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Compromise Delays Stream Access Bills

Dan Bammes

The battle over access to fishing streams in Utah probably won’t be resolved in this legislative session, but that was welcome news to anglers who brought the issue to the state capitol on Friday.

About 400 people who had gathered on the capitol steps cheered the news that the sponsor of House Bill 68will hold on to his bill for now.  It would declare the state has met its obligations to keep streams open as a public trust.

That question is at the center of a court case brought by the Utah Stream Access Coalition against the current state law.  It doesn’t let anglers walk on the stream bed through private property.  Coalition president Chris Olson says they can now wait for the court ruling.

"We believe the legislature, as the holder of the public trust, did not act for the benefit of the beneficiary – us, the public – by taking those rivers and streams away," Olsen explained.

Republican Representative Dixon Pitcher of Ogden has a rival bill in process, patterned after an Idaho law he says is working well.

"Idaho addressed this in a way I thought was very effective," Pitcher told KUER.  "It protected property rights.  Y’know, there’s no trespass in the bill.  It doesn’t allow you to trespass, but it does allow you certain rights that someone would have to fish the rivers.”

Pitcher also agreed to hold on to his bill until the court in Wasatch County has ruled on the case.

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