Montana Code Annotated 2021



Part 2. Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks

Fishing Access Enhancement Program -- Benefits For Providing Fishing Access -- Cooperative Agreement -- Factors For Determining Benefits Earned -- Restriction On Landowner Liability

87-1-286. Fishing access enhancement program -- benefits for providing fishing access -- cooperative agreement -- factors for determining benefits earned -- restriction on landowner liability. (1) As provided in 87-1-285, the department may establish and administer a voluntary program to enhance fishing access. The program must be designed to provide tangible benefits to participating private landowners who grant access to or across their land for public fishing.

(2) A contract for participation in the fishing access enhancement program is established through a cooperative agreement between the landowner and the department that will guarantee reasonable access for public fishing, which may include leases, easements, or rights-of-way to rivers, streams, ponds, or lakes on the landowner's property and leases or easements for access along the banks or shorelines of rivers, streams, ponds, or lakes on the property. Landowners may also form a voluntary association when development of a unified cooperative agreement is advantageous. A cooperative agreement must contain a detailed description of the plan developed by the landowner and the department and may include but is not limited to:

(a) fishing access management, which may include off-road parking, foot trails, and vehicle access roads;

(b) services to be provided to the public;

(c) landowner property rules and other restrictions;

(d) any other management information to be gathered, which must be made available to the public; and

(e) notice to adjacent landowners.

(3) If the department determines that the plan referred to in subsection (2) may adversely influence fish management decisions or fishing habitat on public lands, then other public land agencies, interested sportspersons, and affected landowners must be consulted. An affected landowner's management goals and personal observations regarding fish populations and habitat use must be considered in developing the plan.

(4) The commission shall develop rules for determining tangible benefits to be provided to a landowner for providing public fishing access. Benefits will be provided to offset potential impacts associated with public fishing access, including but not limited to those associated with general property maintenance, conservation efforts, weed control, fire protection, liability insurance, roads, fences, and parking area maintenance. Program priority must be given to properties that provide the greatest fishing access for the lowest costs. Factors used in determining benefits may include but are not limited to:

(a) the number of days of public fishing provided by a participating landowner;

(b) fish habitat provided; and

(c) access provided to adjacent public lands.

(5) Benefits earned by a landowner under this section may be applied in, but application is not limited to, the following manner:

(a) A landowner may receive direct monetary compensation for providing fishing access.

(b) A landowner may direct weed control payments to be made directly to the county weed control board or may elect to receive payments directly.

(c) A landowner may direct fire protection payments to be made directly to the local fire district or the county where the landowner resides or may elect to receive payments directly.

(d) A landowner may receive direct payment to offset insurance costs incurred for allowing public fishing access.

(e) The department may provide assistance in the construction and maintenance of roads, fencing, gates, and parking facilities and in the signing of property.

(6) The restriction on liability of a landowner, agent, or tenant that is provided under 70-16-302(1) applies to a landowner who participates in the fishing access enhancement program.

History: En. Sec. 2, Ch. 196, L. 2001.