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Money talks at DU

904 Views 6 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  jeff51814
Hope DU wakes up, Don will be missed as editor.

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Don Thomas
11 hrs ·
"If every journalist reporting on these issues
faces this kind of vindictive retribution,
the future of wildlife and wildlife habitat-
not to mention the hunters and anglers of ordinary means
who form the backbone of groups like DU-
is bleak indeed."
This is one of those single issue newsletters.
The following is an article, written by conservation hunter/angler and author, Don Thomas, that he just sent to me. Don was fired for basically writing about a public access issue here in Montana, that offended the billionaire involved. The billionaire pulled strings at a conservation organization, whose magazine Don wrote for and got him fired. Not only is this an injustice, but this is a threat to conservation and is not isolated to just this organization or this writer, there have been others here in Montana that have been affected by political string pulling. This story, and its implications for conservation, needed to be shared.
Ducks, Politics, and Money by Don Thomas

As many of you know, I have been a regular contributor to Ducks Unlimited magazine for nearly twenty years, serving as their Field Editor and writing the back page column in every issue. Not any more.
In October, 2015 I wrote a piece for Outside Bozeman magazine, A Rift Runs Through It, about the long Montana legal battle to secure and maintain public access to the Ruby River in accordance with the state's stream access law. (I will make a copy of that text available to anyone on request.) To summarize a complex issue for those unfamiliar with the case, wealthy Atlanta businessman James Cox Kennedy engaged in extensive litigation to prevent such access, only to be denied repeatedly in court due to the efforts of the Montana Public Land and Water Access Association. While the article was not complimentary to Kennedy, no one has challenged the accuracy of the reporting.
James Cox Kennedy is a major financial contributor to Ducks Unlimited. On November 10, a Ducks Unlimited functionary informed me that my position with the magazine was terminated because of Cox's displeasure with the article.
Several points deserve emphasis. The Ruby River article had nothing whatsoever to do with ducks or Ducks Unlimited (DU hereafter). The article did strongly support the rights of hunters and other outdoor recreationists to enjoy land and water to which they are entitled to access, and DU is a hunters' organization. By terminating me for no reason related to my work for the magazine and the organization, DU has essentially taken the position that wealthy donors matter more than the outdoor recreationists they purport to represent.
As an outdoorsman and conservationist who supports the North American Model and the Public Trust Doctrine, I find DU's action reprehensible. As a journalist, I find it chilling. Wildlife advocates today face ever increasing pressures to abandon these principles in favor of the commercialization of our public resources, largely from wealthy individuals like James Cox Kennedy. If every journalist reporting on these issues faces this kind of vindictive retribution, the future of wildlife and wildlife habitat-not to mention the hunters and anglers of ordinary means who form the backbone of groups like DU-is bleak indeed.
This issue is not about me or my professional relationship with Ducks Unlimited magazine. It is about integrity and the future of wildlife in America. If you share my concerns-especially if you are a DU member-I encourage you to contact the organization (www.ducks.org attn: Dale Hall), express your opinion, and take whatever further action you might consider appropriate.
Don Thomas
Lewistown, MT
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Why would this surprise anyone....money talks and bull**** walks,been this way forever?
Horrible on multiple counts. The loss of public lands will be the downfall of our sporting way of life
Fighting for access to the Ruby River.
.....Couple these facts with Kennedy’s wealth and arrogance and pit them against the determination of a small group of Montanans daring enough to believe that the public should actually be able to utilize public resources, and you have the makings of a legal storm that has rocked the state to its core.....

Wearing the white hat—Montana’s very own Public Land and Water Access Association (PLWA from here on in), a group of unpaid volunteers that for years has played a crucial role in reopening illegally blocked access to public lands and waters throughout the state. Most Montanans wouldn’t realize how much public land access has been denied this way save for efforts by PLWA. Although basically a ragtag guerilla group fighting an odds-against battle against powerful, well-financed interests, its record of success in the courts has been remarkable.

.........but ultimately a selfish man........... Why he chose to check these values at the border when he entered Montana remains a mystery.

The issue—Kennedy’s apparent belief that a remarkable body of Montana law establishing the public’s right to recreate freely on the state’s waterways does not apply to rich people. It’s really that simple.......

.....Screw You, I’m Rich.....

..But not according to Kennedy, who began to physically bar access by erecting barbed wire and electric fences across the easement between the bridge and the water in 2003. When Madison County refused to remove the barriers, PLWA filed suit in 2004 to establish public access via three bridges across the Ruby, including Seyler Lane. Kennedy joined the fray in 2007, asking the court to bar all access at the bridges. Judge Loren Tucker found in favor of PLWA on two of the bridges, but delayed a ruling on Seyler Lane for procedural reasons.

Meanwhile, the legislature recognized the need to clarify this contentious issue. The result was the 2009 Bridge Access Law, stating that the public must be allowed to access streams and rivers from public roads and bridges and establishing a legal protocol for resolving disputes. It’s remarkable that a legal team as well-paid as Kennedy’s evidently managed to overlook this statute.

In 2012, Judge Tucker issued a delayed ruling on the Seyler Lane portion of the original lawsuit. The public had been crossing the Ruby at Seyler Lane for a hundred years. Furthermore, the county maintained the road and built the bridge. The existence of a prescriptive easement was not in question. The case turned on what the easement allowed. The lower court ruled against PLWA via a tortuous opinion that no one really understood, holding that two separate easements existed but neither provided legal access to the river. PLWA appealed. The Montana Supreme Court rejected Judge Tucker’s two easement theory and directed him to establish Seyler Lane as a safe and convenient travel route.

...Supreme Court Justice Patricia Cotter pointed out that the Montana constitution states “all the waters are the property of the state for the use of its people,” and asked Cox’s attorney if he was requesting the court to declare the state constitution unconstitutional. The answer was: “Yes.” Hmmm… an unconstitutional constitution? Where would rich people be without lawyers?....

.....James Cox Kennedy—arguably the most unpopular man in southwestern Montana—took an assault on the state’s popular Stream Access Law all the way to the Supreme Court despite abundant legal precedent upholding this legislation. He and his legal team must have known that their chances of victory were remote—Kennedy’s shortcomings are ethical, not intellectual. The cost of litigation must have been substantial, although it likely represented little more than cookie-jar money to him. Montana taxpayers bore their own share of the cost of this spiteful suit, for a Supreme Court does not run on fumes. Meanwhile, PLWA continues to thrive on volunteer effort and small contributions from people who cling to the notion that the public has rights, and that despite the odds, big money will not always prevail in the end......

...Kennedy’s legal maneuvering makes it clear that he would love to see Montana’s Stream Access Law go away. The most feasible strategy for accomplishing that goal is to outspend the opposition and litigate it to death with teams of lawyers, dispatching them on command like the Wicked Witch of the West unleashing her winged monkeys on the Land of Oz.......

I would say he blistered his a$$ pretty good
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