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Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club to appeal decision on access to lakes

The British Columbia Court of Appeals overturned an earlier decision by the British Columbia Supreme Court granting the public access to Lakes Minnie and Stoney, southeast of Merritt. The Douglas Lake Cattle Company (DLCC) and the Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club (NVFGC) are embroiled in a lengthy legal battle over public access to the two lakes that has been controversial for nearly a decade. The NVFGC views Minnie and Stoney Lakes as public property that should be freely accessible to anglers and day-trippers. DLCC, now owned by American billionaire Stan Kroenke, owner of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment and husband of Walmart heiress Ann Walton Kroenke, disagreed. This disagreement has led the two factions through court battles that some have compared to the famous David-Goliath conflict. “We’ve been involved in a lawsuit for about ten years,” said Rick McGowan, NVFGC director and chairman of the club’s access committee. “We had a court ruling on Minnie and Stoney Lake on the Douglas Lake property two years ago. In that 20 day trial, Justice Groves ruled in our favor and we were given access to the lakes and fishability. He decided that the fish were public, that the streets were public, and all of those things. “At this point in 2018, the NVFGC was also awarded special fees that would allow the club’s attorney to get paid rather than volunteer. The BC Courts website states: “The court may impose special costs for the conduct of the parties. Special costs are said to be “very similar” to the reasonable fees that an attorney charges his own client. Douglas Lake appealed this judgment and appealed to the British Columbia Court of Appeals. “We went to an appeals court about a year ago, and the appeals court ruling came in a week ago and completely ruled everything against the first judge’s ruling,” said McGowan, except that he continues to grant access to Minnie Lake, albeit less accessible than previously granted. McGowan also questions the judicial process and the fact that the final decision was made by only one judge, he claims. “There were three appellate judges and two of them did nothing,” said McGowan. “One man wrote the entire verdict, which is 25-30 pages, and he actually used Douglas Lake attorney’s reasoning to appeal word for word in his verdict, so it kind of smells.” The NVFGC is no longer entitled to special charges as a result of this decision and has been ordered to pay Douglas Lake’s legal costs for the appeal, which the club has been advised to be valued at approximately $ 25,000 to $ 30,000. “We’ve spent over $ 160,000 to date and we have about a few hundred thousand dollars in bills that weren’t billed by our attorney who did this for free, assuming we win the extra expense that is now were eliminated. ” said McGowan. “So our current financial future is unknown, other than that we don’t have the money to pay these types of bills.” McGowan estimates the total cost of the ongoing litigation, including the DLCC and NVFGC provinces, to total around $ 1.5 million. Now that the hopes of the BC Supreme Court were dashed, the NVFGC decided at a meeting of the executive branch on March 14th to direct its request to the country’s Supreme Court. “We have decided to pursue the case in the Supreme Court of Appeals in Canada,” said McGowan. “The bottom line, the big problem, is that the judge has ruled that if the landowner gets a water license and increases the water over his private property, that property and the water over it will be private so that you cannot see the public part.” of a public lake that is bizarre. And that affects thousands and thousands of lakes in British Columbia and Canada, which is really serious, ”McGowan continued. “It is not a good thing for the people of British Columbia and future generations, it is basically just a terrible decision, it is for the very wealthy and without regard to the laws and regulations of the provinces and / or the people of British Columbia and future Generations. It’s basically about taking public property and giving it to rich people for free. “While there is no guarantee that the Fish and Game Club will win this time around, McGowan believes the current verdict is against provincial laws and statutes, and hopes the country’s Supreme Court will see it that way too.” “We have to be optimistic that the laws apply to the people of Canada, but it seems judges can make decisions that are completely bizarre and violate all rules, laws and regulations to tell you the truth that I am not know.” said McGowan. “But at least we’ll try. The BC people are concerned; Can we win if a judge can rule against the law? It is unknown. “McGowan himself has invested thousands of hours in what he calls” full-time employment, “and he is grateful for the support he and the NVFGC have received. Just hours before the Herald interview, the club was given 1,350 US dollars. Dollars donated to cover the running costs. “We would like to thank everyone who has contributed morally and financially. We couldn’t do this without their support, “said McGowan.” The government departments are supposed to take care of the lakes, roads and things for the people of BC, but they clearly aren’t. So we try, but I don’t know “We’re going to win it. It’s a tremendous effort, and it’s not going to go away. People are not going to stand for private individuals occupying public spaces.” Morgan Hampton, local journalism reporter, Merritt Herald