As a kid, I spent a lot of time in Western Virginia where my Mom’s family is from. I have great memories of the misty Blue Ridge Mountains, fishing and swimming in the cold Jackson River, and playing on the tractors of my Uncle’s farm in the areas around Covington, Virginia. This is the place where my Uncle Dick, now up in his 90’s, taught me how to shoot a shotgun, and let me take my first chew of Redman. Nasty stuff for a 10-year-old. How was I to know that you are not supposed to swallow the chew? Guess I learned my lesson from him.
This area nestled in the mountains is very important to me. I have lived in different places all my life – but this area is a nice sense of home.
A couple of years ago I went back down to this area while fishing for browns on a section of the Jackson River (just below the dam at Lake Moomaw) with my buddy Dan Wrinn. We did okay – couple nice 10 inch browns. But what really caught our attention was us literally wading up to a sign posted on an oak tree on the bank that puzzled us. It read:
“Kings Grant Land. No fishing. No Trespassing.”
Huh? is right. After all my years spending time in this area, and on the Jackson, I have never seen this sign. After some digging, now I know. This land along the Jackson was granted by King George III of England way back in the day. I am talking 17th century before there was even a thought of Virginia, much less the United States. Guess this even trumps state law. And if you are an angler like me, you are probably screaming the words ‘Public Trust!’ (navigable waters belong to all the people – held in trust). Not the case here.
The Virginia Supreme Court have upheld this and many other Kings Grant claims in Virginia and in other eastern states. Crazy I know. Read the latest on a lawsuit involving Kings Grant land and anglers.
Didn’t America win the Revolutionary War – and then again the War of 1812? I do recall reading about that in grade school. Wouldn’t that cancel any bogus King’s claims to land?
This is a huge issue. All anglers are watching this. This could set tremendous precedent. Here in the Great Lakes we don’t have the Kings Grant issues as they do out east. But, we all care about the public’s right to fish on navigable waters. This isnt merry ol England where the peasants and commoners have no say or right to hunt or fish on the Kings Land. This is America – and 2012 America. Not centuries ago where you would read about this stuff in junior high history class. No, we have waters and wildlife held in trust for all to enjoy. We have the North American Wildlife Model for managing all wildlife as free ranging, fair chase, and belong to the people. Not the King.
Troubling stuff. If you are concerned about this just like me, please check out the Virginia Rivers Defense Fund for more info on this.
This verdict will have huge impacts on the future of hunting and fishing not only in Virginia, but everywhere…even way out here in the upper Great Lakes. Lets hope that the courts do not preserve a feudal system of rights for our waters and wildlife.