As usual, the misinformation and cheap shots ran rampant during the 2010 Utah Legislature. The opposing sides of the stream-access issue probably provided the bulk of the antics.
Such actions are troubling, but have become commonplace at the Capitol.
In the days leading up to the governor's signature, I received a call from a landowner with property on a popular Utah river. He called to let me know that not all landowners were against anglers having access to streambeds on their property.
He told me he had been grossly misled by the Utah Farm Bureau. Unfortunately, it was not the first time I have heard that line.
The ugliness continued even after the bill was signed.
Don Peay, founder of the poorly named Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW), made a completely unnecessary statement on KUTV last week. Why Peay was asked about the bill in the first place is a mystery because he and SFW claimed to have been neutral on the subject, but he just couldn't resist an opportunity to sound as if he knew what he was talking about.
"This is a classic case of a handful of greedy fly fishermen getting too greedy," Peay told KUTV. "People violated their private property rights."
That is about as much the pot calling the kettle black as you could ever encounter. Peay has provided a perfect definition of the word greed in his repeated attempts to open a deer hunt on Antelope Island State Park. Seeing those bucks with big racks roaming the island has Peay drooling about the possibilities of selling high-priced and exclusive tags to his hunting buddies.
One of the favorite emotional lines used by landowners during the 2010 session was that their private property was trespassed upon and people were using their land as an outhouse.
I would never condone trespassing and I always promote "leave no trace" practices when pooping in the woods, but it should be pointed out that many of the landowners making those claims -- including legislators -- are creating their own disgusting land mines in nature by running their cattle on public lands.
And just how exactly were anglers being greedy?
One of the biggest misconceptions about the stream-access issue, and there are a ton of them, is that the anglers came out of nowhere to make the demand to be able to fish anywhere they want.
For the record, the Utah Supreme Court -- yes, Utah Supreme Court -- ruled in a 2008 decision that the public has the right to walk on the beds of all streams and rivers, no matter who owns the land they run over.
Landowners thought they had been bamboozled by the Utah Supreme Court with the 2008 ruling because they had been misinformed about the law, but the court only clarified the existing law.
And, as it turns out, the law has been around for a while.
Guess who had this to say about the suddenly meaningful issue of stream access in Utah.
"There is to be no private ownership of streams of water, and wood and timber shall be regarded as common property. Walk faithfully in light of these laws and you will be a prosperous people."
The quote is found in the book What of the Mormons by Gordon B. Hinckley and came from Brigham Young, who made the declaration in a worship service the day after the Mormon pioneers arrived in what is now the Salt Lake Valley.
The passing, and eventual signing by the governor, of HB141 has done more than temporarily delay anglers access to rivers stocked with fish by state wildlife officials. In a time when budgets are so tight, the wise representatives on Capitol Hill are making the residents of Utah pay for a lawsuit that should, and almost assuredly will, be found illegal. Maybe the sponsors of the bill would like to volunteer their salaries to the cause.
Anybody? I didn't think so.
And what's more, the passing of HB141 -- and some other works of genius on the Hill -- will end up costing Utah revenue from tourism, fishing license sales and maybe even the state's biggest convention.
Frank Hugglemeyer, president of the Outdoor Industry Association -- which sponsors the Summer and Winter Outdoor Retailer conventions in Utah twice each year with an estimated value of $14 million to the state economy -- watched the antics of the Utah Legislature. He and many of the exhibitors at the shows are dismayed with what they saw.
"The climate-change resolution is counterintuitive to our position as an industry, and the eminent-domain decision is in direct contradiction to what we stand for. And then you throw the stream-access repeal on it and it becomes absolutely disturbing," Hugglemeyer told me. "Utah is going in the wrong direction and different direction than the rest of the West."
Hugglemeyer said the outdoor industry in Utah pumps $4 billion in annual sales to the state economy and creates 65,000 jobs, which generates $300 million in state tax revenue.
"If you take the economic multiplier effect, the full contribution is $5.8 billion each year," he said.
Hugglemeyer and the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau are currently in discussions for a four-year extension on the Outdoor Retailer shows.
"This last legislative session has made our decision to sign a little more difficult," he said.
Brett Prettyman is an outdoors columnist. Reach him at email@example.com.
Legislative foolishness could cost us big bucks
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