Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gone Fishing

[Legislature] The worst fears of anglers are coming true on Capitol Hill in the form of a just-filed bill that purports to take away river access recently granted by the Utah Supreme Court.

The “Recreational Use of Public Waters” bill written by Rep. Ben Ferry, R- Corinne, not only undoes this summer’s 5-0 decision granting the public recreational use of state rivers, it would make river access worse than before the ruling. So complain the Utah Rivers Council and the Utah Council of Trout Unlimited, which are gearing up to fight the bill.

“We don’t want the Legislature to take away what the court has given,” says Bob Dibblee, chairman of the Utah state Trout Unlimited chapter. He’s hoping a healthy showing of some of the state’s 400,000 anglers on Capitol Hill will help lawmakers see that House Bill 187 isn’t the compromise between private-property rights and river access Trout Unlimited thought it was negotiating with lawmakers.

HB 187 and a companion bill would rewrite state trespassing law, making fisherman criminals for crossing some lands traditionally used for gaining access to rivers. Many currently-fished river sections would be made inaccessible by that provision alone. The bill also says fishing won’t be allowed on rivers within 500 feet of homes.

The widest restrictions come in a provision of HB 187 that purports to limit public river access to 17 river sections throughout the state. Few river forks or tributaries are included on the list.

Critics argue that undoing the Supreme Court’s decision misses the boat on new money-making tourism opportunities, not to mention the hundreds of millions the state Division of Wildlife Resources estimates anglers already spend each year in Utah. (Ted McDonough)


  1. I am a partner in my family’s farm and ranching business. Until the changes in the mid-eighties allowing for PHU’s (now CWMU’s), we battled drunken, polluting, disorderly hunters, that shot anything that moved whether in season or not. We have feared a return to these days, albeit headaches over anglers instead of hunters. Our disgust for supposed supporters of the outdoors was heightened, due to a recent event on the farm.

    Within days of a court ruling, my parents approached an angler fishing from a bridge over one of our irrigation culverts. He parked his vehicle blocking access to our field, opened a gate clearly marked no trespassing as well as another reading no hunting or fishing…clearly showing complete disregard for all manners of a true sportsman.

    After questioning the man about the trespass, but before even announcing who he was, the fisherman became immediately belligerent, pulling paperwork out of his wader pocket telling my Dad, “that the supreme court of Utah has given him the rights to fish wherever he wants whenever he wants. And there isn’t a damn thing he or any other land baron bastard could do about it.” Such a nice thing to say in front of my mother, huh? Land Baron. This statement to my Stay-at-Home mother, and my Educator/Farmer dad—hardly baronesque.

    Perhaps 187 isn't the answer, but until land owners can be protected from the likes of the forementioned angler, the current status should be no public rights on private lands.

    Big game activists have found compromise with CWMU, harvesting far larger, more healthy game on draws than they would otherwise. Rather than shooting down the bill, might I suggest a co-sponsorship from your local representative for the intent of introducing CWMU methodologies to the anglers world?

    Just a thought.

  2. Interesting other POV from "anonymous". I agree that anglers / hunters should be respectful of property rights, but I'm wondering what his/her feeling is on the rights of people to access the out-of-doors and wilderness areas.

    People have a right to make their living, but I think that property owners have to realize that people need to have access to areas that aren't built-up and covered over by concrete, in the same way that they need to breathe air and drink water. It may be frustrating for the "land barons" that people come and trespass, but it is equally disturbing that it is becoming so difficult to get outside and do anything without having to pay for it or jump through some kind of bureaucratic hoop, and even then can only do it during proscribed hours and days (which is part of what you're trying to escape in the first place).

    I think that may have something to do with why the angler was so "belligerent" and confrontational. Maybe if property owners with so much open space would consider that they are more stewards than owners ...

  3. The rude angler was already breaking laws that protect property owners. You can't trespass and you can't block a roadway. We do not need more laws on the books.

  4. I agree, anonymous 6:33. Isn't it amusing how the Utah Legislature (at least the majority party) is always complaining about too many laws, too much government interference in our lives. Until, that is, they want things to go their way. There are existing laws against trespass, vandalism, destruction of property. All will work quite nicely in the event of badly behaved fishermen/women, boaters, birders. The whole way this bill is moving through the process is a travesty. Rep. Ferry and his private property owner friends have kept the bill under wraps, then once they brought it out in the open have done all that they can to keep from negotiating with the pro-recreation group. We don't need more laws. And the river users need to exercise common sense and good manners when on the water. It's very much like bicyclists who fight with drivers and vice versa. If everyone would just act like grownups we'd be fine on this issue!

  5. Does anyone know where this stands HB 187.
    Mr Anon. This person was trespassing and breaking the law. You are already protected.

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