HELENA, Mont. -- A Helena man who has been charged with trespassing at a lake where he has fished for years has filed suit to add lakes to Montana's Stream Access Law.
Robert Ryan is challenging the portion of the law that excludes lakes, arguing that the public should have as much freedom of access to lakes as to rivers and streams.
``I want to make it clear it's not our intent to overthrow the stream access law,'' Ryan said in an interview. ``I believe in it. It's a good law except it's faulted. It doesn't cover lakes. Our intent is to expand it to include lakes.''
Ryan's suit specifically asks that the public be allowed access to Lois Lake in Powell County. Lois Lake sits on the border of private land belonging to Roman Loppacher on Esmeralda Hill.
The lake can be reached from a county road, and a portion of the lake is on public land during spring runoff, according to the complaint.
Ryan said his family has fished Lois Lake since buying property in the area in 1928. It wasn't until about four years ago, when Loppacher bought the land, that Ryan was told the lake was private.
Ryan said he has been cited for trespassing several times in four years, and that experience prompted him to file the lawsuit.
Ryan's complaint argues that Lois Lake meets the state definition of ``navigable water'' because Snowshoe Creek flows through it.
``Therefore, a person can enter the lake while remaining within the high water marks of Snowshoe Creek, or by entering from the county property via the county road which abuts the Lake,'' the complaint reads.
Montana law allows public access to natural bodies of ``navigable water,'' including their banks up to the ordinary high-water mark.
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