A section of the Bullwhacker Road valued by hunters for allowing access to 50,000 acres of public land in Blaine County was declared private by District Court Judge John McKeon in a March 25 ruling.
William and Olive Robinson prevailed in the suit that they filed in 2009 seeking to overturn a county ruling that the road was public. They were not, however, awarded attorney fees.
The road, which crosses about four miles of the Robinsons’ Anchor Ranch, has been a point of contention for many years. The ranch couple attempted to control access by permitting travel only when the gumbo road was dry and by posting a sign-in box in 1975.
In response, gates, fencing and signs were torn down by vandals, and the road was rutted during travel when it was wet.
Armed with detailed research on the historic use of the route, the Public Land/Water Access Association pressed the county to challenge the controlled access, arguing that public use of the road dated to the 1920s and, therefore, met the definition of a prescriptive easement. The county agreed in 2007, declaring the route a county road.
But McKeon found in the Robinsons’ favor, ruling that use of the road over the decades did not meet the criteria of “open, exclusive, notorious, hostile, adverse, continuous, and uninterrupted use of the property of another.”
Instead, McKeon said that, over the years, use of the route was by permission of the Robinsons.
The Bullwhacker Road provides access to Bureau of Land Management acreage north of the Missouri River, including portions of the Missouri River Breaks National Monument. The area is prized by hunters for its populations of elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep.