26 Feb 2010, 11:25am
Latest Wildlife News
by admin

Utah House votes to curb stream access

By Brandon Loomis, The Salt Lake Tribune, 02/24/2010 [here]

The Utah House has voted to restrict public access to streams that cross private property except where anglers and others can prove a continuous use has existed for at least 10 years.

The bill, a substitute version of HB141, responds to a 2008 Utah Supreme Court ruling that said state law gives access to public waters. Representatives who supported it Tuesday said the bill reasserts constitutional protections for private property as the nation’s and state’s founders intended.

“The pilgrims came here not to go fishing, but to own land,” said Rep. Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan.

Recreationists who lost this legislative round viewed the issue very differently, saying the bill cuts into public rights to public waterways.

“The public has a right to its water through the [Utah] Constitution, period,” said Utah Rivers Council Executive Director Zach Frankel. “So unless [legislators] do a constitutional amendment, they’re not going to be able to change that.”

He said thousands of recreational users have become involved since the court ruling, and “people will be falling over themselves to sue” if the Senate passes the bill.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said the court decision was based on statute, not constitutional principles, and granted public rights where none previously had existed. For instance, he said, a creek that passes through his land never had seen public use — there are no fish there — but the ruling meant people could wade through to hunt or pursue other activities.

He said it’s the Legislature’s duty to protect private-property rights of the few against the demands of hundreds of thousands of fishers.

“This is not a popularity vote,” he said, but a case of upholding constitutional principles that protect against a “tyranny of the masses.” … [more]



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