This land is your land (except when it's underwater)

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the Attorney General have struck a blow for paddlers and canoeists with a legal filing in a case that pits Adirondack landowners against the editor of the Adirondack Explorer, according to the Associated Press.

The DEC is siding with Phil Brown, the AE's editor, who was sued by the Brandreth Park Association for tresspassing after he canoed a waterway running over the Association's land (and, in true newspaperman fashion, wrote about it).

The AP story explains that the DEC's argument is simple:

Kayakers and canoeists have the right to paddle on any navigable waterway even if the shore is private[.]

The DEC is also asking that the landowners take down the security cameras, "No Tresspassing" signs, and other obstacles that they have installed on the waterway.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is backing the DEC's move, and issued a press release yesterday condemning the landowners in no uncertain terms:

”The public has a right to travel and enjoy this beautiful waterway without being stopped or harassed,” [he said].  “I will not hesitate to defend the public’s right to travel on these or other navigable waters.  My office will work closely with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to ensure that the public can once again enjoy this waterway – which connects two state-owned wilderness areas in the Adirondack Park.”

Unsurprisingly, the AE is following the case closely, with numerous articles and photos on its website. In one story, the publication explains that the significance of the lawsuit is far larger than just the dispute at hand:

The case could clarify the public’s right to paddle on waterways that pass through private land and resolve questions that the landowners say were left unanswered in a landmark Court of Appeals decision in 1998.

At issue is whether a waterway must have a commercial history to be considered “navigable-in-fact”—the legal term for inland rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes that are open to the public under the common-law right of navigation.