Montana Republicans kill public access bill introduced after disastrous Gianforte lawsuit

Republicans in the Montana State Legislature’s House Judiciary Committee today killed a bill to protect public access to public lands by increasing fines for gating public roads and other public rights of way.

Rep. Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls, introduced HB 295 after New Jersey multimillionaire and failed candidate for governor Greg Gianforte sued the people of Montana to eliminate an easement that provides public access to the East Gallatin River.

“Today Montana Republicans again put the interests of New Jersey millionaires like Greg Gianforte who block public access over the voices of Montana sportsmen and women,” said Nancy Keenan, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party. “It’s clear that the Montana GOP is actively working to chip away Montanans’ constitutional right to access Montana’s public lands, rivers and streams.

Montana Republicans on the House Judiciary committee killed the public access legislation in a 9-10 vote. Did Greg Gianforte discuss this anti-public access bill with GOP legislators before they voted it down?

Jacobson’s bill would have increased fines for landowners who block public access by fencing off county roads and other public rights of way.

Gianforte created a firestorm when records revealed he filed a lawsuit to “eliminate” a publicly owned easement near his property that provided access the East Gallatin River. Documents from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks showed that Gianforte “fenced off” and “actively excluded” the public from accessing the public easement to the river.

Gianforte recently announced he will be seeking the U.S. House seat if Congressman Ryan Zinke is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

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