New Mexico courts rule that public can wade streams on private property

Back in March, the New Mexico Supreme Court told the state Game Commission that it could not issue regulations allowing private property owners to close access to rivers and streams that flow over their land, provided the public is walking or wading on the stream. Yesterday the court issued theirs written statement explain and clarify their decision.

Prior to this decision, landowners could submit a petition to the Wildlife Commission stating that the water on their land was not suitable and therefore should remain completely private.

Oh no, said the court.

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“Walking and wading on the privately owned beds under public waters is reasonably necessary for the enjoyment of many forms of fishing and recreation,” the statement reads. “That being said, we emphasize that the public may neither trespass on privately owned land to gain access to public water, nor trespass on privately owned land from public water.”

The New Mexico Constitution already states that the waters of the state are public, but allows private ownership of the streams and banks adjacent to rivers and lakes. This ruling makes it clear that you can own the land right up to the water’s edge, but after that everyone comes.

“This is a huge victory for people who care about our history, our culture and our natural resources,” said Senator Martin Heinrich. “Public waters will remain public.”

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