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Montana Supreme Court hears land authority dispute arguments

Attorneys presented arguments Wednesday before the Montana Supreme Court over whether the Democratic governor has the authority to unilaterally approve conservation easements.

The Independent Record reports Gov. Steve Bullock had petitioned the state's highest court, challenging Republican Attorney General Tim Fox's legal opinion that stipulated the state Land Board must approve conservation easements larger than 100 acres or worth more than $100,000.

An attorney general's opinion is binding unless a court overrules it.

Bullock's attorney Raph Graybill argued that land acquisition does not include conservation easements, so the board's approval is not needed.

The dispute stems from Bullock allowing Fish, Wildlife and Parks to purchase a $6.1 million conservation easement earlier this year despite the state Land Board previously voting to indefinitely delay action on it.

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