A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the largest private landowner in the province in a dispute over public access to public land.

In a unanimous ruling, a panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned a lower-court order and gives the Douglas Lake Cattle Company the right to block access to Crown-owned Stoney and Minnie lakes, which are within the huge ranch east of Merritt, B.C.

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company, owned by U.S. billionaire and sports franchise owner Stan Kroenke, blocked road and trail access to the lakes.

Writing for the court in a decision posted online Friday, Justice Peter Willcock says the province’s lack of public access legislation entitles the ranch to restrict access, even though public fishing is still allowed on each lake and a portion of a road near one of the lakes remains public.

Willcock says the “truly divided” decision also affects a lower-court order awarding special costs to the small, privately funded fish and game club.

The club and ranch must now pay their own costs of the lengthy legal battle, while costs of the appeal are awarded to the cattle company because its arguments “substantially succeeded.”

The judgment says the club’s argument of the right to cross private land to a Crown-owned, public lake could not succeed.

“In my view, while this argument may attract considerable public support, it has no support in our law,” Willcock says.

The lack of public access legislation in the province “reflects a policy decision by the legislature that is the focus of some debate,” says Willcock.

But the debate does not alter current laws, and Willcock says the lower-court judge instead “added his voice to the chorus of those seeking to limit the rights of private property owners.”

“In doing so, he was not describing the law but advocating for a right of public access to lakes on private land,” says Willcock, ruling there is “no statutory or common law right” to cross the ranch property to reach the lakes.

Beth Leighton, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Environment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

A forensic anthropologist ruled bones found by the Columbia River Skywalk to be from a bear. Photo: Chilli Charlie/Unsplash
Bones found by Trail bridge, ruled not human

A Trail man made the discovery on Friday, April 8

ANKORS commemorated those who died due to drug poisoning at International Overdose Awareness Day on Sept. 1, 2020. Photo: Tyler Harper
Trail, Rossland advocates commemorate lives lost to opioid crisis

Wednesday marks five years since B.C. declared the opioid crisis a provincial health emergency.

”Societies that allow the voices of dissent to be silenced cannot call themselves democratic,” writes Dave Carter. Photo: Brian Wangenheim on Unsplash
Letter: The dangers of censorship

Letters to the Editor can be emailed to editor@trailtimes.ca

On April 6, Pacific Coastal Airlines marked 15 years of providing air service at the Trail Regional Airport. Photo: Twitter @PacificCoastal
Carrier celebrates 15 years at Trail airport

Pacific Coastal Airlines has adopted additional safety measures during the pandemic.

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. NDP ministers defend ‘air tax,’ latest COVID-19 business aid

Empty home tax doesn’t apply to businesses, but space above them

In Ontario, COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been set up at local mosques. (Submitted photo: Rufaida Mohammed)
Getting the vaccine does not break your fast, says Muslim COVID-19 task force

Muslim community ‘strongly’ encouraging people to get their shot, whether or not during Ramadan

Most Read