FILE – New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez speaks during a news conference, May 18, 2023, at the The Clyde Hotel in Albuquerque, N.M. New Mexico’s top prosecutor is going after landowners who he says are illegally and unconstitutionally depriving the public of access to stretches of one of the state’s most well-known rivers. (Jon Austria/The Albuquerque Journal via AP, File)ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.
“While we respect the private property rights of landowners along these waterways, we expect them to follow the law and take down illegal barriers that restrict access to natural resources that belong to all of our citizens,” Torrez said in a statement.
The investigation is ongoing and prosecutors said they were reserving the right to amend the complaint to include anyone who is violating the law by denying public access to the state’s rivers and streams. headtopics.com
Advocates of private property rights have argued for years that opening up waterways will result in decreased property values and less interest by owners to invest in conserving tracts of land along streams.
Torrez is seeking to keep the landowners from blocking access to any river or stream crossing their land and to remove barriers that threaten the safety of anglers and outdoorsmen in violation of the state constitution. headtopics.com
Steam access has been an issue across the West for years. While several states have recognized public ownership and use of water is distinct from ownership of the river or stream bed, the rules remain murky in some places. It was only recently that the Colorado Supreme Court decided a longstanding feud, finding that an angler who had sued over access had no standing to argue that rivers were public property if they had been used for commerce at the time.