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

In a feature article published April 10, 2021 in The Times of London, ‘headlined British Columbia has what it takes to rival Napa Valley,’ the valley is praised extensively for its natural beauty and wine. (File photo)
From the U.K. with love: Okanagan wine, scenery receives international praise

The Times of London newspaper recently featured the valley in a wine and travel piece

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

Conservation officers caught three men over fishing bull trout in Kinbasket Lake. (Facebook)
B.C. men fined $1.7K for overfishing near Revelstoke, Golden

The seized fish were donated to the Golden Food Bank

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. Photo courtesy Conservative Party of Canada.
MP Morrison hopes for economic recovery plan in upcoming federal budget

Kootenay-Columbia Conservative looking for post-pandemic recovery plan in next week’s Liberal budget

The airport was one of several to receiving funding for its medevec services. (Columbia Valley Airport photo)
Fairmont airport receives $90,000 in Provincial funding

It’s one of several airports to receive provincial funding

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

Marylou Jensen. (Contributed)
Kelowna RCMP searching for missing senior

Marylou Jensen left her Grenfell Road home on foot at 5 p.m.

A dumpster was on fire behind a residential complex in downtown Penticton Tuesday afternoon. (Brennan Phillips Western News)
Dumpster fire extinguished in downtown Penticton

There has been a string of dumpster fires lately

Skogie’s Express Tunnel Wash on Anderson Way in Vernon. (Submitted photo)
Lawsuit dismissed after vehicle damaged while inside Okanagan car wash

Civil Resolution Tribunal dismisses driver’s claim following a collision inside Skogie’s car wash in Vernon

The future of the Eagle Pass Lookout cabin is being discussed. (File photo)
Options presented for future of former Eagle Pass fire lookout in Shuswap

Stakeholders met in 2020 to discuss the restoration, or possible removal of the cabin

(Mayor Cindy Fortin - Peachland)
Peachland mayor declines early vaccination offer

Mayor Cindy Fortin said she wants seniors, immunocompromised individuals to get the shot first

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

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021. (Kamloops This Week photo)
Clothing that ‘detracts from learning process’ removed from SD73 student dress code

Policy change underway after student in knee-length dress, long-sleeve turtleneck sent home

A shop up on Grand Oro Road near Twin Lakes burned down on Monday. (Facebook)
Fire rips through shop in small South Okanagan town

The building was destroyed despite community efforts to fight the fire

Most Read