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Enforce public access rights in the Crazies

Enforce public access rights in the Crazies

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In June, a coalition of Montana-based conservation groups, including the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service for failing to enforce public access rights in the Crazy Mountains. This was no easy decision. As chair of MT BHA, I felt compelled to explain our legal action against a longstanding partner in a letter to this paper.

After an apparently cursory reading of the lawsuit and my letter, C.T. Ripley chose to fire back (The Billings Gazette, June 30) with his take on the motivation behind our lawsuit and the legitimacy of BHA, an organization in which I’ve invested thousands of hours.

Let’s be clear: This is not a property grab. I am not some out-of-stater coming in to seize your land. This is about Montanans standing up for public access rights that Montanans have enjoyed for generations. This is about setting a high standard for our land management agencies and protecting the opportunities of the average outdoorsman or woman.

It’s borderline impossible to defend the illegal closure of a public access route. So instead, Ripley chose to make a highly speculative and deceptive attack on BHA, even going so far as to accuse me of accepting money from “out-of-state billionaires.” Like the rest of the Montana chapter board, I’m a volunteer. We represent more than 3,000 statewide members, whose donations paid for this suit. Ripley’s baseless claims deserve no place in this conversation about how we manage the Crazies.

John B. Sullivan III

Missoula

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