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B.C. court orders access to public lake through cattle company lands

Public access to two lakes near Merritt was blocked more than three decades ago

A British Columbia judge has prodded the provincial government for its inaction while he granted public access to two lakes in the Interior nearly three decades after the route was blocked.

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club took the Douglas Lake Cattle Company to court after the company blocked access to Stoney and Minnie lakes near Merritt.

The firm, one of the world’s biggest cattle companies, decommissioned a road leading to the lakes in the early 1990, locking out access to members of the club.

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In a ruling issued Friday, Justice Joel Groves says the provincial government retained rights to the lake making the fish in the lakes public property, meaning the public would need to access the lakes.

Groves concluded that province breached its obligations to the citizens of B.C. when the cattle company unilaterally closed a public road and “no government official had the wherewithal to insist that the lock on the gate be removed.”

Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club director Rick McGowan said the decision is precedent setting and will mean the people of B.C. have a right to access all public places in the province.

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Groves said in his ruling that the province has a duty to maintain the ownership of public lands and roads and to prohibit those who — for their economic or personal benefit — choose to occupy those public lands.

“As such, I am not pointing a finger at any particular government individual but, again, it is most unfortunate that all governments holding the obligation of the public trust have failed to take any actions to prohibit what was an illegal obstruction of a public road by a corporate entity, for its own benefit.”

The Canadian Press

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