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1.) Swamp Fox - 04/25/2013
That's what the signs say in Virginia on the beautiful and "previously-public" Jackson River.

And I could have put this in the Hunting Section...

I came across this story again while looking into a riverbed ownership story that's been going on in NC for a while. While generally we think and are allowed to act as if what's submerged under navigable waters is public property, not private property of the adjacent landowners, that well-established concept is apparently far from solid ground these days, so to speak.

A fisherman caught up in legal quicksand in Virginia writes (referring to a NC General Assembly-directed report): "The Program Evaluation Division found that North Carolina has no idea who owns the submerged lands below its navigable rivers and it is unknown the extent to which private parties may have claims against those assets. So Virginia is not alone. (Actually the report found that 10 of the other 13 original colonies have no idea either.)"

So what's it all about? Imagine boating up a river the state says is public fishing ground and tossing out your anchor or wading within the banks, which the state says you have a right to do, and then getting sued by the adjacent landowner for trespass. Completely wrong, right? The state will back you up, right?

Incorrectomundo! Virginia Game and Fish and the commonwealth's Attorney General both claimed it was not their business to get involved in the Jackson River dispute.

And from the looks of it now, you can't even [I]fish through [/I]without the risk of some unknown number of landowners in unknown locations laying claim. Remember we are talking about [B]navigable[/B] waters, not some ankle-deep trickle of a trout stream, which would not be unusual or a spark for public rioting to post as private.

How can this be? In the Virginia case, a fisherman got out of his kayak to wade fish-- without accessing the riverbank-- and the adjacent landowner claimed that a grant from the King of England and another from the commonwealth, both from the 1700's, gave him and the golf community development calling itself The River's Edge the right to charge trespass for using the riverbed. The plaintiffs claimed that those grants, if valid, would supersede subsequent Virginia statutes that say "unless otherwise conveyed, the river bottoms of our non-tidal, navigable rivers are held in the public trust." (Source: [I]The Daily Progress[/I])

After several years, the defendant fisherman was worn down financially, withdrew from the fight, and the case was settled against him. The landowner and developer never had to produce 18th-century language from the King or even the Commonwealth that mentions ownership of the river bottom.

According to the Daily Progress:

[I]"They effectively privatized their piece of the Jackson...

According to Coggeshall [the defendant fisherman], the first time the river bottom was mentioned in the chain of title was in a deed from 1940. Thatís what gave the plaintiffs 'color of title' and thus a 'prima facie' claim to ownership.

The upshot of all this legalese isnít just bad news for a couple of trespassing anglers. Itís bad news for us all. The template is out there now for landowners and developers.

And who knows how many more of these possible grant claims are out there on the Jackson, or the Shenandoah, or the James?"[/I]

Here's a good recent summary of the Virginia story (North South Development vs. Crawford):


The [I]Daily Progress[/I] wrap-up:


And a link to the beaten-but-not-defeated fisherman's website and blog which is good reading:

2.) DParker - 04/25/2013
[QUOTE=Swamp Fox;5408]...claimed that a grant from the King of England...[/QUOTE]

You really need to give the reader fair warning before posting stuff like that so we can wrap our heads with several turns of duct tape before reading it.

Now I'm off to lay claim to everything within 5 miles of the banks of the Potomac on the grounds that the current occupants aren't doing anything intelligent or useful with the place.
3.) Swamp Fox - 04/26/2013
It [B]is[/B] mind-blowing...
4.) Ventilator - 04/26/2013
I had always thought the same thing here in WNC on the Green River by the house. As long as we stayed in the river, we were fine. No landowners ever said much. Nowadays, there are new landowners transplanted from "up north". These new owners have posted the banks and threatened to call LE if someone wades thru that section.
5.) Swamp Fox - 04/26/2013
In the Virginia situation Game and Fish had told the landowner (apparently numerous times) that his "No Fishing" signs carried no weight but would not support the fisherman who relied on G&IF maps and common practice to fish where it was "known" to be legal.

I can't get into the fine points without a lengthy post. The blog and the court docs at the river defense fund site will help with those points, as will this:


Bottom line here is that while there are what we'll have to call---to suit the lawyers-- "legitimate" claims to private ground whose source is the friggin' king of England in the mid 1700's---the state/commonwealth has acted spinelessly in its abandonment of a legal fisherman who relied on government information and ancient community practice to treat the riverbed of a navigable river as "held in the public trust." The landowner did not occupy an area that had previously been determined as anything close to private, and did not produce any documents to show that the riverbed was part of any supposed grant from the king.
6.) Take The Fly - 04/27/2013
I'm sportsman that was sued. This is as much a hunting issue as it is a fishing issue. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, today, no one knows who owns the beds of our navigable rivers. Hunters can be sued for anchoring duck decoys on public navigable rivers in Virginia. It is scary stuff. I need all the help I can get to keep the fight going at the General Assembly level. Please visit my site [url]www.virginiariversdefensefund.org[/url] and make a tax deductible donation so that we might continue our fight to keep Virginia’s navigable rivers open for use by hunters, fishermen and paddlers. If we can’t anchor our duck decoys or wade-fish or pull our canoe up on a rock for lunch in our navigable rivers, then we will lose our constitutional right and our sporting heritage in this state.
7.) Take The Fly - 05/02/2013
Didn't mean for my outreach to shut down the discussion.
8.) Ventilator - 05/02/2013
[QUOTE=Take The Fly;5626]Didn't mean for my outreach to shut down the discussion.[/QUOTE]

It didnt. This place has been slow lately. Also, not much new blood coming in. Glad to see you joined up.:tu: