SALT LAKE CITY – the Utah Legislature’s stream access task force has recommended spending $1.3 million to lease fishing rights from owners of private land. They are suggesting a $300,000 per year budget allocation by the Division of Wildlife Resources and the acceptance of $1 million per year in federal grants during 2011 and 2012. The DWR hopes to open about 500 of the 2,500 privately owned miles of streams that cross privately owned land through negotiating leases with property owners.
The legislature passed HB141/SB281 during the last session that limited stream access and cut off wading rights in public waters. The Utah Supreme Court has already established that the waters of Utah belong to all of the people. The legislature says people can float in the water, but cannot touch the streambed or access the water through private land. A suit was filed last week to re-establish the right to access the stream bed.
The task force allowed public comment on the decision to fund the leases, but has already decided to go ahead with the access funding. The courts will have to determine availability of streambeds and access, and that could take years.
Governor Gary Herbert created controversy earlier this year when he signed the bill. Landowners who lobbied for HB141/SB281 included his family members. The governor’s office has revealed they have made some agreements with owners to keep some lands open. In addition, access to areas that have been open in the past for ten years or more unimpeded by signs and/or fences will also remain open.
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Source: Salt Lake Tribune