All content © Robert Williamson

All content © Robert Williamson

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Utah House Bill 37 Compromise Stream Access

I remember fishing just about every creek, stream, and river in northern Utah when I was growing up. As long as I stayed on the trails or waded the water, it seemed like everyone was happy. I remember landowners coming out with a smile on their faces asking me if I'd caught anything and then suggesting holes to try. People were just friendlier then.

Now, it seems like everyone just wants to complain, treat others disrespectfully, and selfishly not share. I guess we have really become a materialistic society.

In Utah there is a battle going on as to who owns the water. The state constitution gives that right to the citizens. Within the past few years the rights of the citizens to recreate on the water as long as no damage or harm or laws were broken was verified by the Utah supreme court in a 5-0 ruling. Two years ago (2012) the Utah legislature passed a law that overturned the supreme court ruling and allowed private interest to basically lock up most of Utah's creeks, streams, and rivers from fishing, kayaking, floating, and other recreational pursuits.

The management of the fish and wildlife in these streams is funded by tax payer dollars, and fees for hunting and fishing licenses, as well as generous donations from sporting and recreation people of Utah.

I feel the public has a right to recreate on our public water. I am not advocating trespassing, polluting, litter, or vandalism--all which are against the law. I believe those who participate in this behavior should be prosecuted.

There is a way to access our rivers and streams through public easements which have always existed. Once the water is accessed, it is the responsibility of the recreationist  to obey laws. This means they should stay in the water or below the ordinary high water mark of the river or stream. They do not have the right to access through private property or exit through the same. They must not vandalize, harass, trash, or abuse the land or water in any way. This law has been working in Idaho for a few decades. It is possible. Idaho recognizes the amount of revenue that comes into its state by water recreationists. Not to mention the value that comes to individuals and families that have the opportunity to play together outdoors.

This year (2014) a bill HB37 is in the works that is a compromise to the HB141 bill passed two years ago which locked up our rivers and streams. If passed it will allow recreationists the same opportunity that exists in Idaho--a very workable solution which should benefit landowners and recreationists.

Click on the above link to find out what you can do to help Utah remain a destination state for outdoor recreation and to allow it's visitors and citizens the access to their public water.

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