Nearly two million acres of public land in Montana are landlocked and inaccessible for public use, including 724,000 acres because the public cannot cross corners and 1,231,000 acres fully landlocked by private lands.
Private landowners that block access to public land enjoy the exclusive use of and unfairly benefit from the recreational and resource values of those public lands. Most federal and state lands are open to hunting, fishing, and general recreation. But the public cannot enjoy these benefits if they cannot access the land, while private landowners with exclusive access enjoy exclusive use. Most State and federal lands are open to grazing, timber, outfitting, and other special use permits. But if others have no access to these lands, they cannot fairly compete for permits. And, if public land and wildlife managers cannot access public lands, they cannot effectively manage those lands and resources.
Private landowners rightfully defend their fundamental right to acquire and protect private property, including the right to deny public access without just compensation and due process of law. But, a person’s inalienable right to pursue, possess, and protect property, like all other rights, is constrained by the responsibility not to infringe upon another’s rights, or cause injury to other persons or the commonwealth.
We the people should respect private property rights. But landowners should not abuse that respect and right by blocking reasonable access to public lands and unfairly benefiting from the exclusive control of public land and resources.