State reminds stream users of laws as water runs high


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With area streams running for the first time since early last spring, anglers and recreationists are thinking about those streams and access to them.

With many recreationists the problem is how to best access that favorite fishing hole or camping area next to a creek. For those who have questions, the best bet in this area is to fish and camp in Beaver Creek Park. Even though it has a fee, it is a public park and fishing, as well as camping, is encouraged. Beaver Creek is running well these days.

Creeks like Little Box Elder and Clear Creek are like a lure to a brook trout. They are located on private land. Before heading to that favorite fishing hole, ask permission from the landowner and get hold of a Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks brochure titled, "Stream Access in Montana." The brochure gets into stream-access law, trespass legislation, access from county roads at bridge crossings, and Montana stream classifications.

Also noted are some very good tips for recreationists to follow on private or public lands.

Respect the rights of landowners whenever you recreate on waterways that cross the flow adjacent to their properties.

Remember that the law permits recreation only within the ordinary high-water marks. If you must portage around obstructions, do so in the least intrusive manner possible.

Leave all fences intact. They are there for a purpose.

Remember that overnight camping between the ordinary high-water marks of Class 1 waters bordered by private land is only permissible when it is necessary for the enjoyment of the water resource.

If you must build a fire, choose a safe location, and if possible use an existing fire ring. Attend to the fire at all times and be sure it is completely out before leaving. Remember that you have no right to gather firewood above the ordinary high-water marks without landowner permission.

If a dog accompanies you on your outing, keep it from harassing livestock and keep it within the high-water marks of the stream.

Know that you must always obtain permission from the landowner to hunt, including nongame and predators, on private property. Also note that the stream-access law does not authorize big game hunting on private land between the high-water marks. For waterfowl and all other hunting, keep safety in mind at all times and ask permission to retrieve game above the ordinary high-water marks. Do not discharge firearms near dwellings or livestock.

Note that your activities must be restricted to those that are water related. It is your responsibility to find out in advance if the river or stream you plan to use can support the water-based recreational activities you have in mind at that time of year.

Note that the state interprets the stream-access law to allow hiking in streams only if the land is not posted as required by trespass legislation. If the land is posted as required by law, hiking without landowner permission is prohibited unless it is incidental to other water-related recreation, such as fishing, being pursued by the recreationist between the ordinary high-water marks.

Note that it is illegal to trespass to get to a stream.

Remember that littering is strictly prohibited.

Note that Montana's attorney general has held that the stream-access law does not apply to the trapping of fur-bearing animals.

Remember that your water-related activities between the high-water marks must be of minimal impact and necessary to the utilization of the water itself.

Above all, keep the rights of landowners in mind, and if you have any doubt concerning the activities you can legally pursue on waterways next to private lands, make it a habit to ask permission first from the owners of these lands. Remember, asking first is always a good policy.

For further information, contact the Havre FWP office at 265-6177.


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