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Conservation Destinations Editor's Notebook

Winning Battles in the Utah Stream Access War

by Ross Purnell, Editor   |  September 21st, 2011 1

Utah streams are a battleground state in terms of access. Many of you read Brett Prettyman’s article “Locked Out” in the April-May 2011 issue of Fly Fisherman. In that article, Prettyman explained how in 2008, the Utah Supreme Court decision in Conatser v. Johnson clarified state law and affirmed that Utah anglers had the right to roam public waterways up to the high-water mark. The decision was a time for rejoicing for Utah anglers, but it was short-lived. In 2010 Governor Gary Herbert signed into law HB141—erroneously called the Utah Stream Access Law because it actually reverses the Conatser decision, and takes away the stream access privileges outlined in the ruling. Since then the  Utah Stream Access Coalition (USAC) has filed law suits to fight HB141, and to protect what stream access remains in Utah.

Here is the latest victory by USAC, outlined in a press release from Sept. 21, 2011.

“The Utah Stream Access Coalition (USAC) has had a few very busy weeks of late, and has made some unprecedented progress in restoring your rights to access and use Utah’s public waters.  For those awaiting progress on the legal front, this is your month.  Last week, USAC’s lawyers filed a motion for summary judgment and a request for oral arguments.  The motion was the result of hundreds of hours of work by our legal team and is a huge step forward in the first court battle aimed at restoring the rights of our members and the public (Insert Link).  We currently await our opponents’ response, which is due at the end of September.

Secondly, after receiving reports of folks being ticketed on the Lower Provo river, in the area immediately upstream of the trestle, USAC confirmed longstanding rumors that a public fishing easement exists on this reach, and that some of the property concerned was owned by UDOT and not the landowner who had posted it. Indeed, the recorded easement shows that both the UDOT parcel and the parcel upstream from it (owned by Mr. Steven Ault) are subject to the public fishing easement.  As many of our members know, Mr. Ault has been the poster child for the anti stream access movement on the Lower Provo.  He spent many hours lobbying in support of HB-141, spoke in committee meetings, and attended the Governor’s working group.  The simple fact that Mr. Ault failed to mention that he took ownership of property subject to a public fishing easement demonstrates the lengths our opponents went to to distort the truth, so they could take away the public’s right to fish waters that have been enjoyed by generations of Utahns.

The good news is, as a result of USAC’s efforts, the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has informed the Coalition that anglers will no longer be cited for fishing the reach above the railroad trestle, or for walking across bridge, and that outstanding citations will be dismissed.”

Here is a copy of the legal document from 1993 that grants a fishing easement upstream of the trestle on the Ault property.

 

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