to provide your livelihood, is unlike that of many other ranchers nationwide.

    Pat:

    Your statements regarding sidewalks and streams and land ownership are NOT accurate in Colorado. If your comments are true in whatever state you reside please accept my apologies for facts stated that might have been overly inclusive.

    Rural taxpayers help fund the road maintenance, fire & police protection, and all other public services for FAR more urban landowners than the other way around. In case you’ve never noticed there are a lot more of them, for openers, and the need for all those services in any urban area FAR exceeds those in any rural area.

    Your words are reflecting the GREED you see in the mirror when you point the finger at rural landowners. Your vindictiveness does nothing to advance any sort of community spirit.

    I will hope you do not speak with any endorsement by TU regardless of the final decision they make within their own organization.

    Whatever their decision may be, the impact of it will be shared and/or diluted by many other groups and individuals with deep concerns regarding this issue … in many states other than Montana.

    Thanks again for another great article, Hal … food for thought for many.

  20. i feel stream access laws very greatly by location and therefore should be dealt with by local groups not by T U

  21. Rose Mary-

    Your comments are fair, reasonable, shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. I almost would agree with them myself. However, your comments are based on the assumption that access to the streams is being taken away from landowners and given to the public.

    The truth of the matter is that the river access always belonged to the public and that recent court decisions are only a recognition of this public ownership. In light of this fact, your comments are understandable, but unfounded.

    The sidewalk analogy is a good one.

  22. access without quality habitat and a healthy trout population has some worth; but quality habitat and a healthy trout population without access,when the public has dug into their pockets to fund these projects, IS STEALING.

    PEOPLE WHO THINK THEY “OWN” A RIVER OR PARTS OF IT DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT A RIVER “IS”!- paul young.Ct

  23. Perhaps it would help if people would take the time to differentiate between WATER and LAND.

    WATER: include/differentiate the often-quite-different rulings of the courts re navigable water vs. non-navigable water.

    LAND: include/differentiate the often-quite-different rulings of the courts re land under water vs. land surrounding water.

    The business of trout ~ unlimited or not! ~ is only the tip of the iceberg, in spite of the fact that it is the subject of this article.

    Had the courts consistently or persistently addressed the subject of stream access from coast to coast this discussion would not now be in progress … would it?

    Me-thinks NOT.

    “Fish around” and check out all the court case rulings and accompanying case comments for yourself. Might help burn off some steam if nothing else!

  24. Water laws are determined by the State through which the water flows, so obviously case law is going to vary wildly. In States like Montana or Wisconsin (where I live) the courts have consistently held that the water and the streambed are public. In Montana the streambed runs up to the average high water mark. In Wisconsin it is where the stream actually covers it at the moment. Other States have other rules. In all States navigable waters are public. Some States include recreational fishing as a use that comes under commercial navigation, some don’t. But my point is, just because you can find case law all over the place, the only case law that matters is that from the State the water flows through. Montana’s case law seems pretty consistent. The only reason Mitchell Slough fell outside of the law was that it was considered man-made.

    I would suppose tax laws are the same. Here in Wisconsin I pay taxes on the land the sidewalk crosses and for half the land that the alley in back of my lot crosses. In addition I get assessments on my property taxes if the sidewalk has to be repaired. And yet the public has every right to use both. And thats not wrong because I, in turn, have the right to access other peoples’ property in the same way.

    No one is asking TU to help change existing State law, only to defend existing State law and it’s members rights when it comes to public access.

  25. With all due respect for the comments you’ve posted, Geo., the only case law that matters is NOT just that from the State the water flows through unless you think the Feds have taken a hike of late; and, tax laws are NOT the same in all states.

    Nor is the sidewalk/alley situation relative to rural areas or unplatted areas, urban or rural, and in many states can even vary from city to city and county to county.

    Or, in the words of Mark Twain:

    What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know.
    It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.

    Good attorneys make the big bucks for a reason.

  26. National Trout Unlimited is letting down the many members who contributed over the years. The National Organization should have goals and objectives based on the issues at the local level, stream access being 1st or 2nd in importance. We have all been for “habitat” and the reasons we have “habitat” in Montana may not have been because of national TU at all. We also used DJ funds through FWP(F&G) for habitat. This was all based on the few aggressive sportsmen whom were willing to tackle tough controversial issues and stand up.I am not aware that the national TU contributed a dime to the Montana Stream Access Law effort of 1985.I knew Jerry well and he was the ‘1st pioneer’ of the Stream Access Law effort starting in 1983 and followed it all the way through and was very active with local TU. He never mentioned to me anything about national TU helping as I remember.He collected the money to pay the attorney. National probably doesn’t even know who he is and now we have the Montana Stream Access Law. National TU has been so far from the issues they don’t even know what the issues are. What has the National done for “habitat” in Montana? I can’t think of one thing. All of the effort was a achieved by serious sportsmen and FWP when they had a backbone not like now. We had the Montana Stream Preservation Act that was accomplished by aggressive Fish and Game fisheries biologists in the past.National TU has become a ‘fence rider’ and favors the desires of the wealthy.
    Many fisherman come to this state to enjoy sportfishing as the result of others efforts that includes big shots with national TU who fish on properties with red signs,keep out with public water flowing through. Do you fish with us common folks? Wake up national TU. I am going to cancel my membership until you start represented all of us not the privileged few.Conservation easements are also becoming highly suspect and favor the wealthy again. Show some backbone national TU then I will renew my membership.

  27. In my opinion the whole point in investing time and treasure in habitat protection/restoration is to have more trout so we can go fish for them. With out stream access there is no reason to go to the lengths TU goes to in preserving trout. Might as well kill ’em, stuff ’em and put ’em in a museum. That is about as close as we’ll ever get to them given the current trends nationwide. Here locally the Spring Ridge Club is gobbling up prime steelhead and trout water in Ohio and Pennsylvania; closing streams to all but their members. Steams managed and stocked by the states using public money. No way can I afford the 100k iniation let alone the annual dues. However, many luminaries in the fly fishing world can afford it and do belong. Who? TV show hosts, authors, editors and publishers. You know their names. Preservation was the battle in the 90’s and has gained enough momentum as to be nearly unstoppable, access is the new battle ground.