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There was an odd story emanating from the CBC yesterday (nothing unusual there) where those nasty rich Americans were being mean to honest, hardworking Canadians who just wanted to go fishing.
Those so-called nasty Americans are Stan and Ann Kroenke, the owners of the Douglas Ranch, located near Merritt, British Columbia. Those honest, hardworking Canadians are members of the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club (NVFGC) who feel entitled to trespass on the Kroenke’s property.
I’m not mocking the members of the NVFGC. They are exactly as I have described: honest, hardworking Canadians.
They (and the CBC writer) simply have a deep and disturbing lack of comprehension of property rights brought on, I suspect, by a prior landowner’s choice to NOT enforce his property rights.
What happens in cases like this, where the public is used to having free, unfettered access to private land, is they think they are entitled to that access when they are not. It’s unfortunate, but that’s life. The new owners of the vast lands known as the Douglas Ranch ARE enforcing their property rights, which they are absolutely entitled to do.
Does that mean the folks who like fishing on the two lakes surrounded by this private property can’t fish there? Yes, unless they can find some way of accessing the lakes without violating the property rights of (i.e. trespassing on) the Kroenke’s private property.
They could, for example, hire a float plane to fly them into the lake and, so long as they didn’t make landfall, they could fish to their hearts’ content. Given the owners of the ranch stock the lake with trout that could open another can of worms entirely, but that's not the point of this story.
Both the CBC and the spokespeople for the NVFGC seem to take great pleasure in their anti-American position, as well as their anti-rich American position.
The CBC article writer goes to great pains to give the Kroenke’s financial pedigree.
The 200,000-hectare property — reputed to be the largest working cattle ranch in Canada — is owned by billionaire Stan Kroenke, who's also owner of the NHL's Colorado Avalanche. His wife, Ann Walton Kroenke, is the daughter of Wal-Mart department store founder Bud Walton.
It’s pretty much a given that anyone who can afford to buy a 200,000 hectare property is going to be wealthy, isn’t it?
But with the CBC, being wealthy is a crime. Being a wealthy American… well, I don’t even know where to start with that heinous offense!
Next is the claim that the owners of the ranch are preventing people from accessing a public road.
Members of the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club claim ranch managers are illegally blocking access to Minnie and Stoney lakes, by dumping tree logs on a roadway that is publicly owned.
The only problem with that statement is it’s not actually true. Even the Province of British Columbia has said so. The land surrounding the two lakes in question is privately owned. That would include any roadways on that privately owned land. They are private roads, not public.
I can, for example, say publicly I have the right to drive on your property. That doesn’t make it true.
The same goes for these fisherman with respect to access to Minnie and Stoney Lake.
"It doesn't make any difference how much money Mr. Kroenke has. What matters is what our legal rights are. We have private property rights," said Douglas Ranch Ranch manager Joe Gardner.
Mr. Gardner is 100% correct. It matters not how much money someone has or doesn’t have. Rights matter. In this case, it’s the property rights of an American couple who happen to be lucky enough and wealthy enough to own an amazing tract of Canadian landscape.
There is a disturbing double-standard at play here. The members of the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club believe they have the right to trespass on Mr. Kroenke’s land in order to access a lake they want to fish at.
I doubt a single one of them would be willing to allow Mr. Kroenke to trespass on THEIR land any time Mr. Kroenke pleased yet they demand that of him.
This case reminds me of another one like it about 12 years ago.
Actor Harrison Ford made the news in hunting and fishing circles because he had the unbridled audacity to post No Hunting signs on his 800-acre property near Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
It’s prime elk country and many stupid people including Jim Hinter, the former president of Canada’s National Firearms Association, believed that the hunters' “right” to hunt those elk trumped Harrison Ford’s property rights.
Mr. Hinter and I had many a heated debate over this issue because I comprehended that since Harrison Ford owned the land in question he could do anything he pleased with it, including prohibiting hunting on his property.
Mr. Hinter stupidly and insanely stuck to his guns, adamant that Harrison Ford was anti-hunting and anti-gun, and that because this was prime elk territory Mr. Ford shouldn’t be allowed to stop people from hunting on his private property.
It is an absurd statement, yet I was never able to convince then-NFA president Jim Hinter that Harrison Ford’s property rights actually trump my own personal desire to hunt elk on his land, for I have absolutely no right to do so.
It always bothered me that someone claiming to champion the rights of Canadians to own and use firearms couldn’t comprehend the most basic premise of property rights: the property owner is the one with rights. The rest of us are mere hangers-on who want all the benefits of property ownership without the expense and responsibility of it.
As for whether or not Harrison Ford is anti-hunting and/or anti-gun, that’s a non-starter for me. I couldn’t care less one way or the other because that isn’t the issue at all. The issue is whether or not he has the right to say what is done on his private property.
He does. Of course he does.
We can only use someone else’s property if we have their permission to do so. Otherwise we’re the ones breaking the law, not the property owner.
In the case of Douglas Ranch, the owner has made it quite clear he will not be giving that permission.
That is absolutely his right.
The members of the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club don’t have to like it. They simply have to accept it.
The CBC article said the NVFGC is attempting to raise money to sue those evil rich Americans for the right to trespass on private property.
I’m no lawyer, nor do I play one on television, but let me give the NVFGC a little bit of advice anyway.
Don’t waste your money. You’ll lose.
Not because those evil, rich Americans got away with anything but because they have property rights to that land.