To: Rep. Perry, L.,
Subject: HB 37
Please reject HB 37 – Public Waters Access Act. Although the proponents of this bill pretend it is about the right to use state waters, it is actually an attempt to ‘take’ private property from the ranchers, farmers, and residents of Utah’s rural communities.
HB 37 violates the Utah Constitution. It does so by granting public use of private land without just compensation to the landowners. In some parts of some Utah rivers the water flows across private property. In these cases the streambeds are, and have always been, private property.
As stated in Utah Law Section 73 Chapter 1 there is no right of the public to fish while occupying private property: “The declaration of public ownership of water … does not create or recognize an easement for public recreational use on private property.”
HB 37 is unnecessary. Under current Utah Law Section 73 Chapter 29 the Legislature acted correctly in balancing the rights of the public with the rights of the landowners. Under this law the public is free to float and fish upon all the waters of the state. There is no restriction on the utilization of the water.
What the public cannot do is stand upon and occupy private property without the permission of the landowner. Standing on private property within the streambed is not utilization of the water; it is utilization of the land.
Regardless of the claims of its supporters, HB 37 will not benefit a broad section of the public. In addition to the ability to float all of the waters of the state, fishermen of all types already have an abundance of rivers where they can stand upon, and utilize, the streambed in the large sections of Utah Rivers which flow through public lands. HB 37 will only benefit a small group of fly fishermen who rather than seeking permission from landowners want you to gift them the ability to trespass on private property.
Please do not allow a small group of elitist fly fisherman to encourage you to violate the Utah Constitution, and the inherent rights of property owners, simply so they can trespass into areas that they wrongly believe should belong to the public.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter,
P.O. Box 2413
Park City, UT