21 March 2007

James Kennedy: Millionaire Media Mogul challenges Montana Stream Access

Atlanta, Georgia, based media millionaire James Cox Kennedy is at it again, trying to halt public stream access at county roads & bridges that pass through his property on the Ruby River in southwest Montana.

This time, Kennedy has filed a legal suit against Madison County and Public Lands Access Association, Inc. (PLAAI). Kennedy alleges that Madison County is failing to stop the public from accessing the river at the county bridges, thus violating his property rights. PLAAI is an organization of concerned anglers, sporstmen and -women, and others who are concerned over the public being locked out of traditional access to public land and water. For the story on Kennedy's latest lawsuit, see the article by Nick Gevock of the Montana Standard at http://www.mtstandard.com/articles/2007/03/21/state_top/20070321_state_top.prt .

Kennedy's efforts to block public access on the Ruby River extend back at least to 2003. At that time, Kennedy began stringing electric fences and erecting other imassable barriers at the county bridges along Seylor and Lewis Lanes. Generally, Madison County has been gutless in this issue--trying to duck both the fanatical private property rights claims of James Kennedy and the demands to uphold the law by PLAAI.

The law is clear on this issue, as reified in a statement by Montana Attorney General Joe Mazurek in May 2000. Mazurek ruled that (Backus 2004):
  • Use of county road right-of-way to access streams and rivers is consistent with and reasonably incidental to the public's right to travel on county roads.
  • A bridge and its abutments are a part of the public right highway, and are subject to the same public easement of passage as the highway to which they are attached. Therefore, recreationists can access streams and rivers by using the bridge, its right-of-way, and its abutments.
  • A recreationist must stay within the road and bridge easement to access streams and rivers. Absent definition in the easement or deed to the contrary, the width of the bridge right-of-way easement is the same as the public highway to which it is attached.
  • Access to streams and rivers from county roads and bridges is subject to the exercise of the county commission's police power. However, this power is not without limitation.
  • Access to streams and rivers from county roads and bridges created by prescription is dependent upon the uses of the road during prescriptive period.

Neither the law nor public rights seem to matter to James Kennedy and certain other wealthy landowners in Montana. It must be noted that Kennedy-types are the exception: most Montana landowners, whether newcomers or traditional family ranchers, respect the law and public rights. Furthermore, most Montana landowners are incredibly generous about granting public trespass by permission for hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities.

For those who care about public access to the streams and river of Montana, please please please support PLAAI in this David vs. Goliath battle. Go to http://plwa.org/.

So who is this James Cox Kennedy?

Well, to begin with, he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Today, he is chair and CEO of the privated media corporation Cox Enterprises, Inc. His grandfather was James M. Cox, a three term Ohio governor, 1920 presidential candidate, and newspaper owner. James M. Cox had two daughters--Anne Cox Chambers and Barbara Cox Anthony. The sisters are still alive, each have a net worth of #12.5 billion, and share ownership of the vast Cox empire. Both are major players in the Democratic party.

"Jimmy," as James Cox Kennedy was known as a boy, grew up in Hawaii. Here's a brief resume of his life:

  • 1972 graduate of the University of Denver at age 24
  • following college, spent several years racing motorcycles--apparently uninterested in the family business
  • 1979 named president of Grand Junction Newspapers, a family owned business
  • 1985 named vice-president of Cox Newspapers in Atlanta
  • under Jimmy's direction, the Atlanta Journal Constitution's reputation went downhill because of budget cuts and newsroom staff cuts; this has continued with Cox's purge of over-55 year old employees (Sugg 2007)
  • 1988 named chair of Cox Enterprises
  • national board member of Ducks Unlimited
  • president of Wetlands America Trust, Inc.

No one can alledge that Kennedy is not a conservationist. But supporting wildlife conservation does not necessarily coincide with respecting the law, acknowledging public rights, or getting along with your neighbors under the Montana Big Sky.


To float the river through James Cox Kennedy's land:

"Put in at Seyler Lane Bridge, drive through Twin Bridges to Seyler or Tash lane, then turn right and drive 1.75 miles to the bridge. For a longer float, drive to Sheridan, turn right at the IGA store and follow to an intersection known as Four Corners. Follow the foliage line for four miles to the river. Both floats end in Jesson Park in Twin Bridges across from the Madison County Fairgrounds. " (Billings Outpost 2005)


Backus, Perry (2004). "Fishing access battle continues," Montana Standard newspaper, 12.Jan.2004.

Billings Outpost (2005). Twin Bridges news item, Billings Outpost weekly newspaper, 17.July.2005. Available at http://www.billingsnews.com/story?storyid=17653&issue=270.

"Cox Empire Seeks Growth (on Its Own Terms)" (2002). New York Times, 14.April.2002.

Forbes 400 (2005). Entries for Anned Cox Chambers and Barbara Cox Anthony, at http://forbes.com/lists/2005/54/.

Mack Robinson College of Business (2004). "Twentieth Annual Business Hall of Fame Celebration," at http://robinson.gsu.edu/corporate/hof/2004/Kennedy.html.

Sugg, John F. (2007). "Why did Cox employees in Ohio get a better buyout deal than those in Atlanta? One word: union." 13.March.2007 at JohnSugg.com http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/johnsugg/.


Chad Okrusch said...

Thanks, Pat. I think we'll schedule a float soon.

Lucy said...

Well written article.