Fish, Wildlife and Parks has been getting some unwanted attention lately for its purchase of land for hunting, fishing, picnicking and hiking.
Its purchase of some land near the Canadian border started a massive rhubarb that affected the debate on FWP budget in Helena this year. Several bills were introduced to place limits on FWP’s ability to buy land. For the most part, these bills fell by the wayside. For whatever the value of the north county land in question, in general, public ownership of land is valuable for all Montanans.
This weekend, FWP celebrated the purchase of land that is likely to be popular with Montana fishermen.
The Bailey Reservoir near Kremlin has been a favorite of people who like to fish since Howard Bailey built it more than 40 years ago.
It was time for his daughter, Jeanne Bailey Martin, to sell the land, and there were immediate fears that a big-city family looking for an out-of-the way summer home would fork over the cash.
FWP has long stocked the pond and helped the Bailey family operate it.
So FWP agreed to buy half the reservoir, leaving the Martins to remain owners of the other half.
The state couldn’t quite pay the full amount, so Jim Filipowicz of Great Falls, who has fished for many years at Bailey’s, bought five acres for the Walleyes Unlimited for Great Falls. Walleyes promptly turned the land over to the state, ensuring the pond would remain in its present state.
The area will remain forever wild in public hands.
FWP and fishermen celebrated Saturday, and right they should.
The lesson for the rest of us is that when we are upset with the public purchase of some farm lands for hunting, fight like crazy against it.
But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
FWP acted responsibly in buying the Bailey property, and we thank the agency.