Celebrating a High Water Mark: A Montana Stream Access Law Symposium

Grasshopper Creek with mountains in the background

Please join us on Friday, March 16, at the Blewett School of Law for a special gathering “Celebrating a High Water Mark: A Montana Stream Access Law Symposium.” The event commemorates Montana’s extraordinary stream access case law and legislation.

Governor Steve Bullock will open the event, followed by attorney Jim Goetz, who brought the landmark cases that recognized the public’s right to access state waters for recreational use. Next, a roundtable of the drafters and stakeholders who crafted the original Stream Access Bill will discuss the key lessons to their success. Later panels will cover legal ethics, subsequent developments in the law, and issues on the horizon such as climate change, tribal rights and instream flow.

Date: March 16, 2018, 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Location: Blewett School of Law, Room 201
Cost: $40 for lawyers seeking CLE credit; complimentary for all others
CLE: 4.5 CLE Credits, including 1.0 Ethics Credits (pending application approval)


Register online.

Registration fee for lawyers seeking CLE credit is $40 (includes lunch). Registration is complementary for all others who are not seeking CLE credit. Registrants can bring a meal or purchase a $15 boxed lunch in advance. 

For registration questions, please contact the School of Law at (406) 243-4311.


Opening Remarks - Governor Steve Bullock

The Role of Litigation in Shaping Stream Access - Jim Goetz, Goetz, Baldwin & Geddes P.C.
This opening talk captures the story of the events leading up to the landmark stream access decisions of Curran and Hildreth, the contours of those decisions, and the role of the 1972 Montana Constitution in public trust law. 

The Story of Stream Access Legislation, Part I and IIRoundtable of Key Participants
This guided discussion picks up after the Curran and Hildreth decisions, as various water stakeholders collaborated and negotiated over the landmark Stream Access Bill. Participants will share key moments and memories, including what ingredients catalyzed their decision to work together. Part II of the discussion will focus on key lessons and how we can apply those lessons to addressing the difficult natural resources issues of today.

  • Moderator: Ron Waterman, Attorney for Montana Stock Growers Association (during stream access)
  • Stan Bradshaw, Montana Staff Counsel, Montana Trout Unlimited
  • Tom Bugni, founding member, Montana Coalition for Stream Access
  • Bruce Crippen, former Montana State Senator
  • Stuart Doggett, Executive Director, Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association
  • Ron Marcoux, retired Deputy Director, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
  • Tony Schoonen Sr., former President, Montana Wildlife Federation
  • Tony Schoonen Jr., Chief of Staff, Boone & Crockett Club
  • Tom Towe, Attorney, Towe, Ball, Mackey, Sommerfeld & Turner, PLLP
  • Mary Wright, Attorney for Montana Council of Trout Unlimited (during stream access)
  • Other invited guests

Ethics of Advising Landowners and Recreation Clients

  • Abigail Brown, Farve & Brown Law, PLLC
  • Dana Elias Pepper, River & Range Law

Subsequent Developments in Stream Access Law
This panel examines important developments in both stream access case law and legislation, including the activities that constitute recreational use, fencing for livestock, bridge access, and the definition of a water course. 

  • Moderator: Professor Michelle Bryan, Blewett School of Law
  • Mark Aagenes, The Nature Conservancy, formerly Montana Trout Unlimited
  • Bob Lane, former Chief Legal Counsel, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
  • Chief Water Judge Russ McElyea

What the Future May Hold for Stream Access
This final panel highlights unresolved issues in stream access, and important issues on the horizon, including climate implications, the role of tribal water governance, applying the doctrine to lakes, and connecting public trust to instream flow water rights. 

  • Professor Michelle Bryan, Blewett School of Law
  • Professor Monte Mills, Blewett School of Law