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Douglas Lake Cattle Company and the Right to Roam

As members of the Federation are aware, as an aspect of our role in advocating for backcountry access, we have been quietly working on improving the non-motorized public’s rights to traverse private lands to access public lands and resources.

On December 7th, 2018, the BC Supreme Court sided with the rights of the public to access lakes in the Nicola region of the province—and the long-standing dispute between the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club and the Douglas Lake Cattle Company, owned by a US billionaire, came to a satisfactory and appropriate conclusion. In addition, the court awarded all costs accrued by the Club be paid by Douglas Lake.

Not only did the judge provide the opportunity for the Club to fish the lakes on the private 58,000-hectare ranch, he also declared the roads were open to access as well. I understand the locks that barred access have now been removed—by some party…

This precedent-setting court ruling is exactly the kind of legal foothold the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC and our many provincial allies have been hoping for. The ramifications of this decision will provide advocates for improved backcountry access the ability to use the court’s ruling to demand that access to public lands be granted.

As the attached Vancouver Sun article from June 2016 indicates, this is of particular interest for our member clubs on Vancouver Island who have been trying for years to improve their abilities to travel on, and over, the private managed forest lands—the enduring hangover from the still unresolved E&N “exchange.”

In case you may not have yet seen it, I also include below the report from Alberni-area MLA Scott Fraser who has been working hard on these tough access issues on behalf of his constituents—and all the Island frankly! MLA Fraser is a strong supporter of the principles of an individual’s right to roam. The “Right to Roam” is a serious initiative of the Green Party as well, and in the new year we will be pursuing this effort collaboratively—now with renewed energy!

Thank you. A happy and safe Christmas to everyone!

Barry J Janyk
Executive Director
December 18, 2018

Further reading:

Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves ruling: https://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/18/21/2018BCSC2167.htm

June 2016, Vancouver Sun: https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/backcountry-backlash-public-access-to-b-c-s-wilderness-runs-into-roadblocks

December 2018, Vancouver Sun: https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/b-c-angler-overwhelmed-at-winning-lake-access-case-against-billionaire-ranch-owner

Backcountry Access Report

Read the report.

In March 2018, we attended a backcountry access meeting hosted by NDP Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser. The purpose of the meeting was to find solutions to backcountry access restrictions that have been increasing on Vancouver Island, and MLA Fraser addressed the group to help define the issues and seek support for improving public access across private forest lands.

MLA Fraser released the final backcountry access report in October 2018—the product of the well-attended community meetings in Port Alberni. Some of the ideas are good and dovetail nicely with the Right to Roam initiative. All in all, this document will help to serve as a reminder to government that it has unresolved access issues and Right to Roam legislation could assist in settling them.

More on Right to Roam can be found at: mountainclubs.org/right-to-roam

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