Bitterroot Water Ruling
“Frankly, I’m an Obama guy . . . You hear these sort-of horror stories about the government is gonna take your property, or they’re gonna confiscate your ground, and I always thought it was some sort of libertarian gobbledy-gook. But in this case this is exactly what’s happening.”
That was Huey Lewis; this is the news: The Mitchell Slough, in the Bitterroots of Montana, is a century-old irrigation ditch. Newcomers to the area, including rocker Huey Lewis, worked on the slough to make it better for fish. Though farmers were at first skeptical, the redigging and unsilting made the slough better for agriculture as well as for fish.
But those fish are valuable. Other folks covet them.
In Montana, natural water bodies must be accessible to the public. So the recreation lobby took the slough’s owners to court.
At first, the historical facts of this man-made water system held sway. But the Montana State Supreme Court overturned all this, caving in to the intense political pressure to open up the slough to public access.
People with fishing rods may rejoice now, but their victory will be Pyrrhic. The fish and wildlife will degrade. Basically, Montana’s highest court unleashed what is called the “tragedy of the commons.” Public access of a common resource often leads to overuse, in this case, over-fishing. It’s sad news for Huey Lewis, farmers, fishermen . . . and fish.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.