Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Just Because We Have the Right?

Recently the Utah Supreme Court ruled to allow anglers access to any river or stream where there is public access. This decision received a mix of emotions. On one side you have anglers, who couldn’t be more elated about the opportunities this created. Yet, on the other hand you have developers, land owners, and businesses who aren’t too excited about the prospects of having unwelcome visitors on their property. In many respects I can’t say that I blame them.

Back in the day, before the big western land grab, it was common as an angler to walk a dirt driveway to a farmers or ranchers home and asked permission to access waters that may wind through their fenced properties. Most times consent was granted given that a certain respect was extended in exchange for the privilege. Over time on occasions these impromptu and casual introduction spawned lasting friendships. Such instances are rare occurrences these days.

There were a lot of individuals who were involved in this recent ruling. In this age of information, news spread rapidly regarding this landmark decision and anglers rapidly began exploring those waters that had been closed and with that an imminent collision of apposing parties.

As anglers enjoy their new found freedom, those who adamantly oppose the current ruling are working on legislation that will negate this privileged opportunity. A Bill drafted for the upcoming Utah Legislative session has already been introduced. This bill single purpose will be to minimize our access opportunities. I’m sure they are looking at other ways to impact and negate the courts ruling. Only a well orchestrated front by those serving anglers interest will possibly defeat it.

As an angler, I’m very concerned how we have conducted ourselves in this short period of time. Where we may be within the law, we have shown in many instances total disregard and respect towards landowners who are disgruntled by the unwelcome visitors into their backyards: Property lines have been crossed, fences cut, verbal abuses exchanged. Such confrontations will only fuel their animosities, one that definitely does not need stimulation.

We have an abundance of water to fish without pissing people off. As many of us continue to work with landowners to gain access and improve the states fishing opportunities our ill mannered behavior will make future negotiations more prohibitive. Having been involved in such efforts for over twenty years, these efforts are already challenging enough.

I’ve always felt that as an angler we should become worthy stewards of the water ways we fish. If you are out there taking advantage of the new Trespass Laws be overly grateful to those who grant you access without resistance. For those who are agitated with your presence, be respectful enough to take their angst into consideration. And Let’s work on mending fences, not building bigger barriers, it will go along way towards keeping our waters open in the future and to ensure we have miles of available water for the public to fish.


John said...

I agree to a point, but come on, we have the right to fish and some of these landowners have had exclusive access to "their" rivers and streams so long, they don't want to share. The argument that we will destroy their property is a strawman. Sure there are those that are ignorant and destructive, but the landowner has the right to call the authorities in this case. No, to me, this is an issue of the exclusive trying to block the right to the masses. No waterway in the US since its inception has ever been owned by an individual, these are our streams and rivers and we have the right to use them.

Steve Schmidt said...

Love your candid comments and I don't disagree with you. From where I sit it appears that some anglers are trying to create confrontation. I just don't think that's necessary. We're already in for a battle and we don't need to light those opposed to the new ruling up any more than they are. Thanks for taking the time to interject your thoughts.