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Public Access Land Agreements

Open or improve public access to inaccessible public lands

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Overview

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ Public Access Land Agreements program seeks to open or improve free public access to isolated parcels of state or federal land for hunting or fishing.

The Public Access Land Agreement program is a creative way for landowners to provide public access to public lands for hunting and/or fishing, in exchange for a payment and other negotiated improvements to facilitate public access to public lands.

Who is eligible

To be eligible for a Public Access Land Agreement private landowners, must be willing to provide public access to either inaccessible public lands or improve access to under-accessible public lands, or both. Landowners who wish to enter agreements must also hold the lease for grazing/farming on the public land - if a lease exists.

Inaccessible land means public land wholly surrounded by private land by which there is no other legal access via public road, trail, right of way or easement; public waters; adjacent federal, state, county, or municipal land that is open to public use; or adjacent private land for which that landowner has not granted permission to cross.

Under-accessible land means public land for which there is no other legal access point within two miles via public road, trail, right of way or easement; public waters; adjacent federal, state, county, or municipal land that is open to public use. Access via public waters may also be considered under accessible if there are safety concerns which limit access by boat (due to rapids, boulders, log jams) and/or by foot while remaining within the high water mark (due to swift currents, deep water along banks, slippery substrate).

Landowner liability

Landowners enrolled in the Public Access Land Agreement program are provided liability protection under state law through 70-16-302, Montana Code Annotated (MCA) as long as no fees for access/trespass are charged. Landowners are also possibly eligible for reimbursement through FWP's Livestock Loss Reimbursement Program.

Landowner compensation and benefits

Landowners who enroll parcels, roads or trails in the Public Access Land Agreement program are eligible for an annual payment of up to $15,000 per agreement. Landowners and the department may also negotiate improvements needed to facilitate access

FWP may provide hunter management assistance dependent upon need, property rules and program availability as well as may provide and post signs with associated maps and rules for each property, road or trail enrolled in the program.

Agreement details

Potential agreements will be reviewed by the Private Land/Public Wildlife Advisory Committee for a recommendation to the Department whether to fund the agreement.

The agreement will be between private landowners and Fish, Wildlife & Parks for a minimum of one year up to ten-years with payments made annually.

Landowner in collaboration with FWP determines when, where, and how the public may access public land in accordance with program guidelines including the possibility of limiting travel to foot traffic only.

How to apply

Applications are available year-round and must be received at least 6-weeks prior to the next upcoming Private Land/Public Wildlife Advisory Committee meeting to ensure adequate time to review the project. Landowners must also submit with a $5.00 dollar application fee.

The deadline for applications before the July PL/PW meeting is June 19, 2020.

Questions?

Contact your local FWP office or email LndSportRelations@mt.gov.