Volume 2, Number 28 - October 10, 2002
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As September came to a close, the Montana Supreme Court issued a ruling that is believed to hold far-reaching impacts on water rights in that state. The majority ruling declared that under both the state constitution and the public trust doctrine, fish, wildlife and recreation are beneficial uses of water and that no diversion of water is necessary to achieve the beneficial use.
Montana's Water Court is now expected to review up to about 13,000 water rights claims for fish, wildlife or recreation, many of which are claims filed by the federal government. The dates on the claims will be significant in determining which use has its water needs met in times of water shortages or in areas where rivers are over-appropriated.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is slated to hold its next business meeting Oct. 28 and 29 in Jackson. One of the topics to be discussed is what state classification wolves should be granted once federal protections are removed.
At the last commission meeting, WG&F Commissioners proposed a dual classification for wolves, with the animals granted trophy game status in the national forests of western Wyoming, but in the remainder of the state, wolves would retain their historic predatory animal classification. The harvest of trophy game animals is strictly regulated and WG&F has a responsibility to reimburse landowners for damages caused by trophy game animals. Species designated under state statute as predatory animals may be harvested without regulation, such as coyotes and jackrabbits.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sent state officials a letter rejecting the dual classification proposal, claiming the dual classification wouldn't provide the "adequate regulatory mechanisms" required to address threats to the species and remove them from Endangered Species Act protections.
Hamilton pleads not guilty
Harry Hamilton, 65, of Marbleton appeared before Circuit Court Judge John V. Crow last Wednesday in Marbleton and entered a plea of not guilty to a charge of battery. Hamilton's case is now set for a jury trial to begin Jan. 28, 2003.
The charge was the result of an alleged incident with Bob Thompson, 79, on Sept. 14.
A Sublette County Sheriff's Department report indicated that Thompson said he was cleaning out irrigation ditches when Hamilton allegedly arrived and accused Thompson of trespassing, and then allegedly assaulted Thompson by hitting him with a cattle prod.
The report indicated, "There has been an on-going problem with the water rights with these two parties for some time."
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