Victory at Last

Ruby River, Seyler Lane, PLWA

Victory at Last

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Kathryn Qannayahu

Montana has some of the most enviable access laws of any state in the Union, and indeed, of any trout fishery in the world. But it didn’t get that way by accident, and it doesn’t stay that way without a fight—like the one the Public Land/Water Access Association (PLWA) has been waging on the Ruby River for over a decade. 

In 2004, PLWA sued Madison County for failure to remove unlawful encroachments erected by Georgia billionaire James Cox Kennedy in 2003, which blocked access to the Ruby at Seyler Lane. PLWA, an all-volunteer organization, has been in and out of District Court and Montana's Supreme Court over the years, winning their cases each step of the way. Their final victory occurred in the fall of 2016. “It’s over. The controversy on the Ruby River, a legal battle that has continued for years, has finally been resolved,” declared PLWA president John Gibson.

Over the course of the battle, it cost PLWA approximately $200,000 to secure stream access for the public. This grassroots organization, whose base membership costs only $20, prevailed against a Georgia billionaire—a rare case of David defeating Goliath. It was a hard-fought battle, so enjoy the restored Seyler Lane access, watch out for encroachments, and join PLWA to maintain, restore, and perpetuate public access in Montana.

Kathryn Qannayahu runs Enhancing Montana’s Wildlife Habitat. Visit for more information about access issues in Montana. To join PLWA, visit

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