Who Owns the Water?

Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#1
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/15/privatized-rivers-us-public-lands-waterways

“It’s like someone walking into my house without ringing the doorbell and telling me that I can’t sit on my couch any more,”
This topic is the crucial question addressing fly anglers. If we have no water to fish, and we're unable or unwilling to pay to play, we're simply gear collectors. If the answer is "The adjacent private property owners", our options for fly water is very limited.

There will always be ultra-wealthy people who have the financial resources to hire lawyers and lobbyists (and of course elected officials) to change the laws to their liking.

The flip side.

I'm a property owner who lives at the end of a private road. I have BLM land on two sides of my property. I've had people cut Christmas trees from my property, drop off their cats, and climb my fence to hunt. If you make a bold statement like, "When it comes to outdoor activities, most Americans have shit for brains." you wouldn't get an argument from me.

For every idiot, there are hundreds of reasonable, considerate, conscientious outdoor folks. The lawyers for the ultra-rich landowners are not going to cite the last group when they present their argument to a judge or legislator.

My point.

When we, the reasonable conscientious fly anglers, see the idiots doing something stupid, we need to do more than roll our eyes. We need to intervene. Intervention might be something as simple as taking out your cell phone and taking photos of them, their vehicles, license plates etc.

Trapper
 
#2
Trapper, the answer will most often depend on the laws of your state. If a river crosses your property, I would doubt that the adjacent property owners will "own" the river or the water flowing across it. You may have some ownership rights to a spring that comes out of your property but even then those rights may have been acquired by a neighbor at a prior time. If you have never used the water from the spring but a neighbor has once it flows off your property, he may have acquired "adverse possession" to the spring water.

In most cases with a river crossing private land, the river is state owned even if you owned the property under the river. You may have the right to keep someone from wading on your property under the river or even setting an anchor but most likely they would have the right to drift downstream. I remember an issue in south central Montana and some Indian tribal land and the courts decided that you could not anchor but you could fish from a moving boat. It was in the 60's.

It is muddy water you are stirring up. ;)
 

Woodman60

Active Member
#3
I regularly fish a northern California river that is bounded by a lot of private property on both sides, much of it inaccessible by road. However, the riverbed is massively wide and largely dry most of the year. As an example, the peak flow in 2017 was around 82,000 cfs, and I fished it a week ago at 950 cfs. If i walk up about two miles, I'm in the river adjacent to a fairly expensive fishing club on a private lease with drive up access. On several occasions, I have been yelled at, cussed at, and had the sheriff called on me for trespassing. It really pisses the member's off when the sheriff asks a few questions, and then informs them that I'm not doing anything wrong. I like California's laws a hell of a lot better than state's like Colorado and Wyoming.
 
#4
"Now New Mexico has become a battleground for that very issue, with the state government, landowners, and outfitters on one side of the fight and anglers, boaters, recreationalists and heritage users on the other."

Note that the outfitters are on the side of the landowners in this New Mexico case.

I've been traveling to Argentina often over the last 15 years for work and I usually take a fly rod along and plan to spend a few days or a week fly fishing while I'm down there. The rivers in Patagonia flow mostly through private 'estancias' - huge cattle ranches - and fishermen used to be welcome to cross the land to access a river. Increasingly, the estancias have been putting up no trespassing signs and providing access only to lodges that cater to North American and European tourist fly fishermen and charge up to $1000/day. The visiting DIY fisherman and Argentine fishermen are increasingly forced into those access points where there is a bridge or where the river is immediately adjacent to a road.

The unholy alliance of lodges/guides/outfitters and large landowners are inexorably diminishing access to public water everywhere. It is not as bad here as in Europe, but I fear we're headed that way.

D
 

Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#7
Trapper, the answer will most often depend on the laws of your state. If a river crosses your property, I would doubt that the adjacent property owners will "own" the river or the water flowing across it.

It is muddy water you are stirring up. ;)
What’s stirring me up is there are bills in both Houses to lease or sell public land to private interests. It seems to me to be a pervasive attitude that the new Golden Rule applies; the guys with the gold make the rules. I worry about my access to the many Montana streams I’ve fished for years. Montana’s sole Representative, a ultra wealthy businessman, barred the public from using the river running through his property until forced by law to change.

In New Mexico the State legislature quietly passed a bill declaring land owners own the river bottom. The justification is the land owner is the river steward, so they can fence it off and allow only those willing to pay to fish access.

Here in Montana there was a huge fight in the early 1980s between landowners and the public. Who owns the water was the question. The Montana Legislature and the Montana court system declared:

The Montana Stream Access Law says that anglers, floaters and other recreationists in Montana have full use of most natural waterways between the high-water marks for fishingand floating, along with swimming and other river or stream-related activities. In 1984, the Montana Supreme Court held that the streambed of any river or stream that has the capability to be used for recreation can be accessed by the public regardless of whether the river is navigable or who owns the streambed property.[1][2] On January 16, 2014, the Montana Supreme Court, in a lawsuit filed by the Public Land/Water Access Association over access via county bridges on the Ruby river in Madison County, Montana reaffirmed the Montana Stream Access Law and the public's right to access rivers in Montana from public easements.[3]

I’m sounding the alarm. Be vigalent and know we live in a different America. Some of the changes are reasonable, but the history of humans who got unchecked power is a very ugly one.
 

Skip Enge

Active Member
#9
Rain Police

Here comes the rain
that fresh shower
Falling from above
All I wanna do
Is feel it's caress
and catch that feeling
Like the bonus of love
So I thought,well fine
I can make it mine
Harness it
Use it to bide
The dry times…
But No , it can;'t be so
Possession and peace
Do you have a lease?
Yet the rain falls
Blessing us all
Here they come
the Rain Police
Advocates for some
But nature isn't one.
Here comes the rain
that fresh shower
Falling from above
Like the bonus of love
So I thought,well fine
I can make it mine
Harness it
Use it to bide
The dry times…
It was an honest mistake
Thought i could avail
of what heaven makes…
But No , it can;'t be so
Possession and peace
Do you have a lease?
Here they come
the Rain Police
 

creekx

spent spinner
#11
The unholy alliance of lodges/guides/outfitters and large landowners are inexorably diminishing access to public water everywhere. It is not as bad here as in Europe, but I fear we're headed that way.
Has happened here in E WA. For years a rancher would grant permission to those who asked for access to a small stream flowing through his large ranch. The great fishing, prime water, and access were somewhat of a secret - until a local guide/outfitter approached the rancher with his pay-to-play plan. Only way to fish it now is to hire a guide for access.
 
#12
Has happened here in E WA. For years a rancher would grant permission to those who asked for access to a small stream flowing through his large ranch. The great fishing, prime water, and access were somewhat of a secret - until a local guide/outfitter approached the rancher with his pay-to-play plan. Only way to fish it now is to hire a guide for access.
That is a lot different than public land being taken over by private interests. It may not seem that way to you if you had free access to it in the past, but you were just granted access to it.
 

creekx

spent spinner
#13
That is a lot different than public land being taken over by private interests. It may not seem that way to you if you had free access to it in the past, but you were just granted access to it.
Very true. Losing public access/public land is much worse. My private land example was just similar to Trapper's Patagonia experience.
 

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