By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA -- Hard-to-access public lands have become a hot topic lawmakers are trying to solve at the Montana Legislature.

Senate Bill 262 would allow complaints of closed roads to go through county commissioners to determine whether or not certain roads are being closed unlawfully.

Sen. Edie McClafferty, D-Butte
Sen. Edie McClafferty, D-Butte

The Senate Highways and Transportation Committee will hear testimony on the bill Tuesday.

The bill aims to address the issue of checkerboard lands, which wedge public lands between private lands making them hard to get to.

“You know, it’s just about public access and we need to make sure that our sportsmen, actually all the citizens of Montana, have the access to our public lands,” said sponsor of the bill Sen. Edie McClafferty, D-Butte.

Rep. Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls, introduced two bills dealing with the conflict over accessing public lands through private roads. Those died after their first readings.

McClafferty said her bill is different from those two bills.

“Rep. Jacobson wanted to go from a $10 a day fee up to, possibly, $500 a day, and there is no fee involved with this,” McClafferty said.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.