12.2.607 PUBLIC ACCESS LAND AGREEMENTS
(1) Before approving a PALA the department must exercise due diligence to verify that:
(a) the public lands are not restricted or closed to general recreational use by the land management agency that owns or has legal control of the public land;
(b) the private lands, or any right of way, road, or trail to be utilized are wholly owned by the applicant(s) and there is open access across the designated access route;
(c) the public has no existing right of access over the proposed route;
(d) access routes restricted to foot travel only:
(i) must be capable of accommodating normal ambulatory travel; and
(ii) must not exceed one linear mile from the beginning to the end of the access route; and
(e) access routes available to motorized vehicles must be safe and passable during dry conditions for two-wheel drive vehicles.
(2) If access to inaccessible public land or under accessible public land can only or most effectively be provided through separate properties owned by different landowners, an agreement may be issued with each landowner provided each landowner holds the lease or permit on the public land or the public land does not have an existing lease or permit.
(3) Contingent on the annual availability of funds to operate the PALA program, landowners may elect to participate in a PALA for up to 10 years with the agreement being renewed annually.
(4) Applications must be received by a date set by the department to allow for time for adequate department review.
(5) A PALA shall not be construed to support, establish or preclude, limit or diminish any claim for the right to public use.
(6) The department may not enter a PALA where there is an existing right of public access over the proposed access route. If the department is uncertain whether the proposed access route is public or private, or if a controversy exists over whether the proposed access route is public or private, the department shall present its findings to the PL/PW for its consideration in its recommendation.
(7) Consideration for PALA enrollment will be given to those sites that are open during commission-established hunting or fishing seasons, or both.
(8) A PALA may be terminated by the department or the landowner if the terms of the agreement are violated. An agreement may be canceled, and a landowner's property withdrawn from the program at any time due to circumstances beyond the control of the landowner or the department, such as death, illness, natural disaster, or acts of nature. In the event of termination, payment will be reduced and correlated to the time frame and access provided.
(9) The landowner and the department may deny access to an individual(s) for violation of PALA rules.
(10) A PALA does not convey to the public any right to hunt or otherwise recreate on the private land through which they can travel to reach public land.
(11) The department shall maintain and make available to the public a list of current PALA locations and rules.
(12) With department approval, a landowner may impose reasonable limitations through temporary closure of a PALA to address concerns related to high fire danger, weather-related impact to travel route, safety, or agricultural production activities such as livestock handling or harvest and planting of crops, so long as:
(a) the landowner notifies department regional headquarters at least 24 hours prior to the closure;
(b) the landowner posts notice to the public on-site;
(c) the closure is removed within 24 hours after the conditions causing the closure no longer to exist; and
(d) its closure is in effect for no more than seven days without additional department review and approval.
History: 87-1-295, MCA; IMP, 87-1-295, MCA; NEW, 2020 MAR p. 779, Eff. 5/1/20; AMD, 2023 MAR p. 211, Eff. 3/11/23.