Clearing out a river float, Legal or not?

Discussion in 'Questions about MI Hunting/Fishing Law' started by Deershutzen, Sep 13, 2003.


  1. My family lives on a river east of the lansing area. The stretch near thier house is bombarded with fallen timbers and log piles. The river use to be a nice float to fish and jump wood ducks. Is it illegal for me to go and clear some of the worst log jams? I just want to be able to fit a canoe or a float tube down the river. Not talking about clearing the entire channel, just a 4 foot hole in each log jam.
     

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  2. If you are talking about the Red Cedar just go do it. The drain commissioner should pay you! Riverman
     

  3. boehr

    boehr Banned

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    Fallen trees, log jams etc on a navigable river, I don't see any problems with that.
     
  4. Sounds good to me. I'll just add that to my never-ending list of things to do.:)
     
  5. I was told by a trout stream consultant and the NRCS that trees that fall naturally into a stream(including a navigable stream) still belong to the landowner. To cut them without permission would be like logging or cutting firewood on someone's property without permission. However, a landowner may not lawfully cut trees that fall into and block a navigable stream.

    Butch
     
  6. I live on the White River. The violators and vandals use chainsaws on my property every year to deliberately cut trees and drop them into my steelhead holes just to destroy the natural river. I can no longer fish the river I own and pay the taxes on. I've notified the DNR Natural Rivers coordinators to let them know of the river destruction and that I'm not responsible for the damage.
     
  7. boehr

    boehr Banned

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    For a person to clear a dead tree just enough to get by or to clear a log jam on a navigable stream, I am unable to locate any violation. Remeber we are not talking any major task here so if someone can show me a law that prevents a person from traveling down a navigable stream please tell me the law. I will be happy to yeild and say I was wrong if you can show me something I can't find.:)
     
  8. boehr is correct. The problems occur when the cuttings are excessive, directed at fishing holes not related to navigation, or done by canoe businesses.
     
  9. Boehr-If the tree is the property of the landowner, the criminal legal issues would presumably be vandalism or theft. This a property law issue; I don't know of any specific statute prohibiting cutting trees in a river. However, I don't know for sure whether this property right prevents opening a narrow path down a navigable river since the two competing interests seem to conflict. Boehr or Hamilton Reef, can you cite any legal authority on this point, or the name of someone I could contact to discuss this?

    I would be very interested to know the answer with certainty, as I have had disagreements with neighbors that like to cut out the logjams on my property to make canoeing easier. Their cutting is detrimental to the trout fishing and has caused erosion problems on my banks.

    Of course, there could be civil liability issues too, although I doubt you could collect enough $ in monetary damages to make it worth the effort. There may even be theoretical issues under the Inland Lakes and Streams Act, although I doubt there would be any MDNR enforcement under that law for the kind of thing we're talking about.

    Butch
     
  10. I work closely with the DNR fisheries, DEQ and USFS on the Little Manistee Watershed.

    This issue comes up quite often. I can not give any leagal quotes, but the river can be navigatable. The DNR fisheries guys would like to see the logs remain, but all agree if done properly a navigation path can be cut. "Removing " a log jam would not be a good solution.

    Our biggset concern is guys from canoe liveries going down the river with chain saws to cut a path the easiest way possible. What they do is harm the river more by causing errosion by redirecting the current into the bank.

    I suggest contacting your watershed council, the DEQ or DNR fisheries people in your area and meet with them to find the best method of opening a small channel to float the river. PS Don't forget to get the property owner involved.
     
  11. boehr

    boehr Banned

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    Butch, I think I understand what you are saying and I agree there very well could be a conflict between the two issues, the publics right to navigate and a property owners rights. However, we are not talking about a standing tree nor are we talking about the taking. We are talking about moving a item, a path, in order to pass and travel down a navigable river or to move a tree that is not in a condition that a reasonable person would consider to to be normal for a tree, the vandalism issue, if a fallen tree is even still alive or would even be expected to live in the unatural condition. Of course the log jam, the issue would be who's property from logs that floated down stream. Again, nobody is talking about taking logs from the log jam, just moving them.

    Then there is an alternative, the publics right to go upon the upland of the adjacent property ower to get around an obstruction in a navigable river. The repeated climbing on the bank very well may cause even more damage to the bank.

    If I could site legal authority then I would have been able to find specific law on the matter.

    As the first post stated, "...Not talking about clearing the entire channel, just a 4 foot hole in each log jam."
     
  12. Thanks Dry Fly. It sounds like the compromise is or should be based on reasonableness. I can live with that. The problem I mentioned has been that this isn't really a "canoe river", but some people would like to be able to open it up to easy canoeing. To do this, they cut excessively, and/or in ways that destabilize banks. Of course, these are the same people that cut streamside bushes and trees so they can plant lawns, that push sand into the river to make a better swimming access, etc.

    I'm already active in the watershed group for this stream, and in fairly regular contact with the various agency reps for this area. We certainly try to educate the riparian owners, but it's a slow process.

    Boehr, I don't want to nitpick, but if a tree is the property of someone else, what difference does it make if it's standing or fallen in the river? That's where I prefer some of the large trees on my property. So does the MDNR, hence the project to use helicopters to place trees in trout streams. Where in the law is this answer based on: "... a condition that a reasonable person would consider normal for a tree"? Can other people come on my property to cut(steal) deadfall for firewood because that's not a "normal condition for a tree"?

    As for the concern about people passing an obstruction by going around on the bank, I'm aware of that part of the Rec. Trespass Act. You are right that repeated portages up and down the bank could cause erosion, but as a practical matter, most people that want a leisurely canoe trip(the same ones that saw trees completely out of the river) won't canoe this river if they have to portage through the bushes and poison ivy.

    It sounds like it's your opinion that people should be allowed to cut a narrow path to canoe a "navigable" stream, that's fine, and sounds like a reasonable compromise to me. I just wondered if anyone knows the technical legal answer. As you have frequently pointed out on this forum, it's important to distinguish opinion and rumor from fact and law.

    Butch
     
  13. boehr

    boehr Banned

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    You are correct, and to the best of my knowledge there is no law prohibiting or permitting it, so a reasonable solution is what I tried to express from the begining of this thread.:cool:
     

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