FMCBC Report on Recent Court Decision: No Public Right to Cross Private Land to Access Recreational Assets
[March 16, 2021] In the recent decision, Douglas Lake Cattle Company v Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club (2021 BCCA 99), the BC Court of Appeal determined that the Douglas Lake Ranch could block the public from crossing its property to fish in the Crown owned Minnie and Stoney Lakes. The outcome is very disappointing not only for the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club, but for all who had hoped this case would provide a stepping stone to gain public access across private land to enjoy Crown owned recreational assets, such as lakes, trails, mountains and parks.
Continued in 3-page FMCBC report: free download here
Working Group to Identify and Support Public Access to Priority Areas on Private Forest Lands in Alberni-Clayoquot
[March 2, 2021] Mosaic Forest Management and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, in partnership with the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, entered into an agreement to work together to prioritize and explore public access opportunities to areas within or adjacent to Mosaic-managed private forest lands in the Alberni-Clayoquot region.
Through this agreement, a working group has been established and has identified its first pilot project: allowing increased public access on a trial basis through Mosaic-managed private forest lands to Scout Beach and Lowry Lake – two provincially managed Recreation Sites accessed via Mosaic’s privately-owned roads. The pilot is expected to launch later this year.
More info in FMCBC blog.
Outdoor Recreation Council of BC Granted Intervener Status
[Nov 29, 2020] The Oudoor Recreation Council of BC (ORC) was granted intervener status in the appeal case involving the Douglas Lake Cattle Company vs. the Nicola Lake Fish & Game Club. The appeal is scheduled for March 30-31, 2020, and ORC is now beginning to work with its lawyer to build the argument for the public’s right to access Crown lands and waters over private land.
Read all about it on ORC’s blog.
Province of BC and Douglas Lake Cattle Company to cover court costs of Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club
Last December, 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 & Game Club and the Douglas Lake Cattle Company concluded with the Club winning the case and costs. Now, the BC Supreme Court has ruled that the BC government and the Douglas Lake Cattle company will split the Club’s court costs—said to be more than $350,000.
As the article below states, “While the matter of who will cover legal fees has been settled, Harvey said there is still work to be done in the quest to enforce public access to Minnie and Stoney lakes.”
What’s more, the Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club is taking on another lake access case. The club is suing Corbett Lake Lodge, Douglas Lake Cattle Company and the province of British Columbia for allegedly blocking public access to Corbett Lake.
Douglas Lake Cattle Company Appeals Access to Lakes
As mentioned below, in December of 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 concluded with the Club winning the case and costs.
It is no surprise that the Cattle Company and its owner, Stanley Kroenke (purportedly worth $4BN…), have now chosen to seek appeal to this decision. They certainly have the resources and they know that the Fish and Game Club has little—a real-life David and Goliath conflict.
It has been suggested that the FMCBC become an intervenor—a serious matter for the Board to consider. While intervening is fairly straight-forward and safe it would involve, in this case, informally asking the Nicola Valley F&G Club if they would support our intervention. If the Club were to agree, the FMCBC would apply to the court to intervene. The FMCBC would not be allowed to provide evidence or argue new aspects, and only argue different aspects that the main parties might not be considering. Generally, interveners are also protected from costs. So, our only costs would be our own legal fees and disbursements such as the court application fees and printing, etc.
Legal fees, however, depend on the amount of work the FMCBC would want to insert into the intervention. The more critical the legal point to be made the more complicated the arguments. Legal fees could be between $5,000 – $20,000, depending on how important the legal point being made is, so it’s unlikely the FMCBC will be jumping into this fray.
In any event, the FMCBC staff and membership will review the decision, the notice of appeal, response to the appeal and advise our members as the case proceeds.
A Precedent-Setting BC Supreme Court Decision
In early December 2018, a group of BC anglers won a longstanding “David and Goliath” court battle against billionaire American ranch owners, who had been blocking public access to two fishing lakes and a road near Merritt, BC. The BC Supreme Court ruled that the public should be able to access the lakes via the road, and criticized the province for failing to “prohibit what was an illegal obstruction of a public road by a corporate entity, for its own benefit.”
This is a huge win in the battle for public access to public land and a major milestone for the Right to Roam initiative.
B.C. angler ‘overwhelmed’ at winning lake access case against billionaire ranch owners
Anglers win Supreme Court battle against U.S. billionaire over access to lakes, roads
Backcountry Access 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.