Conservation Laws: A Delicate Balance

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Published on: Nov. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

her property varies, depending upon whether the injured person was a trespasser or guest. The landowner has a duty to exercise reasonable care with respect to invited guests and to warn them of dangerous conditions that are not obvious. A landowner has no such obligation to a trespasser.

downers also have the right to the exclusive and quiet enjoyment of their property, according to a 1933 decision in the case of Dennig v. Graham.

Dennig owned Greer Springs at the time and for nearly two decades had stocked from 100,000 to 150,000 trout per year into the spring. He brought suit to prevent the public from fishing in the spring without his permission.

In this decision, the judge stated that, although the spring was one of the largest in the world (and, indeed, might be the Eighth Wonder of the World), it was owned by a private individual, who "is entitled to the quiet and peaceful possession of his property without the annoyance and interference of trespassers."

Navigable Streams

Landowners with navigable streams running through or adjacent to their property are not always entitled to the exclusive enjoyment of the stream, however.

Missouri has some of the most beautiful rivers and streams in our country. You can float in a boat or canoe down a navigable stream which travels over private property without the owner's permission. However, that does not mean you have the right to trespass over private property on either side of the river.

The Missouri Supreme Court discussed the rules applicable to navigable streams in the 1893 case of "Cooley v. Golden." That case involved a dispute over the ownership of an area located in the old bed of the Missouri River in Atchison County. The Missouri Supreme Court determined that the owners of land adjacent to a navigable stream do not have ownership rights which extend to the middle of the stream, but only to the water's edge.

Property owners can also claim such land as has been added to theirs by the regular process of accretion or which is uncovered through reliction, which adds to contiguous land through changes in the water's edge.

In 1954, the landmark case of "Elder v. Delcour" was decided by the Missouri Supreme Court. In this case, Elder claimed the right to float and fish on the Meramec River where it flowed across Delcour's farm in Dent County, several miles upstream from the mouth of Crooked Creek. At various

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