New Mexico Courts Rule Public Can Wade Streams On Private Property

Back in March the New Mexico Supreme Court told the state Game Commission get could not issue regulations allowing private property owners to close access to rivers and streams flowing over their land, provided the public is walking or wading on the streambed. Yesterday the court issued their written opinion explaining and clarifying their ruling.

Prior to this ruling, land owners were able to petition the Game Commission that the waters on their land were non-navigable and therefore should remain entirely private.

Um, no, said the court.

“Walking and wading on the privately owned beds beneath public water is reasonably necessary for the enjoyment of many forms of fishing and recreation,” the opinion reads. “Having said that, we stress that the public may neither trespass on privately owned land to access public water, nor trespass on privately owned land from public water.”

The New Mexico Constitution already states water within the state is public, but allowed for private ownership of the streambeds and banks next to rivers and lakes. This ruling makes clear one can own the land right up to the margins of water, but after that, come one come all.

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



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