Montana Code Annotated 2021



Part 2. Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks

Unlocking Public Lands Program -- Purpose -- Commission Rulemaking Authority

87-1-294. (Temporary) Unlocking public lands program -- purpose -- commission rulemaking authority. (1) The legislature finds that increasing access to public lands will provide additional opportunities for activities such as hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, and other recreational activities as determined by the commission.

(2) The department may establish and administer a voluntary program to encourage access through private land to parcels not previously deemed legally accessible to be known as the unlocking public lands program.

(3) Private land is not eligible for the unlocking public lands program if outfitting or commercial hunting restricts public hunting opportunities on that land.

(4) If the parcel not previously deemed legally accessible is leased state land under Title 77, chapter 1, only the lessee with a qualified access to that state land under 15-30-2380 is eligible for the unlocking public lands program.

(5) (a) A contract for participation in the unlocking public lands program is established through a cooperative agreement between the landowner and the department that guarantees reasonable access to public land through the landowner's private land. This contract serves as certification that the landowner is providing qualified access to public land and is eligible for the tax credit identified in 15-30-2380. The contract must include a certification number for identification purposes. The department shall provide a copy of the contract to the landowner and notify the department of revenue of the certification number. Contracts may be established with landowners:

(i) to provide direct access across a landowner's land to a public parcel; or

(ii) who own land adjacent to the point where the corners of two parcels of public land meet. A landowner with a contract pursuant to this subsection (5)(a)(ii) shall grant access through the landowner's land to establish a corridor between the two parcels of public land. At least one of the parcels of public land must be accessible by a public road, waterway, or access granted by a landowner.

(b) Contracts under subsection (5) may be established with landowners who, prior to January 1, 2016, provided access to public land that was otherwise not legally accessible under subsection (9). Landowners who establish contracts under this subsection (5)(b) are eligible to receive the tax credit identified in 15-30-2380.

(6) The commission shall develop rules for establishing contracts under this section regarding:

(a) duration of access;

(b) types of qualified access; and

(c) reasonable landowner-imposed limitations.

(7) The department shall provide public notice of any available qualified access to public land established through the unlocking public lands program.

(8) Recreational users of access established by the unlocking public lands program shall remain in the prescribed access route or corridor as defined by the contract in subsection (5).

(9) For purposes of this section:

(a) "parcels not previously deemed legally accessible" means public land that cannot be accessed by:

(i) public road, right-of-way, or easement;

(ii) public waters;

(iii) adjacent federal, state, county, or municipal land that is open to public use; or

(iv) adjacent private land because that landowner has not granted permission to cross; and

(b) "public land" means:

(i) state land, as defined in 77-1-101; or

(ii) federal land managed by the U.S. forest service or the bureau of land management. (Terminates December 31, 2027--secs. 1, 2, Ch. 139, L. 2017.)

History: En. Sec. 2, Ch. 346, L. 2013; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 392, L. 2015.