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Court sides with Bullock in dispute over FWP easements

Tuesday, December 11, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Joe Menden
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The Montana Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of Gov. Steve Bullock in a dispute with Attorney General Tim Fox over whether State Land Board approval is needed to finalize conservation easements.

The ruling comes less than a week after the court heard oral argument in the case. A full opinion will be issued at a later time.

Bullock, a Democrat, allowed FWP to close on an easement near Glendive after the Land Board had earlier voted 3-2 to indefinitely postpone action on the deal, saying that statute only requires land purchases -- not easements -- to get Land Board approval.

Fox, a Republican, joined Bullock against the other three Republicans on the board in the vote to delay approval. But in a formal opinion requested by Senate President Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, Fox said Bullock overstepped his authority in allowing the deal to go through without Land Board approval.

Bullock and FWP Director Martha Williams petitioned the court to assume original jurisdiction and determine whether statute requires Land Board approval for conservation easements, and the court heard oral argument on Dec. 5. The court overruled the attorney general's opinion.