Little B.C. fishing club takes on U.S. billionaire

Discussion in 'Freshwater Fishing Forum' started by Derby, Feb 17, 2014.

  1. Derby

    Derby Crew Member

    Mark Hume
    Little B.C. fishing club takes on U.S. billionaire
    VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail
    Published Sunday, Feb. 16 2014, 8:12 PM EST
    Last updated Monday, Feb. 17 2014, 12:33 PM EST





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    The legal battle between the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club and U.S. billionaire Stanley Kroenke looks lopsided.
    Mr. Kroenke owns Canada’s largest working cattle ranch, the Douglas Lake Cattle Co., as well as the Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rapids, St. Louis Rams and holds the most shares in Arsenal, a British soccer team worth £731-million.
    The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club owns, well, nothing really – the land that members hunt and fish on belongs to the Crown.
    Mr. Kroenke’s net worth, according to Forbes, is $5.3-billion (U.S.).
    The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club is so poor it is currently holding raffles and potluck dinners in an attempt to raise $25,000 to defend itself against a civil claim brought by Mr. Kroenke’s ranch.
    Mr. Kroenke’s sports teams combined have more than 22 million likes on their Facebook pages.
    The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club has 49 Facebook likes.
    Despite the vast imbalance between the two parties, the little game club – if it can raise enough money to hire a good lawyer – thinks it has a chance of winning against the ranch, which has gone to the Supreme Court of B.C. seeking damages for alleged trespassing.
    The dispute arose when members of the club protested against a ranch policy of locking gates on roads leading to Minnie and Stoney Lakes. The Douglas Lake Cattle Co. has developed those lakes as private sport-fishing destinations, building a lodge that charges $349 per night, plus $195 if you want a fishing guide.
    The club claims a public road used to provide free access to Minnie and Stoney Lakes. Fearing that if the Douglas Lake Cattle Co. gets away with locking them out of Minnie and Stoney, up to 20 other lakes could also be put off limits, club members climbed over the gate, walked out on the frozen lake and started fishing. They followed that up by filing a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. seeking to have the gates unlocked.
    Now the Douglas Lake Cattle Co. has filed a civil claim against the club, alleging trespassing, claiming the trout as “domestic animals” and arguing “the public has no right to fish” on the lakes.
    The ranch is seeking unspecified damages and a declaration from the courts that the access roads and surrounding lands are private, “including the lake beds of Minnie Lake and Stoney Lake.”
    In court filings, the Douglas Lake Cattle Co. explains that it spent a lot of money improving the lakes, stocking rainbow trout and raising water levels. And it claims its exclusive angling business “would be ruined if the public were able to fish in the lakes, as the Stoney Lake Fishing Lodge’s sport fisher clients would not fish the lakes if others were permitted to engage in catch-and-kill fishing.”
    Rick McGowan, of the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club, says members don’t want to kill the fish. They just want to maintain the public right to fish in what they claim is a public lake, on a public road.
    Mr. McGowan tried to get the B.C. Wildlife Federation to take up the case, but had no luck. He sought support from the B.C. government. Again he drew a blank. Nobody, it seems, wants to take on Mr. Kroenke.
    Without funds, without a legion of Facebook friends, the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club should probably have backed off too. But they don’t quit easily in Merritt. Instead, the club got some legal help from the West Coast Environmental Law Society, filed a response to the claim – and now it is busy holding meat draws and potlucks so it can hire a top lawyer in Vancouver.
    “We definitely want to fight this,” Mr. McGowan said.
    In a recent club letter, all 120 members were asked to donate $200 each to a legal fund.
    “If this goes undefended then access everywhere is in jeopardy of being controlled by the rich,” states the letter.
    If you think Mr. Kroenke shouldn’t be locking up lakes and claiming the land under the water as his, go to the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club website and make a donation. While you are at it, add a few likes to their Facebook page. They need all the friends they can get.
    Follow me on Twitter: @markhumeglobe
  2. fishin_magician

    fishin_magician Well-Known Member

    Great story.

    There was a similar case a few years ago and it did go to court. I don't think it was about fishing...but access was impeded to Crown land by a blocked road and a locked gate...and the Supreme Court sided with the underdog.

    Love how people with money claim something is "theirs" when I fact it's public.
  3. bigdogeh

    bigdogeh Well-Known Member

    where does it stop? pretty sure all water will be privatized eventually if people like this are able to get away with it. look at how it is over in the UK. you need to belong to an elitist fishing club that owns rights to the sections of land bordering the rivers in order to fish most rivers there... pitiful. sad that governments allow this to happen. money trumps individuals freedoms and rights...
  4. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

  5. bigdogeh

    bigdogeh Well-Known Member

    whatever happened to looking after the public taxpayers best interests? private interests lobbying, corporate donations, etc, etc, etc.... will be so enlightening when the present provincial rape and pillage liberals are gone....
  6. Klob

    Klob Well-Known Member

    Why don't these guys have a Go Fund Me page?
  7. terrin

    terrin Well-Known Member

    Looks like thats exactly what the little guy did in England yesterday Bye Bye Mr. Cameron
  8. RevyFisher

    RevyFisher Member

    Don't count on it changing with the NDP. We can thank them for bringing in fees on the rec sites then allowing private contractors to take them over and all we've seen since then is increased rates to for these rec sites with no improvements or re-investment by these operators. Watch what you ask for...
  9. River Rat

    River Rat Active Member

    A decision has been rendered in the contentious civil trial over access to lakes in the Merritt area.

    Delivering his decision orally this morning, the BC Supreme Court judge in Kamloops ruled that catch and release public fishing will be allowed on both Minnie Lake and Stoney Lake.

    The ruling means the Douglas Lake Cattle Company will need to take down gates blocking access to both Minnie and Stoney Lake.

    The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club was suing the Douglas Lake Cattle Company, alleging the company blocked off public access to Minnie and Stoney lake..

    The Douglas Lake Cattle company were claiming the lakes to be theirs, arguing they were man-made over many years.

    Today's ruling has the potential to set precedent for roughly 30 lakes in the area, as well a numerous others throughout BC.
    Gong Show, Dogbreath, tubber and 7 others like this.
  10. tubber

    tubber Well-Known Member

    Time to split between limited ocean and new freshwater opportunities?
    Fly rods and the 11' Whaler are dusty after 5 or more trips to the coast every summer.
    Dogbreath likes this.
  11. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    bigdogeh and wildmanyeah like this.
  12. Big Green Machine

    Big Green Machine Well-Known Member

    Douglas Lake Ranch is hooped. Their lodges are on these lakes. If they stop funding and managing the stocked quality fishery, they run the risk of loosing customers. If they continue to pay, the public will benefit from having access to a quality managed fishery. Sure there are many other public lakes that are stocked in the area, but they don’t produce the quantity and quality of a privately managed lake from the perspective of your average recreational angler.
  13. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    nobody forced them to stock the lakes. That was their decision to benefit them. Judge got it right, They don't own the water column nor the road.
    bigdogeh likes this.
  14. wildmanyeah

    wildmanyeah Crew Member

    They also don't own most of the land right? they lease it off the government?
  15. fishinut

    fishinut Member

    I am really glad to see common sense prevailed over corporate greed. This ruling will open up access to a lot of other lakes and streams in the province. However, we sportsmen will need to take a responible approach and respect their rights on the surrounding lands. No littering, no camping outside designated areas, staying on designated roads, and keeping gates closed.
    bigdogeh, Dave H and Clint r like this.
  16. Clint r

    Clint r Well-Known Member

    I think they do own the land. I believe at one time it was the largest privately owned cattle ranch in BC. There was some shady dealings with the libs when Gordon Campbell was leader or it may have been at the end of the conservative leadership(?) and they fenced off the one end that had public access. Over time it became kind of “normal” and accepted by the general public that the ranch owned that end too. We the public still paid for road maintenance and winter time upkeep etc etc though. There was an illegal fence and even some flooding of the lake at onetime to increase its footprint and the ranch somehow tried to say that had something to do with where the high water mark was and where public could walk on private land. It took around 30 years to get to this point so It’s hard to separate the facts from local legend now. I haven’t read the entire court judgement yet but im hoping the judge tried to recover costs for 30 years of road maintenance plus the cost of loss of enjoyment For the people being restricted from a public place. Also I’m not sure about the costs of stocked fish and who’s cash was used for that? Whatever the judgement against the ranch, I just hope it’s a big enough hit that they feel it and not just another slap on the wrist and a don’t do that again.
    bigdogeh and wildmanyeah like this.
  17. Clint r

    Clint r Well-Known Member

    Yep. Be nice if there was some kind of precedent in there that could somehow help get those big metal gates off of crown land in other areas of BC where business can just put up a fence and tell you it’s private property now.
  18. Jencourt

    Jencourt Well-Known Member

    I am very happy to see this ruling has taken place. This issue with Douglas Lake goes back many many years. Back in my day certain anglers and hunters may or may not have dealt with more than one of their illegal gates in a little less recommended way.
    Was rather effective on a very short term basis, looking back at it really did not help at all. I do not recommend it to anyone now.Later on some of my group figured out that we could hike our belly boats into a couple lakes from public Forrest access rds across crown land, and did not need the road that was blocked. On one occasion while fishing a lake to remain un-named, Employees came to the lakeside via the gated road and started yelling and threatening us. They where so shocked to see us there and no truck in sight. (parked about 15k away by road, 1.5-2 k walk through the bush straight shot to the lake. We ignored them. Before long they where almost begging us to tell them how we got there. My Buddy finally yelled back. "parachute" BTW full skunk and hardest rain I ever experienced. Still felt like a total WIN!!!

    AGREE . this is the right way and can be a good thing for sport fishers for years to come. Was kind of fun to think back for a moment of wen I was much younger and way dumber. LOL This is the right way .
    Congrats to everyone involved.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
  19. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member
    [307] Earlier in these Reasons, I noted my very significant concerns about the action of DLCC and its ranch manager, Mr. Gardner, in their actions in, for a lack of a better term, taking the law in their own hands and closing, by virtue of a lock and intimidation, a public road. As critical as I am of Mr. Gardner, greater criticism may be levelled at the Province for its absolute lack of action in maintaining their property and enforcing the public good against a determined and bullying corporate entity and its manager.

    [308] In particular, and with no disrespect intended, the evidence of Mr. Kirk regarding the actions of the Ministry of Highways under his watch, are actions which are frankly deplorable. Although Mr. Kirk may have had some strategic reason for doing so, he should have acted to enforce a public right and he did not. Mr. Kirk had determined in 1996 that the expression by Mr. Gardner to him, on behalf of DLCC, that the Stoney Lake Road had been traded for, the construction of the bypass road was not factually correct. He advised Mr. Gardner and DLCC of this. As such, a representative of the Province had determined in 1996, with some certainty, that the closure of the Stoney Lake Road was unlawful.

    [315] I reluctantly conclude there was a breach of the Province’s obligations to the citizens of British Columbia, when DLCC unilaterally closed a public road and no government official in the Ministry of Highways had the wherewithal to insist that the lock on the gate be removed, nor insist that a corporate entity respect the law.

    [318] No explanation was provided to the Court for why the government did nothing when they clearly have an obligation to, in my view, enforce a public right to roads.

    [320] One of the very profound lessons of this litigation is that the Province has failed to protect the public interest. It has failed to ensure that a road it owns was not blocked, and subsequently destroyed by virtue of flooding, by a private land owner with economic interests aligned with the closure and destruction of the road. The Province’s actions, in not protecting the public interest in that sense, are disappointing to say the least.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2018
  20. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    bigdogeh and Crow like this.

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