Monday, February 23, 2009

AT and Impasse

You could see the turmoil and anxiety as we filed from cambers after two and a half hours before Rep. Ferry and his constituents late Friday. We assembled at this late hour upon his request after he’d circled HB-187 earlier in the day. As the Bill lingers, it appears to be loosing support, but there is no confidence on either side as to the strength of their position. All we know is our grassroots efforts have eroded the support he so arrogantly displayed when the process began months ago.

Rep. Ferry was hoping to be able to sway the angling and recreational community into enough concessions that he could move his Bill forward, an attempt to seek some middle ground. Both sides for the first time met, and discussed their concerns. It was good to hear comments from the other side and be able to address them, for they are valid, but so are those who spoke that day regarding angling and recreational concerns. By meetings end, there arguments did nothing to sway our position.

As discussion continues the key points have not changed. These issues are sensitive to all, including the Division of Wildlife Resources: No recreating within a 150’ radius of a home, a clause that deals with historical usage, the paltry list of 17 waters, and the advisory board. On a broader perspective, the entire bill, after being amended 7 times, with 5 more listed for further discussion is so convoluted it’s difficult for anyone to truly understand. A perfect example of its confusing nature occurred on Friday, when a Representative struck the Price River from the list thinking she was preserving access for the public.

Of the hot points, the list is of the most concern. There shouldn’t be a list. As of Friday 6:30pm only 17 waters included. Rep. Ferry hinted that he’d consider several more, but such additions would still leave us far short of what’s reasonable. At best it’s a paltry list and still denies recreational users access to numerous waters many that they’ve had access to in the past.

There are vast problems with the list, the most obvious, the omissions. The second and more significant aspect of it pertains to the way the list was comprised. Rather than all waters in the state that are affected by the Supreme Court ruling being subjected to a valid criteria waters were randomly selected. Although Rep. Ferry vocalizes that the inclusion of these waters were subject to a definition of navigability, not one of the 17 waters was ever tested. To complicate matters more, his definition of navigability at sometime was removed from the Bill and only recently was a more obscure one included.

At this juncture the list includes waters that were selected for various reasons, and in reality none of those reasons truly dealt with navigability. Simply, they were selected based upon someone’s opinion. Now is when you should ask, in whose opinion. In discussions with the DWR, in many instances they weren’t involved, nor of those in the recreational community. No one in the recreational community was asked to particpate, yet a number of private property owners were.

As of this writing we have out foot in the door. Monday it is slated 7th , after debate if it passes it will move to the Senate. There we will have our last opportunity. Should this Bill not be tabled for interim study, it most likely will be settled in the courts. Neither side would like to see that.

During our final comments Friday, we again asked that this Bill be sent to interim so that a reasonable more reasonable Bill can be created. We also asked to be given the opportunity to prove to landowners that our constituents would conduct themselves with respect towards rights of private property owners. We offered a more compromising list that would not include all waters that the July ruling impacts. Those waters would be determined based upon a reasonable definition of navigability. In frustration, understandably at this late hour on Friday, no concessions were made.

We have our hands full as HB 187 moves forward. Although we have gained ground, it’s far from over. Anglers and all interested parties are going to have to put a great deal of effort into defeating this Bill should it make it out of Committee and move into the Senate. That said, we need your help. Call your senators. Ask your friends to do the same. Contact the governor; let your voices be heard. If you have the time, meet us at the Capitol. We’ve been there everyday, working with representatives and our senators. If you can’t get there, call them on the phone. If you care about your opportunities to recreate on Utah’s waters, you need to get involved. It’s as simple as that.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Vote No HB 187

Congratulations to the Utah angling community, you showed up this past Wednesday. For as long as I can remember, it’s a first in my lifetime here in Utah. If you not familiar with HB 187, it’s a piece of legislation in response to last years Supreme Court ruling that gave anglers access to virtually all bodies of moving water in the state. This Bill, in its current state, will negate the ruling and more critically remove waters that generations have had the opportunity to fish.

Wednesdays rally on the steps of the Capitol was just the beginning. There is still a tremendous amount of work ahead for anglers, floaters, and non-consumptive users of our waterways if we are to have an impact on HB 187 and the waters we will be able to fish in the future.

For those who don’t reside in Utah, HB 187 will limit the waters you will be able to fish as well, waters that you’ve had the opportunity to fish when you visited our beautiful state. For some, those rare and unique waters are the reason you visit Utah. If you are one of these anglers, your voice needs to be heard as well; write our Governor and Ben Ferry the sponsor of this Bill. In reality, this piece of legislation will have an impact on all water users across the nation, due to the fact that it and other like it set precedence.

So where are we? On Friday HB 187 went to committee for its first reading. The throngs of concerned citizens overflowed chambers. Another room had to be set up to accommodate the growing numbers. It was awesome! The Natural Resources Committee was obviously taken back by the numbers that were in attendance. After long deliberation and a number of amendments were added the Bill passed 10-4, a distinct party line vote. Several bodies of water that had been left off the list were added: Blacksmith Fork and the Logan most notably, but there are still numerous bodies of water that you won’t be able to fish. Left Fork of the Huntington, Cottonwood Creek, Thistle, Creek, East Fork of the Sevier, just to name a few of those most known.

The Bill passed and now moves to the House, the fact that concessions were made shows that our efforts are having an impact but, there are still significant flaws with the Bill. Of these the most egregious pertains to definition of navigability and its relationship to the list; the list being a limited number of waters, 16 at this juncture that we’ll have access to. Rather than applying an acceptable definition of navigability. First off, HB 187’s definition is not reasonable. Second, an arbitrary list of waters was selected to which the definition was applied. Instead, all waters of the state should have been considered and tested for navigability, not just those where the minimal private property conflicts occurred. Blacksmith Fork and the Logan are examples of the erroneous of the process. Regardless, on no waters have they actually tested the current definition, they’ve just assumed.

With luck we’ll be able to get the Bill into interim. In talking with members of senate this past week, they would like to see this happen. One way or another, we’re going to have to deal with the oversights of the Supreme Court. Since were engaged, we might as well finish the process, it just needs to take a year to effectively draft a Bill that will address such a critical issue.

As we move forward, if you haven’t contacted your representative, it’s imperative that you do. You also need to contact the Natural Resources Committee. HB 187 has been assigned to this committee. Some of its members are very influential legislators and can have a significant impact on the Bill’s future.

To read a copy of the Bill or to find contact information on the committee and representatives, visit “Utah Water Guardians” website. You’ll find their link in my links section. It’s important to note that any e-mails you send put “Vote No on HB 187” in the subject header. They have received so many e-mails, that they don’t have time to read nor respond to them all, so putting this in the subject header is very important.

Regardless of where you are, if you care about fishing, this is your fishing future. What happens here is important to the rest of the nation. They aren’t building any more trout streams, steelhead or salmon rivers, or oceans. You can either sit by and watch those who have the resources continue to take away your access or you can get involved and be apart of preserving those fishing opportunities you, your children and future generations have the right to enjoy.