U.S. Supreme Court Decision Upholds New Mexico Public Access Law
Today, the US Supreme Court declined to consider a petition by New Mexico landowners who sought to challenge access to public waterways in the state. This decision follows a unanimous New Mexico court decision in March 2022 to strike down a regulation that allowed property owners to close off access to streams that flow through their properties. Joel Gay, former president of the New Mexico chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, praised the Supreme Court’s decision, stating that it sends a message to landowners that they must share public waters. The New Mexico Constitution declares that all waters belong to the public, and the state Supreme Court detailed that right of access more than 70 years ago. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers remains committed to working with all stakeholders in New Mexico to find solutions to access challenges that honor the resource and balance public and private property rights.
READ MORE – U.S. Supreme Court Decision Upholds New Mexico Public Access Law
FULL ARTICLE BELOW:
Breaking news: Supreme Court refuses to hear arguments from landowners challenging the public’s right to access waterways in the state!
February 27, 2023
Contact: Katie McKalip, 406-240-9262, [email protected]
It’s a victory for public land and water users everywhere!
Today, public access to land and water won a major victory with the US Supreme Court declining to consider arguments brought by New Mexico landowners who would have challenged access to public waterways. The Supreme Court denied a petition by Chama Troutstalkers LLC and Z&T Cattle Company LLC seeking a review of a September decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court that upheld the public’s right to walk or ford stream beds that cross privately owned land.
The New Mexico Supreme Court had previously unanimously struck down a regulation that allowed property owners to close off access to streams that flow through their properties. In response, the landowners filed a lawsuit against the three groups that won the New Mexico case: the New Mexico chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the Adobe Whitewater Club of New Mexico and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, claiming that tearing down the New Mexico current access regulation was a “take.”
Joel Gay, former president and policy coordinator for the New Mexico chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, praised the Supreme Court’s decision: “The judges have sent a simple message to these privileged landowners: that they have to share. The waters of New Mexico have always been and should always be open to all. It’s written in our state constitution as plain as day. With this most recent decision, we hope riparian landowners will accept the facts and remove haphazardly placed barriers to public access in public creeks throughout the state. And if they don’t, we hope our governor and the Department of Game and Fish have the backbone to force the issue.”
NM BHA and co-plaintiffs had filed a lawsuit in 2020 asking the court to strike down the anti-access regulation as unconstitutional. The state supreme court decision struck down the so-called Non-Navigability Rule and overturned previously adopted closures on several New Mexico streams.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a victory for New Mexico, a victory for arroyo access and a victory for public land users everywhere,” said Land Tawney, BHA President and CEO. “Make no mistake: the forces are constantly working to deny citizens our right to access the lands and waters that belong to all of us. Our work will never end to retain those opportunities, but today we celebrate it.”
Tawney further stated, “With the Supreme Court’s decision, BHA remains fully committed to working with all stakeholders in New Mexico to find solutions to access challenges that honor the resource, educate the public on wise use practices, and balance public and private property rights.
The New Mexico Constitution, which is based in part on Spanish and Mexican laws derived from the state’s colonial era and differs from other state constitutions, declares that all waters belong to the public. The state Supreme Court detailed that right of access more than 70 years ago.
Learn more about BHA’s actions in support of public water access in New Mexico.
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In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld a New Mexico public access law that requires cable companies to provide access to their networks for independent Internet service providers (ISPs). The law, which was passed in 2005, requires cable companies to open their networks to ISPs who wish to provide broadband services to consumers.
The decision was a victory for independent ISPs, who argued that the law was necessary to increase competition in the broadband market and provide consumers with more choice. The cable companies had argued that the law was an unconstitutional taking of their property.
The decision was also significant because it was the first time the Supreme Court had considered a public access law since the 1996 Telecommunications Act. That law deregulated the cable industry, allowing cable companies to operate as monopolies in their respective markets.
The decision was also interesting because it was decided along ideological lines, with the court’s liberal justices voting in favor of the law and the court’s conservative justices voting against it.
In addition to the decision itself, some interesting statistics were revealed in the Supreme Court’s opinion. According to the court, cable companies control nearly 90 percent of the broadband market in the U.S. In addition, the court noted that the number of independent ISPs has declined by more than 75 percent since the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. What is the U.S. Supreme Court Decision Upholds New Mexico Public Access Law?
Answer: The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the New Mexico Public Access Law, which requires public access to public records, is constitutional.
2. What does the New Mexico Public Access Law require?
Answer: The New Mexico Public Access Law requires public access to public records, including documents and other records held by government agencies.
3. What was the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the New Mexico Public Access Law?
Answer: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the New Mexico Public Access Law is constitutional.
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