Virginia’s Jackson River is at the center of a lawsuit, the outcome of which could result in severely reduced river and stream access for anglers and other recreationists throughout the state.
A Virginia landowner is currently suing two anglers for trespassing on a portion of the Jackson River based on crown and commonwealth land grants ceded almost 300 years ago. These grants predate Virginia law stating that all river and stream beds are public property. Despite having both public law and the official position of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) on the anglers’ side, the Attorney General’s Office has refused to step into this case to defend the interests of the Commonwealth, its trust resources and its people. This is a precedent setting case in Virginia and could have disastrous ramifications for river and stream fishing across the Commonwealth.
Anglers Vs. Developers – Public Access to Virginia’s Public Waters is in Jeopardy
The DGIF stocks the waters of the Jackson River with trout, using funds from fishing license fees and the federal excise tax on sportfishing equipment. In addition, there are launch ramps paid for with public money providing access to this stretch of the Jackson River. The DGIF’s position holds that the Jackson River bed, including the section in question, is the property of the Commonwealth and open to all people for fishing, boating and other recreational activities. According to the DGIF and Virginia law, the actions of these two anglers are perfectly legal.
Because the Attorney General’s Office refuses to intervene, these two anglers are now defending the rights of all of Virginia’s anglers, boaters and outdoor enthusiasts in court.
If the Court decides in favor of the real estate developer, property owners across the state could deny access to anglers and other recreationists on stretches of water for which they hold crown or commonwealth grants. Click here to send a message to Governor Bob McDonnell and Virginia’s Attorney General’s Office, requesting that the state intervene in this case to defend the interests of the Commonwealth and its people.