Significant ruling on Stream Access in Colorado!


“Hill v. Warsewa,” is a court case concerning stream access on the Arkansas River that could potentially have broader ramifications on fishing access in the state of Colorado.  Angling Trade just received this update from Mark Squillace, the Raphael J. Moses Professor of Natural Resources Law at the University of Colorado Law School:

“The Colorado Court of Appeals has upheld our standing to bring this stream access case.  The court denied our claim that the public enjoys an easement over the bed for which Hill could bring a quiet title action, but held nonetheless that Mr. Hill has standing to claim that the Arkansas River is navigable for title and subject to a trust on behalf of the public.  Here’s the key language from pp. 16-17 of the opinion:

 If, as Hill alleges, the relevant segment of the river was navigable at statehood, then the Warsewa defendants do not own the riverbed and would have no right to exclude him from it by threats of physical violence or prosecution for trespass. In support of his claim, Hill proffers numerous factual allegations that the river was used for commerce at or near the time of statehood, including floating beaver pelts, logs, and railroad ties down the river. We certainly cannot, at this early stage, know whether Hill will be able to establish that the river segment was navigable at statehood. But we cannot say it is not plausible.

 Moreover, as noted, the question of whether, and to what extent, the public trust doctrine should apply to the bed of a navigable river has never been resolved — or, as far as we can tell, even addressed — in Colorado. Nor has Hill’s claim that he is entitled to access to the riverbed based on English common law been resolved or addressed. Thus, it cannot be said that the law as it stands now unequivocally bars Hill’s claim.”

See this updated analysis with a bit more info from our friends at Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, here that was just released.

-Tim Romano


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