United Property Owners of Montana

Website: http://upom.org/

Mission Statement

“Our philosophy is that the deterioration of one person’s property rights is really the erosion of everyone’s property rights. Everyone owns something, and whether you own a city lot or a sprawling ranch, your property rights are sacred to you […] Our objective is to preserve the unique agricultural heritage that makes Montana such a great place to live, work, and recreate.”  [United Property Owners of Montana, accessed 10/29/18]

Summary

United Property Owners of Montana is a private property rights advocacy group established by the Montana Group, a public relations and political consulting firm, to oppose hunting permit limits established by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks department. The group supports the reduction of national monuments, as well as restricting access to public lands and streams. They also oppose allowing free-roaming bison in Montana because they believe that free-roaming bison may transmit brucellosis to domestic cattle.  

Notable Activities & Statements on Public Lands Policy

United Property Owners of Montana is not a grassroots group. It is a campaign managed by the Montana Group, a public relations and political consulting firm.

United Property Owners of Montana was “‘hatched’” by The Montana Group, a public relations, political consulting, and government affairs consulting firm. [Mountain Journal, 06/14/18]

United Property Owners of Montana’s “team” includes Chuck Denowh as policy director and Shelmy DeMars as a lobbyist. Both of them work for The Montana Group. United Property Owners of Montana also lists Mark & Deanna Robbins, Toby & Jody Dahl, Don Proue, and Dave & Cindy Abel as members of its “team,” but does not describe their roles. [United Property Owners of Montana, accessed 10/29/18]

United Property Owners of Montana supported the reduction of national monuments, calling one a “‘flagrant land grab.’”

United Property Owners of Montana supported the Trump administration’s monument review, saying recent presidents have abused the Antiquities Act. It says the designation of Missouri Breaks National Monument was a “‘flagrant land grab.’” In an op-ed, United Property Owners of Montana policy director Chuck Denowh wrote, “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has made an admirable attempt to solicit input from Montanans about how national monuments have affected our state. It’s unfortunate that effort has been drowned out by fake advertisements aimed at misleading Montanans and funded by out-of-state environmental groups. Opposition to the monuments review centers on the ridiculous claim that it will result in the federal government selling federal land to private entities. Not only is that the direct opposite of Secretary Zinke’s stated objective, it’s illegal for the federal government to sell public land. It is obvious these statutory limitations have been flagrantly ignored over the last 20 years. Since 1996, presidents have used the act to create 26 monuments larger than 100,000 acres. These 26 monuments aren’t restricted to existing federal lands — in all cases private lands have been swept up in these massive monument designations. A skewed conception of monuments has developed. The Antiquities Act was intended to protect things like archaeological sites and geological formations. It was never intended to encompass vast swathes of land. The most notorious example is the Missouri Breaks monument, which sweeps around and isolates over 80,000 acres of private land. The Breaks monument designation didn’t provide any new protections for the Missouri River, which was already protected with a Wild and Scenic River designation — this designation was simply a flagrant land grab.” [The Missoulian, 09/20/17]

United Property Owners of Montana supports restricting stream access to make it harder for Montana hunters to access public lands.

United Property Owners of Montana “has lobbied Montana lawmakers to restrict stream access for Montana fishermen and to make it harder for Montana hunters to access public lands.”Scott Stearns, a lawyer representing the city of Missoula, “said, UPOM has lobbied Montana lawmakers to restrict stream access for Montana fishermen and to make it harder for Montana hunters to access public lands” in lobbying and court filings. [The Missoulian, 10/16/15]

“A landowner’s claim that he can keep the public out of a portion of the Ruby River doesn’t hold water, the state Supreme Court said…in a decision upholding Montana’s stream-access laws. The 5-2 decision favored the Public Land and Water Access Association in its legal dispute with Madison County and James Cox Kennedy, the chairman of Atlanta-based media company Cox Enterprises, who owns about 10 miles along the river in the county. The group said Kennedy built fences along county roads and bridges next to his land that prevented the public from using rights of way to reach the Ruby River. Kennedy argued that the state’s 1985 Stream Access Law allowing access to streams within the high-water mark and a 2009 law allowing access from bridges are an ‘unconstitutional taking of his vested property rights.’ Kennedy argued that because he owns that portion of the riverbed, he has the right to exclude people from wading or floating on the water above.”

“Chuck Denowh, head of United Property Owners of Montana, said the decision erodes property rights and he urged an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the state’s stream access law. ‘The court is essentially saying that the county government can give the public permission to enter private land if it is near a road. We have a term for that: trespass,’ Denowh said in a statement.” [Great Falls Tribune, 01/15/14]

United Property Owners of Montana opposed a bill that would require landowners to allow access to public lands.

United Property Owners of Montana opposed legislation “that would require landowners to allow anyone access through their land in order to reach nearby public lands.” In 2017, “members of the Montana House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee heard a bill…that would require landowners to allow anyone access through their land in order to reach nearby public lands. Introduced by Rep. Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls, House Bill 243 specifically prevents landowners with property that surrounds state land from allowing only certain wildlife outfitters access, sometimes through leasing. ‘There’s 1.2 million acres of inaccessible state land in the state of Montana,’ Jacobson said.” He “said it’s an issue of equity. He argued landowners should not be able to restrict access to publicly owned land just because they own property adjacent to it. ‘We’re just saying you can’t license somebody to do outfitting on state land that is not legally accessible to the public,’ Jacobson said.”

“Representing United Property Owners of Montana, Shelby DeMars said the bill ‘does numerous things that infringe on a very serious level our constitutional right to private property.’ DeMars said the state should work with landowners to find public land access solutions, rather than ‘forcing’ the landowner to do so.” [Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 01/28/17]

United Property Owners of Montana says there is “no place for free-roaming bison” in Montana.

United Property Owners of Montana says “there’s no place for free-roaming bison” in the state and that those who support free-roaming bison in Montana are a fringe radical extreme. United Property Owners of Montana President Mark Robbins wrote that relocating wild bison within Montana would be “tone deaf to the hundreds of Montanans who have weighed in on the issue.” He continued, “landowners in the target areas have made it clear they do not want to take on the cost and risks of bison as wildlife on their property. And it’s simply not fair to force them to do so. It’s time for” the state “to put the ‘free roaming’ bison debate to bed for good.” [Great Falls Tribune, 09/26/15]

United Property Owners of Montana Policy Director Chuck Denowh wrote, “we applaud [Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Jeff Hagener’s]…realization that there’s no place for free-roaming bison in Montana. […] The bottom line is Montana’s large and growing bison herd must be contained to property where the animals are welcome, and they shouldn’t be forced onto other people’s property.” [Great Falls Tribune, 06/16/14]

Chuck Denowh also wrote, “a radical extreme objects to private and tribal groups leading the way on bison restoration. To them, anything that even remotely approaches ‘ownership’ of the animals is unacceptable. […] The only reason there is controversy over bison restoration in Montana is because the extremists, fueled by environmental groups headquartered in New York and Washington D.C., are unwilling to accept the middle-road approach to restoration already in progress. Instead, they are attempting to establish free-roaming bison herd that can enter any property in the state regardless of the landowner’s wishes. Alarmingly, this radical fringe has found a willing ear with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks leadership.”

“The advocates of free roaming bison should stop acting like theirs is a noble cause. The only way they can get what they want is through the coercive power of government. It’s state-sponsored theft.” [Hungry Horse News, 06/21/14]

Chuck Denowh, on behalf of United Property Owners of Montana, has made “claims involving bison that, upon analysis, do not hold up to scrutiny.” United Property Owners of Montana Policy Director Chuck “Denowh has made a lot of claims involving bison that, upon analysis, do not hold up to scrutiny.” […] “In comments to reporters and in op-eds he’s penned for United Property Owners of Montana, [he] has opposed the American Prairie Reserve’s request to graze bison the same as private cattle on public lands. He wrote, ‘Not only would the proposal cause destruction of rangeland and wildlife habitat, ultimately the APR represents a fundamental threat to the Montana ranching families who’ve made this area their home for generations.’ Denowh has also implied that Yellowstone bison headed to Fort Peck could cause containment issues and property damage, and he has falsely portrayed wandering Yellowstone bison as representing the eminent risk for passing along brucellosis to private cattle, when the findings of two separate National Academies of Sciences reports clearly show that risk resides with elk.” [Mountain Journal, 06/14/18]

Lobbying & Political Contributions

Lobbyist Name Years employed

Charles Denowh 2008 – 2017

Shelmy DeMars 2010 – 2017

Lobbying Expenditures during the 2017 session.

Initial: 4,241.45
Monthly (Mar) 4,000.00
Monthly (Apr) 4,000.00
Post-Session 4,000.00
Post-Special No entries
Year End No entries
Total 16,241.45

[Montana Commissioner on Political Practices Lobbyist Reporting 2017-18, accessed 10/29/18]

United Property Owners of Montana lobbied on the following bills during the 2017 Session.

SB 262 – Revise laws governing public road access

SB 207 – Provide for confidentiality of heritage property Rights

SB 98 – Establish property ownership fairness act
SB 236 – Constitutional referendum to safeguard right to hunt, fish, and trap wildlife

HB 597 – Create voluntary contribution account to acquire public access easements

HB 96 – Revise free elk license/permit for landowner

HB 295 – Increase fine for gating a public road
HB 243 – Prohibit outfitting on state lands inaccessible to the public
SB 273 – Revise civil liability laws related to common carrier pipelines
HB 319 – Provide process for designating roads as public

SB 202 – Prohibit post of no trespassing sign on another’s property
SB 358 – Revise laws regarding removal of highway encroachments
HB 419 – Revise requirements for sale or transfer of wild bison

[Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, accessed 11/12/18] and [Montana Legislature 2017 Bills, accessed 11/12/18]

No political contributions

Revenue & Expenditures

No detailed information is available from Forms 990 because United Property Owners of Montana has reported gross receipts less than $50,000 every year since 2008. [IRS, accessed 10/29/18]