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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In a lengthy decision released Friday, which cited historical documents, photos, and testimony from members of the Indigenous community, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves determined that both lakes are public.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

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