You know public water flowing over private lands has been a pretty hot topic here in Utah for the past decade or so. There is a new bill that has come onto the hill called HB37, it looks to give sportsmen more access to their public waters. Tonight we want to show you people in support of it and those against it.
(Kris Olson, President Utah Stream Access Coalition) This right here is grass roots folks and you should all be very proud to be on these capital steps.
About four hundred anglers, kayakers, and hunters wanting to take back their right to recreate on Utah’s rivers and streams took to the state capital calling for compromise.
(Kris Olson, USAC President) We are here as part of the 865 million dollars that anglers contribute to Utah’s economy annually.
To understand the stream access debate in Utah, it helps to look back at some recent court rulings and legislation. It all began with a ruling by the Utah Supreme Court in 2008. Back then, the court ruled that the public owns the water in rivers and streams, and that the public had a right to walk on the privately owned stream bed and recreate on waters where public access was possible.
Then, in 2010, HB 141 was passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Herbert. HB 141 undermined the courts ruling by saying the public didn’t have a right to walk on the privately owned stream bed, thus preventing the public from accessing about twenty seven hundred miles of river and streams in Utah. A subject with two polarized sides, sportsmen on one, landowners on the other.
(Jarrod Kear, Board Member U.S.A.C.) Utah Stream Access Coalition was a group of anglers that got together in response to the passing of HB 141.
Utah Stream Access Coalition is a non-profit group with about thirty four hundred members. USAC has two lawsuits against the state, regarding HB 141. This year they are rallying behind Representative Dixon Pitcher, who is sponsoring HB 37. A bill designed to give the public access to rivers that are large enough to float a log six feet in length and six inches in diameter. If HB 37 passes, USAC says, they will drop their lawsuits.
(Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, sponsor of HB37) A good part of this actually is a compromise that actually has worked in Idaho for the last forty years.
(Dixon Pitcher) the fisherman, the angler, the tuber, the person who is going to kayak needs to stay below the high water mark. You can’t go up on people’s property, we recognize that, we respect the property rights of others. What HB 37 does is it gives the angler, the tuber, the kayaker the right to stay below that high water mark, so you see it’s a very defined area.
(Dixon Pitcher) Here’s the issue, how can we possible require our citizens to pay for the water, pay for the mitigation of the streams and pay for the stocking of the streams but deny them access to the streams.
The Provo River last week was teaming with anglers, all willing to hook a fish and voice their opinion.
(Jarrod Kear, Board Member USAC) It’s really a heritage for our families, for our kids and our grandkids down the line. If we don’t do something to protect the water. it’s not going to be theirs. Private property owners are going to own all the rivers all over the country. You look back to places like England and the common man can’t use the public water there. That’s why i’m passionate, we’ve got to do something.
(Kurt Urses, West Jordan Angler) Sportsmen need to do their part as well, obey the laws, stay below the high water mark, don’t damage property, don’t cut fence lines, don’t litter and if we do our part, I think they should do their part and allow us to walk down the rivers.
(Tara Olsen, Board Member USAC) I’ve talked with many landowners in Idaho, many public recreationalists and they have no complaints. It works very well and I think it has an opportunity to work here.
(Collin Carlson, Angler) A lot of the reason people live in Salt Lake and the surrounding cities is because, look around it’s unbelievable, the Wasatch, the Oquirrhs, there is all this wilderness that we can enjoy and if we allow them to incrementally take a portion at a time away from us, the reason we live here is gone.
Sportsmen hope with the showing of support they had here today at the capital and the chance to talk to their representative, that they’ll get this bill HB 37 out of rules committee and onto the floor for a vote.