I enjoy the flattering attention when newspapers cite to the blog, but at the risk of sounding too modest, an important point should be made clear. This is about yesterday’s story that this blog “surfaced” (the Lee Newspapers word) a 2009 lawsuit filed by Greg Gianforte to close down stream access on his property. The post has since become the most viewed in the 6 years I’ve had this blog – with more viewers than the piece that made the front page of Reddit and crashed the blog (to be sure, after that incident I upgraded my server capacity.)
What I did is read the newspaper, namely a 2009 Bozeman Chronicle article after a loyal reader tipped me off to the article’s existence, for which I provided a link. (To news writers and internet-challenged GOP operatives: you’d be amazed what is findable using search engines.)
I was surprised at the way in which Lee covered the story, seeming to have swallowed Gianforte’s excuses whole. In the lawsuit, the Gianforte family filed a complaint asking the court to extinguish the easement over Gianfortes’s property. It’s right in the Chronicle. Emphasis mine:
A local property owner is suing Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks to eliminate a one-acre easement providing access to the East Gallatin River near the Cherry River fishing access north of downtown Bozeman.
Susan Gianforte, wife of RightNow Technologies CEO Greg Gianforte, is listed as the registered agent of East Gallatin LLC, the company filing suit to yank the easement from the northwest corner of its Manley Road property, which runs alongside 75 acres of Fish Wildlife and Parks land.
The Chronicle also reported that Art Wittich argued to terminate the easement claiming the public could get to the river from other people’s land: “So the easement is not necessary for public recreation needs, and, he said, his client’s property is being harmed by public wear and tear.”
The fact that FWP stood up to them, and that the Gianfortes ultimately were forced to take a settlement which allowed people to access the stream, does not change what the Gianfortes tried to do. If you sue McDonalds for a million dollars because you spilled hot fries on yourself, and you settle for free fries for one year, you can’t say that you “sued McDonalds to get free fries.” You sued for money; you got fries instead. The Gianfortes tried blocking access, completely. They settled for a re-routed trail section.
And notice how carefully Gianforte worded his response. “At no time did we deny stream access,” he says. That’s true. He failed in denying it. But he tried to.
UPDATE: Kathryn QannaYahu in Bozeman also went to the Gallatin courthouse and obtained the original documents pertaining to their property purchases and the FWP easement.
She found some holes in the Gianforte narrative. Like the Bozeman Chronicle, she also found that the documents show that the Gianfortes tried to eliminate the access by eliminating the easement.
Here is the link to her website where anyone can read it all for themselves: