Montana TU Requesting Help


Not to be confused with Freestone
MT TU SB347.jpg

Critical! Legislative Action Alert
Montana Trout Unlimited
18 April 2013

Fellow WFF Members,

Tell Governor Bullock to veto SB 347, which allows the mining industry to dry up streams, harm fish and rob from existing water rights with little accountability.


SB 347, sponsored by Sen. Chas Vincent (R-Libby) recently passed the Montana Senate and House. This awful bill exempts the massive groundwater pumping performed by mining companies from being reviewed under the "nondegradation" policy in Montana's Water Quality Act. Pumping for mining can significantly reduce important groundwater recharge to streams. Nondegradation review and standards are the only legal backstop available for protecting existing water right holders from losing water to groundwater pumping that they have a legal right to.

Take Action!

Contact Governor Steve Bullock NOW and tell him in your own words to veto SB 347! Here is why:

  • Besides threatening water rights of irrigators, cities and hydro producers, this bill threatens flows for fish. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks holds instream flow rights for fisheries on blue ribbon trout streams, such as the Blackfoot, Big Hole and Smith Rivers, all which could be threatened by massive groundwater pumping for proposed mines next to key tributaries. Other streams threatened by mining related pumping of groundwater include the Bull River and Jefferson River, as well as Basin Creek in the upper Clark Fork watershed and Otter Creek in the Tongue River basin.
  • Studies for one proposed mine in the Cabinet Mountains indicates it will significantly deplete flows in a key bull trout spawning reach of the East Fork of the Bull River - a reach of river that is inside a designated wilderness. The effect could last for decades after the mine closes.
  • The bill allows the mining industry to harm water rights, which are a private property right, without requiring mitigation or compensation.
  • An amendment added to the bill ostensibly to protect fish is wishy-washy, unclear and will invite lawsuits.
Tell Governor Bullock not to give the mining industry this special gift. Tell him the mining industry should get a water right for pumping large amounts of groundwater - just like every other large user of groundwater in Montana -- so that existing owners of water rights, including FWP, can formally object if they will be harmed. Remind him of the promises he made to protect the interests of anglers, other recreationists and agriculture. TELL HIM TO VETO SB 347.

Contact Governor Bullock at [email protected].


call the Governor's office at 406-444-3111.

For more information on the legislation, contact:

Mark Aagenes at [email protected].

Stay Informed! Get involved! Check for important updates.

Thank you for doing your part to make a difference.

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Montana Trout Unlimited
phone: 406-543-0054


Not to be confused with Freestone
Just finished my e-mail... 10 minutes of well spent time.

Moderators -- any chance we can make this a top post for a week or so?



This tact works. Montana relies on tourism for income. If the numbers of those sending e-mails are substantial, it will have an effect. We've had to mount similar campaigns in Oregon to save areas jeopardized by big money... and they worked.

Send an e-mail. It takes little time and they will be noticed.


That took less than three minutes. You don't need to create a long-winded e-mail. Large numbers of folks requesting a veto is the idea so you can keep the message short and sweet.


Not to be confused with Freestone
Thanks to all who sent e-mails asking Gov Steve Bullock to veto the proposed bills. We may never know the extent our efforts have on influencing those making decisions on matters like this -- but I suspect it did in this case. I know this is not a WA specific issue, but there is a common thread to much of what TU does across the nation, and they can use all the help they can get.

Conservation Alert
Montana Trout Unlimited

14 May 2013

Dear William,

Please thank Governor Bullock for vetoing bad water bills and supporting important measures benefitting wild trout.

Several water policy bills Montana TU spent much of the session trying to defeat or amend made it to Governor Steve Bullock's desk. After thoughtful deliberation with state agency staff, he vetoed the three worst bills. TU members really need to thank him for protecting Montana's great rivers. The vetoed bills include:

SB 19, sponsored by Sen. Brad Hamlett (D-Cascade), would have codified an existing loophole in water law that allows developers to drill an unlimited amount of so-called "exempt wells" in subdivisions without requiring permits or an evaluation of how the cumulative effect of the pumping would affect connected surface water sources. We proposed amendments that would fix the measure, but the Legislature rejected them.

SB 337, also sponsored by Sen. Hamlett. It would have severely reduced the ability of Montanans who don't have water rights in a particular basin, but have otherwise invested in streamflow conservation from having formal say in Montana's adjudication of water rights. Gov. Schweitzer vetoed the same bill last session, just weeks after the Montana Supreme Court had upheld the right of TU to object in adjudication proceedings.

SB 347, sponsored by Sen. Chas Vincent (R-Libby), would have exempted massive groundwater pumping or surface diversions for mining from Montana's nondegradation policy, which protects the state's high quality waters from undue harm. This bill would have allowed mines to reduce flows in streams that are recharged by the pumped or diverted water. Despite numerous attempts by Montana TU and the governor to amend the bill in a way that would reduce harm, but still allow mines to pump groundwater, the mining industry insisted on a harmful version.

Governor Bullock also deserves special thanks for:
  • Approving a budget for FWP that adequately funds the Future Fisheries Improvement Program, which has invested in millions of dollars of fishery habitat restoration since 1995.
  • Helping develop and approving a bill that greatly improves Montana's program for dealing with aquatic invasive species, including an appropriation of $1.4 million for the next two years.
  • Vetoing a line-item in a key budget bill that would have eliminated FWP's ability to purchase important habitat or conservation easements.


Author, Writer, Photographer
Bullock vetoed SB347 on May 3rd. The Legislature could override his veto, but they are no longer in session. I think they could do it without reconvening though.

Another really grave threat to fly fishers in Montana comes from billionaire James Cox Kennedy. Kennedy, with all his billions has hired lawyers to upend Montana's stream access laws. His lawyers argue he owns the Ruby River water running through his property (a few scant miles southwest of the Winston Rod Company in Twin Bridges, Montana) and the streambed. This is in direct conflict with the Montana Constitution and stream access laws.


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Not to be confused with Freestone
Are you referring to King Kennedy by any chance... one of Ted's close buddies who builds his own private little kingdom under the guise of conservation easements, using our tax dollars (albeit indirectly), to do so?

King Cox Kennedy.jpeg

As a land owner in the Ruby Valley myself, and long time PLWA supporter, I'm looking forward to the continued fight with these elitist jack-wagons. PLWA, Butte Sportsman, Montana TU and many other groups have been putting up the good fight, and its principals doing some heavy lifting that benefits all of us who enjoy Montana's great fishing and access. I'm amazed there is not more outrage (particularly from this forum on posts about stream access) over people like Kennedy who think our countries most precious treasures were made exclusively for them.

I urge everyone who cares about public trust doctrine and fishing and hunting access rights to join one or all of these groups and help the cause... don't let our rights be taken from future generations on our watch.