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.

No comments: