An 81-year-old angler named Roger Hill is determined to fight for the freedom to wade in Colorado rivers, despite a recent ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court that supports private ownership of riverbeds. Hill, who has been engaged in a decade-long legal battle, claims the right to wade on the bottom of the river as a member of the public. However, the court dismissed his lawsuit, stating that he lacked legal standing to pursue the case.
The judges argued that only the state government has the authority to secure public rights. Hill’s attorneys have filed a petition for a rehearing, but prospects for success are uncertain. Colorado’s restrictive approach to public river access sets it apart from other Western states, where broad access to riverbeds is allowed. In response to the court ruling, Hill’s legal team is considering alternative strategies, such as encouraging anglers to engage in civil disobedience by deliberately fishing on rivers claimed by private landowners. They believe that these actions would allow defendants to defend their case based on the navigability of the river.
The possibility of appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court has been ruled out. Advocacy groups have previously considered lobbying the state government to pass legislation clarifying fishing rights. Hill’s attorneys have also proposed the establishment of a state commission to determine the navigability of rivers and streams. Despite setbacks, Hill remains committed to the cause, emphasizing that the public has the right to use rivers and that the Colorado Supreme Court ruling undermines this freedom.