Almost a year after the Montana First Judicial District Court’s ruling in favor of the State of Montana regarding a case surrounding water rights ownership as part of House Bill (HB) 286, the Montana Supreme Court decided Tuesday, HB 286 is constitutional.
MSGA, an intervener party in the case, advocated during the 2019 legislative session that HB 286 was necessary to revise water rights laws. This law declared private use of water derived from a well or developed spring on private land which is diverted to a state lease, does not automatically result in state ownership of a water right.
“We applaud this decision. It is a significant victory for water right holders and state trust land lessees across the state,” stated Jay Bodner, Executive Vice President of MSGA. “HB 286 recognizes the value state land lessees contribute to state trust lands. They manage the land, invest in infrastructure, and serve as stewards. Having a water right holder’s property taken from them with no due process is an authority the state does not have.”
The complaint and appeal of the District Court’s decision was brought forth by Advocates for School Trust Lands. The Montana Supreme Court’s decision determined that HB 286 was constitutional. The State of Montana, MSGA, and the additional intervenors achieved a clear victory.