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

Nick Trask, 36, and Ryan Ellison, 35, died in a boat collision on Osoyoos Lake in 2019. (Facebook photo)
Meth, excessive speed found as factors in Osoyoos boat crash deaths

Nick Trask, 36, and Ryan Ellison, 35, died in a boat collision on Osoyoos Lake in 2019

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
54 more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty-two people in the region are in hospital with the virus, 11 of them in intensive care

The automated external defibrillator, like the one pictured here, was stolen from the Skaha Lake Boathouse for the second time in a year. (File)
Life-saving device stolen from Penticton paddler community for second time

It’s hoped that a new boathouse will be able to better protect the device

scales of justice
Guilty or not guilty? Lamb waits on two judges’ decisions

Trials for two of Bryan Lamb’s criminal cases wrapped up this week

Katerina Bakalos of Summerland will release her first single on May 1. The music label is LMS Entertainment from Kelowna. (Contributed)
Summerland singer to release single under Kelowna-based label

Katerina Bakalos has performed a rock rendition of I Think We’re Alone Now

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Virtual meetings are taking a toll on local governance, according to multiple mayors in the North Okanagan. (Headway photo)
Virtual meetings leave North Okanagan politicians out of touch

More than a year of Zoom has led to a disconnect between officials, according to local mayors

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
‘I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident wants the Columbia River better protected

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Using panels kept cold by water circulating within them, B.C. researchers compared thermal comfort in 60 of the world’s most populous cities, including Toronto. (Lea Ruefenacht)
B.C. researchers use air conditioning to combat spread of COVID particles

Dr. Adam Rysanek and his team have proven a new worthwhile system – a mixture of cooling panels and natural ventilation

Police road checks are coming for people travelling between regions while COVID-19 travel restrictions are in place. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. clarifies COVID-19 travel restrictions, Lower Mainland a single zone

Vehicle checks on highways, at ferry terminals to start Friday

Most Read