NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A landmark State Supreme Court decision in an ongoing battle between private landowners and people who want to enjoy the state’s rivers and streams. The ruling today by the State Supreme Court means anglers and other recreation groups will soon have more access to New Mexico’s waterways.

Story continues below

New Mexico landowners will no longer be able to stop people from accessing waterways on their land. “For years now, the public has been blocked out of public waters, essentially being denied our constitutional rights to recreate in these waterways,” said Jess Deubel, with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

In an ongoing fight, the New Mexico Supreme Court sided with a coalition of anglers, rafters, and conservationists, who argued the public has the right to boat and fish in streams running through private land, saying the State Constitution implies all waters in New Mexico belong to the public.

“It’s a huge victory for the people,” said Deubel. “It provides equitable access now to our publicly owned natural resources,” he explained.

The rule was created by Game and Fish back in 2018, since then the State has granted five non-navigable certificates. The certificates allow private landowners to build fences near the water and put up no trespassing signs to keep people out. Those certificates are now void.

Landowners argue allowing the public on their land to access water would hurt property values, and give owners less incentive to maintain their land along streams. New Mexico’s U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich calls the ruling historic.

“This is a huge victory for people who care about our history, our culture, and our natural resources,” said Senator Heinrich.

Even though five non-navigable certificates had been awarded, three of those were for the same property owner. Now that those are void, their no trespassing signs and fences will have to come down.