Public Access of Mitchell Slough and all of Montana's Resources

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By providing my Digital Signature on this petition, I acknowledge my support for full public access and recreational freedoms on Mitchell Slough in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana.

In November 2008, following a long-fought legal battle, the Montana Supreme Court declared Mitchell Slough a public watercourse, ruling that the slough was open to recreation under Montanas Stream Access Law. The courts ruling set a precedent for Montanas waterways and helped cement the publics recreational freedoms.

Despite the Montana Supreme Courts ruling, some landowners adjacent to Mitchell Slough have attempted to encumber the publics rights of access to the slough. There have been many well-documented accounts of intentional disruptions of recreationists by landowners along Mitchell Slough. Most recently, several adjacent landowners have taken the law into their own hands and have begun baiting waterfowl as a means to eliminate the legal pursuit of waterfowl by the public. The public respectfully demands that our rights, liberties and freedoms be protected and that public use of Mitchell Slough be maintained and improved. Public use shall not be determined by individual landowners on a case-by-case basis; rather, the courts ruling shall be respected to the fullest extent of the law.

The signers of this petition fully support private property rights of all Montanans; however, legal and reasonable public access to our states resources is critical to protecting and restoring the individual rights of all Montanans. The state shall not selectively protect and/or encumber public access freedoms. Public access laws shall be governed equally and fairly in all cases and all circumstances. The signers of this petition request that Montanas Stream Access Laws be applied fairy and unfettered on Mitchell Slough.

Landowners adjacent to Mitchell Slough have petitioned the State of Montana to close public waterfowl hunting on the natural watercourse, sighting annoyance and safely as main concerns. Certainly, the signers of this petition respect the opinions and feelings of landowners; however, aesthetic enjoyment for a few shall not supersede freedoms for all. Landowners adjacent to Mitchell Slough made personal decisions regarding the purchasing of property and construction of homes and those decisions shall not override the public access rights of all Montanans. Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks has regulations governing the legal distance one may pursue game in relation to occupied dwellings. The signers of this petition respect these regulations and, in the name of safety and respect, we request that they be followed strictly on Mitchell Slough. There is no justification to re-write existing regulations at the request of a select few landowners; doing so would set a dangerous precedent throughout the state and could have far reaching repercussions.

Montana is a state rich in resources and opportunity. However, the states resources are not a checkbook, accessible only to those with fortune. Montanas most flattering form of beauty is the opportunity that she provides for all. The intent of this petition is not to pit Montanans against one-another, rather, it is our hope and challenge, that as a people, we can continue to grow and respect one-another by acknowledging and respecting our shared freedoms and opportunities.