…but in time the decay will reach the whole of the corpus:
[Wil] Wilkins has called Montana home for more than 40 years. He bought his property, just over nine acres adjacent to the Bitterroot National Forest, in 2004. When he bought the property, surrounded by pine trees and with plentiful birds and wildlife, it corresponded to a vision he’d had his entire life….
Outside his front door sits Robbins Gulch Road, built and maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, the result of a limited easement granted to the Forest Service by the property’s previous owners in 1962. That agreement permitted the Forest Service to build and maintain this unpaved access road through the private property, now owned by Wilkins and his few neighbors along the road, into the national forest, primarily for purposes of timber harvesting and general maintenance.
Importantly, the 1962 easement did not grant access for general public use — the road was to be for Forest Service employees and permitees only. When he bought his spread, Wilkins wasn’t entirely enthused to have the road on his property. But since the easement agreement restricted the road’s usage, he figured he could live with it.
Unfortunately, it soon became clear the government was not abiding by the terms of the original agreement. Wilkins says that after the Forest Service posted signs encouraging public use of the road for visitors seeking entry to the national forest, traffic and parking increased dramatically. Wilkins and his neighbor have endured trespassing on their property and even theft — someone stole a pair of elk horns he had mounted on his porch. One of his neighbor’s dogs was killed by a speeding driver, and at one point someone shot Wilkins’ cat (which survived).
Wilkins reviewed the easement agreement, which clearly designated Robbins Gulch Road as a right-of-way for limited use. But discussions with the Forest Service to get the agency to honor its agreement were fruitless. Wilkins hasn’t forgotten the response from a district ranger: “He crossed his arms, leaned back in his chair, looked at me and he started laughing,” Wilkins recalls. “He said, ‘Wil, you can always sue us.’ And that’s when I said to myself, ‘OK then, I will.’”
Funny, isn’t it? You let a few of the top guys – you know, the Clintons, the Obamas, the Bidens – get away with a felony or two, and pretty soon even Forest Rangers in Montana figure they can do what they please to whomever they please. Whoda thunk it?