Fishing takes patience, and Roger Hill might need more of it than other fans of the sport.
A recent 10th Circuit decision gave the fly fisherman another shot at testing his right to access a stretch of the Arkansas River, but he’ll likely be waiting a while for the courts to rule on whether he may cast his line from his favorite spot.
He isn’t the only one awaiting an outcome. Environmental law scholars, water law attorneys and property owners are watching the case, which some say could set precedent in determining title to riverbeds in the state.
Hill has for years been feuding with landowners Mark Warsewa and Linda Joseph about who ultimately owns the riverbed on their property in Fremont County. Hill claims he should be able to wade in the river because the state holds title to the riverbed in trust for the public, while the landowners assert it’s their private property.
In 2018, Hill sued the property owners in state court to ask for declaratory judgment on the dispute. The case was removed to federal court due to federal question jurisdiction, and the State of Colorado was later added as a defendant.
In January 2019, a federal district court dismissed the lawsuit, finding Hill lacked prudential standing to bring his claims because they rested on the rights of a third party—the state of Colorado — rather than his own. However, on Jan. 23, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s decision and remanded the lawsuit to the lower court.