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Montana DNRC Bars Combat Veteran from Home

Montana Department of Natural Resources (DNRC) is closing down a century-old mining road to all vehicular traffic and demanding that landowners abandon vehicles or remove them from their land. This unfortunate situation has stranded 67-year-old, Vietnam combat veteran, Bane Wilson, from his home where he planned to retire and live out his life.

Bane Wilson has been the owner of 25011 Wallace Creek Road, Clinton, Montana since 2012, choosing the mining claim as his home after scouring three states to find a suitable place to live out his twilight years. The mining claim dates to around 1900 and is interspersed with other mining claims and Federal land. Bane Wilson’s claim is sandwiched between BLM and Montana state lands. Currently, there is no other way to access the claims in this area which requires a minimum of 16 miles roundtrip to the nearest grocery store in Clinton to obtain supplies. This includes a 2000-foot elevation change that must now be traveled on foot according to the Montana DNRC. Bane Wilson currently lives in a small travel trailer on his land with just his old, dilapidated pickup for transportation that often breaks down. Neither he nor the other landowners have caused undue damage to the road or the land surrounding it.

The DNRC’s sudden interest in a little-known road came about due to the Dirty Donovan timber sale. Many Clinton residents were supportive of the timber sale and were unaware of the DNRC’s plans to permanently close the road. Bane Wilson and the other claim owners received their “eviction notices” late in 2014. It was not until the DNRC posted signs for foot traffic only did many residents have an inkling as to what was in store for the only access to those mining claims.

When contacting the Montana DNRC, Bane Wilson claims that the woman he spoke to was rude and gave him no options. What makes this closure potentially unlawful is that the claims have been in existence before the DNRC and state trust lands. The DNRC in the past has never closed the gate on the road that leads to the mining claims because it was unlawful to do so according to an FWP warden.

Currently, Bane Wilson and the other landowners have few options:
• Abandon his home and truck on his property.
• Remove his home and gear, never to return them to the property.
• Obtain right of way across BLM and private property, then build a road through steep, heavily-wooded gullies to reach the next nearest public road. A project that one local contractor estimates would cost between $50,000 and $100,000 for the equipment alone.

“Many residents in Clinton use that road to access what would normally be inaccessible lands to recreate and to hunt on,” says Maggie Bonham, award-winning author and publisher of Sky Warrior Books. “Many people here use this land to fill their freezers during hunting time and are subsistence, or close to subsistence, hunters. Without this access, the entire area has been effectively closed off to generations of Montanans between the Montana DNRC closing and the closing of the roads by the Nature Conservancy. Poor Bane has no choice but to walk nearly twenty miles round-trip in all kinds of weather just to get a sack of groceries.”


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 27th, 2015 11:13 am (UTC)
Wow. I thought you were required by law to provide easements if someone lives on the far side of your property and you're capable of cutting their access from the rest of the area. I thought it was a fundamental underpinning of law. I guess I thought wrong, or the DNRC was capable of either rewriting or ignoring it.

This well and truly sucks.
Mar. 27th, 2015 01:23 pm (UTC)
Few questions--

Who's the timber company that bought the sale, and which government entity is selling the timber? BLM or State of Montana?

What entity is FWP (Note that state wildlife entities have different acronyms in other states)?

Has a reason been given for closing the road? I'd look to the timber company for that one, also depending on politics from the DNRC. Also, what reason is the Nature Conservancy giving for the road closure? Shooting this stuff down starts with looking at the official reasoning given, then applying pressure to all the related agencies. Wilderness ain't an issue if it's related to a timber sale, at least in my opinion.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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