MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer HELENA
The state of Montana is going ahead with a plan to buy 172 acres along the Clark Fork of the Yellowstone River near Bridger for fishing and hunting access, despite objections from neighbors who argue the site offers poor fishing and few game animals. The State Land Board, made up of the governor and other top state elected officials, endorsed the plan Thursday on a 3-1 vote. It had previously been authorized by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Supporters said the access is needed in An area that offers little. They said any fishing and access site typically receives objections from neighboring property owners. "It seems like no one wants anything happening in their b a c k y a r d , " s a i d La r r y Copenhaver, with the Montana Wi ldl i fe Federat ion. "The sportsmen of the state support this, this is why FWP went forward." The department plans to pay $517,500 for the parcel and spend perhaps another $100,000 for full development of fishing access to include a boat ramp. Money comes from an Access Montana account set up by Gov. Brian Schweitzer and the Legislature to buy land for hunting or fishing access. Opponents argued at the Land Board meeting that the area is too close to their homes to allow hunting and will be a spot for crime because it is too remote to be properly policed. They also said the river is mostly used for agriculture and is barely ankle deep in the summer. It offers few trout, and the property itself offers little in the way of game animals, a half dozen opponents said. "Surely there are better places in this great state to spend money for our sportsmen," said Joan Johnston, whose house looks out onto the property. The department said it will not allow rifle hunting on the site but will allow archery hunting for game like deer and shotgun hunting for game birds and waterfowl. It also will establish safety zones near houses, the Land Board was told. The lone vote against the plan came from Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, who instead sought a plan that allowed hunting only from the river, such as for waterfowl. Schweitzer said the arguments of the neighbors make no sense because Carbon County has no zoning restrictions against such a site. For instance, he pointed out someone could buy it and establish a private campground or even build something like a hog farm that could really annoy neighbors. "It seems to me if the local community would like to have an input on what the future of their community should look like, they would do that in zoning. But that has not been done here," Schweitzer said.