BUTTE, Mont. (AP) - The Montana Supreme Court has upheld a lower court’s decision to keep open a road near Anaconda while an attempt by private landowners to close it to the public moves through the courts.
The Anaconda-Deer Lodge County commission in March 2012 affirmed both the upper and lower branches of the road as public and ordered the locks cut on gates that had barred access for decades. Letica and McGee then sought through the courts to have the road closed. Second Judicial District Court Judge Kurt Krueger in July 2012 ordered the road remain open pending trial.
The road cuts through part of Letica’s Montana Big Horn Ranch, and the upper portion of the road enters public land in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
Letica’s attorney, Martin King, argues that the clerk and recorder’s office in August 2013 found a book jammed behind a cabinet that contained information concerning a 1902 document called the Scott petition. The county used that document to open the upper branch of Modesty Creek Road.
But Letica contends the discovery of the book shows the Scott petition actually involves a road in Warm Springs.
“The county discovered more road records that disclose that the Scott petition didn’t apply at all to the Letica property but to property in Warm Springs,” King said. “At that point, the whole premise for using the upper path, i.e. the 1902 Scott petition, was proven to being completely wrong. The county admitted to that in its pleading. The county wouldn’t voluntarily gate the upper path despite finding the new records and that their previous reliance on the Scott petition was erroneous.”
The Anaconda-Deer Lodge County chief executive and county attorney declined to comment.
Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com