Archive | Access

Court rules 2 B.C. lakes cannot be publicly accessed, siding with Canada’s largest cattle ranch.

The largest working cattle ranch in Canada has won its fight against public access to two pristine fishing lakes in B.C.’s Nicola Valley, after appeal court judges overturned part of a previous ruling that said the lakes should be accessible to the public.
The Douglas Lake Cattle Company (DCLC) had been battling the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club over access to the two trout lakes near Merritt, B.C., for years. The David and Goliath fight came close to resolution in 2018 after a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled Minnie Lake and Stoney Lake should be publicly accessible.
The owner of the ranch, American billionaire Stan Kronke, won his part of his appeal challenging that decision on Friday.
The B.C. Court of Appeal found the lower court erred in 2018 because portions of trails and road leading to the lakes are not public and don’t quite reach the shorelines of either lake.
So, even though the water in the lakes is public, there is no way to get there without trespassing on private property which has the potential to impact access public lakes across the province

Summary of appeal judgement:

The [2018] trial judgment gave the public access to two lakes on the appellant, DLCC’s property. DLCC challenges the judge’s determination that a road and a trail on the property were excepted from an 1895 Crown grant and that there is public access to both lakes. Held: Appeal allowed in part. The road in question was excepted from the Crown grant; however, because the trail was not excepted from the Crown grant and the elements of common law dedication are not met, the trail is not a public way. The trial judge erred in determining the natural boundary of one lake by failing to address the applicable statutory criteria. The public road at issue does not reach the natural boundary of either lake, as defined by survey. The Trespass Act permits DLCC to prohibit the public from crossing its property, including its land under water. The lakes in question are not navigable and no case for access to the shoreline as a right appurtenant to the right to navigate is made out. A public interest costs order against DLCC and the respondent Province was also set aside, with each party ordered to bear their own costs at trial.

Read the Court of Appeals decision

Anglers win Supreme Court battle against U.S. billionaire over access to lakes, roads

Michelle Ghoussoub · CBC News · Posted: Dec 07, 2018 2:42 PM PT

A precedent-setting B.C. Supreme Court decision has ruled that the public should be able to access fishing lakes near Merritt, B.C., after years of what has been described as a “David and Goliath” legal battle.
For years, the Douglas Lake Cattle Company (DLCC), the largest working ranch in Canada, owned by U.S. billionaire Stan Kroenke, and a group of determined anglers have been going head to head.
Their dispute centred primarily on access to two fishing lakes and a road.
Minnie Lake and Stoney Lake are surrounded by land owned by the large ranch, which claimed the access roads, water bodies and fish in them are private property.
Members of the Nicola Valley Fish and Game club argued the lakes and roadway are Crown land and should be free for anyone to use.
In a lengthy decision released Friday, which cited historical documents, photos, and testimony from members of the Indigenous community, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves determined that both lakes are public.
“It would be nonsensical for a government to retain the rights to a lake if, by virtue of a single owner purchasing all the land surrounding a lake, that owner could prohibit public use or ownership of the lake,” wrote Groves.
“It only makes sense that government would have retained the ownership of bodies of water, lakes, with the intention of the public being allowed to access water they retained.” Continue Reading →

Public Access to Wilderness Areas

The BCWF and its members know how important public access to the wilderness is. Allowing more people into the backcountry helps protect it from poachers and vandals but increasingly, outdoor enthusiasts are finding gates across roads that used to be open.

That’s why the BC Wildlife Federation has launched a campaign to press landlowners and government to restore public access to our shrinking wild spaces.

What is called “Right to Roam” is enshrined in many northern European nations,. but in Canada, only Nova Scotia protects the right of people to cross uncultivated private land to reach fishing lakes and streams.

A white paper prepared by the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Victoria. Public Access to Privately Owned Wild Lands is calling for the B.C. government to take action. Meantime, for a good example of the challenges facing backcountry hikers, read Vancouver Sun’s coverage of Spine Trail and public access

Van Sun Acess 4