Now, in this case, it's not a hell of a lot of money, but after reading a post in Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing about a Montana state representative who's trying to undo much of the good that was done a couple years back, when the state Legislature finally cleared up exactly what "public access" was in Montana, even a little bit of money can make some folks undertake foolish errands.
After years of legal wrangling that involved folks like pop-rocker Huey Lewis and his claim that Mitchell Slough on the Bitterroot River that runs through his property is actually a private impoundment (it ain't, Huey... you may believe in the Power of Love, but you apparently couldn't give a rat's ass about public access), the Legislature and then-state Rep. Kendall Van Dyk, a Democrat from Billings, made it clear what constituted public access and what didn't.
It was, for lack of a better term (and one that's generally foreign in Montana, anyway), progressive. It strengthened Montana's solid access laws, which only added to the Montana mystique among anglers. Great fishing. And, uh, you can actually get to it.
|Montana Representative (and Hairclub for Men|
member) Jeff Welborn.
This is, at best, blatant legislating on behalf of himself and a handful private landowners in southwest Montana who have their own interests at heart, and not so much on behalf of the people he claims to represent. In the grand scheme of things, how many ranchers in and around Dillon are negatively impacted by that reckless band of fly fishers who climb over highway guardrails and spend hours casting to feeding trout below the high-water mark on private land? Is it really so egregious? So high-impact?
Now, let's say Welborn's bill, now headed to the state Senate, where, coincidentally, Van Dyk now sets up shop (we can talk about the money HE spent to get that gig another time, but, honestly, folks, as far as I'm concerned, it was worth every penny) gains a second dose of insane approval. And then, let's say Gov. Brian Schweitzer signs this bill.
What's it worth in lost business to the folks in Welborn's district who stand to gain from progressive access to navigable waterways across otherwise private land? What's it worth in high-end whiskey at the Longhorn Saloon? How about the new hotels out there on I-15? What about the gas stations and smarmy little casinos? Restaurants? How about the poor soul at the fly shop who makes his sole living telling folks where to get in and get out on the Beaverhead or the Ruby? These are the folks Welborn represents, but I'm guessing they didn't pony up too much for his campaign. So, if you think about it, they're getting their money's worth.
This, if you think about it, is Montana's answer to the national debate over health care. The GOP in Congress is so damned determined to gut "Obamacare" that its members are ignoring some really important issues where progress is actually possible. In Montana, Welborn and his lot are so busy looking backwards that they're likely failing their constituents when it comes to issues that actually carry some importance (and it pains me, folks, to admit that me being able to get onto the Ruby River below the dam isn't really vital).
This is Welborn's fool's errand. He's wasted a month of taxpayer's time in a state where the Legislature only gathers every two years to do any substantive work. And he's taking a shot at sportsmen who come to Montana every year to experience "the Last, Best Place." If he's successful, Montana's new motto might just be "No Trespassing. Go Spend Your Money in Idaho."
And for that, Mr. Welborn is this week's Adversary of the Sporting State.