State v. Van Vlack

In State v. Van Vlack, 101 Wash. 503, 172 P. 563 (1918), a case involving privately owned tidelands, this court reaffirmed and further clarified Sequim Bay. After Harry Van Vlack was convicted of unlawfully possessing clams harvested during the closed season, he challenged the application of the law to him because the clams were taken by the private owner of the tidelands. The statute at issue made it unlawful for any person to take or dig or to have in his or her possession clams or mussels from any of the tidelands abutting on Puget Sound during proscribed periods for the purpose of canning or selling. Van Vlack, 101 Wash. at 504. The Court observed: At the outset it may be conceded that, because of the peculiar characteristics of the clam--its fixed habitation when embedded in the soil--clam beds may become the subject of private ownership which passes to the grantee by a conveyance from the state of tide lands in which the beds are located. Such is the effect of the decisions of this court in Sequim Bay Canning Co. v. Bugge . . . and Palmer v. Peterson, 56 Wash. 74, 105 P. 179 (1909). In this respect clams differ from fish, game birds and game animals in their wild or natural state. Van Vlack, 101 Wash. at 505-06. Although the statute restricted the rights of the landowner in the use and enjoyment of his property, the court concluded it was nevertheless a valid exercise of the state's police power: Let it be remembered that property in clams is not the result of human effort or industry; such property is acquired by the uncontrolled forces of nature. It cannot be said, therefore, to be unreasonable to so regulate the use and enjoyment of this manna-like possession by a private owner as to conserve the interest, not only of the public, but of the private owner as well. Id. at 509.