March 11, 2021 – 6:30 a.m.
The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club may have lost a recent court battle over public access to Stoney and Minnie Lakes, but that doesn’t mean they’ve given up. The club hopes to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada to win an “unprecedented” case for public access to waterways.
To do this, however, they must show that landowners imposing restrictions on public space is a matter of public importance. Rick McGowan of the Hunting and Fishing Club said he had the support of “thousands of people.”
He called the appeal decision a “travesty of justice”.
“It has ramifications for all water bodies in Canada with private ownership. How many of these lakes are there? Probably thousands,” McGowan said.
Outdoor recreation advocates, including the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC, have followed the Douglas Lake case closely. The council represents 50 recreational groups across the province, including anglers, 4×4 enthusiasts and mountain bikers.
READ MORE: Billionaire-owned Douglas ranch near Merritt wins appeal barring public access to lakes
“The ruling is very clear that British Columbia is sorely lacking in public access legislation that clearly sets out public access rights … to pursue legitimate recreational interests,” said Louise Pederson, executive director of the council, in a statement to iINFOnews.ca.
The University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Center released a report in 2016 documenting cases across the province where public access to lakes or forests is restricted. For example, the report says provincial stocking has ceased in about 30 lakes, “mostly in central Vancouver Island.”
The Freshwater Fishing Society of British Columbia had stocked Minnie and Stoney Lakes, the two contested in the recently appealed Nicola Valley case, as recently as last year, according to the GoFishBC website. A spokesperson for GoFishBC declined to comment specifically on the Douglas Lake dispute, but said the policy remains that only publicly accessible lakes are seeded.
The University of Victoria report also presented possible recommendations for the provincial government to legislate on land access reforms, both public and private.
Club lawyer Chris Harvey called the recent move “bizarre.”
“This case represents an ongoing dispute between private landowners and the public over access to lakes across the province, but what is interesting about this judgment is that it almost encourages landowners to increase the rate. water level to then make it private property, “he added. he said.
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“This is a new legal doctrine, as far as I know,” he added, as the ruling has implications not only for provincial land legislation, but also for the federal Navigable Waters Act.
Rick McGowan of the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club says they’re not ready to back down, but the trial expenses are going to be a big blow to the club.
“Our little club could go bankrupt because of it, but this is not a lawsuit for the benefit of our club,” he said. “We are all old people and we voted to make this world a better place for future generations.”
The Douglas Lake Cattle Company announces exclusive fishing in two lakes on its property.
READ MORE: Fight to preserve your access to this resource
Rick McGowan says Douglas Lake isn’t the only group blocking public access to Nicola Valley lakes. Dating back to the 1960s, he estimates that as many as 30 lakes were blocked off by a private landowner that were once accessible to the public.
“It makes sense that (Douglas Lake Ranch) would want the lakes for themselves, but the BC government is responsible here for not looking after the people of BC,” McGowan said.
The Douglas Lake Cattle Company did not respond to a request for comment.
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News from © iINFOnews, 2021