Terry Tribune Editorial
The silence is deafening. It took five groups to organize and build Scenic View Road, which leads to the Terry Badlands. It may take the silence of just that many to lose its access.
When rumors were spreading that a gate on Scenic View Road may be installed, one might think there would have been an outcry from the Prairie County Chamber of Commerce, or surely the Economic Development Council, maybe even the Prairie County Sportsman Association, or better yet, the Prairie Action League. Some whispered scuttlebutt could be heard if one leaned in close enough to listen. But nothing publicly was stated.
Once the cattle guard, sign and gate were installed and put in place, surely this would bring the groups, dedicated to promoting tourism and businesses in the county, to a united stand. Gathering together as a force, informing the public, commissioners, town councilman and anyone else willing to listen, of the value access to Terry Badlands has on the museum, gallery, diner, gas stations and the overall economic status of the town, would be a reasonable expectation.
Nope. That seems not to be the style of Prairie County anymore.
The silence remained. And once again, the whispered comments continued, but no one from any of these groups took a stand and made the declaration, “A gate on Scenic View Road, just isn’t good for Prairie County.”
Some say this is a private property issue. But can that be the full picture on a road that leads to 26 sections of public lands? Taxpayer dollars were used to build the road and have been used to maintain the road for the past 44 years. And now, the taxpaying public, should roll over and play dead, when someone decides to block access to the road?
Some would say, access to the road isn’t being blocked. Really? Currently access can only be obtained by calling first and asking permission. So no more spur of the moment drives out to the Terry Badlands. And just hopefully, one may be lucky enough to catch the landowner at home to ask for permission. And what about that handy dandy cattle guard that sits just below the gate. That’s a fine contraption to cross when opening the gate, especially for the elderly in our community. What a great big welcome sign that denotes!
What happens when the current landowner decides to sell the land, and the new landowner chooses to lock the gate? When access is completely shut off, which is a reasonable hypothesis, will anyone say or do anything then? It’s doubtful.
Some can argue this is the county commissioners’ fault for not gaining easements on roads countywide. Or some will argue that the Bureau of Land Management should be taking care of this issue, since it’s their land. Both arguments are fair. Obviously, easements need to be gained. Yes, the BLM should step up to the plate and take a stand on the issue and back the public’s best interest. The BLM has invested time and money into the Terry Badlands, now they should help to ensure that access is available for the public to enjoy the Terry Badlands.
But rather than pointing fingers at one another, maybe the best option would be to ask, “What can we do today?” Well, thanks to the current work of the commissioners, a meeting has been scheduled with representatives from the Department of Natural Resource and Conservation, and the BLM to discuss Scenic View Road access. A representative from Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks may be in attendance as well. This is a public meeting, as all commission meetings are, and is scheduled for Tuesday, July 8, 10 a.m. at the courthouse.
Each person, who has an ounce of concern on this issue, should attend this meeting. Whether one believes the gate should remain or should be taken down, it’s time to step up to the plate and let your voice be heard. If these representatives see that this is an issue to county residents, action will occur. Numbers speak volumes…especially to government agencies.
And for all those organizations that are here to promote Prairie County, it’s time to jump off the fence and take a stand.
Published June 18, 2008