For flyfishers following the marathon back-and-forth court battles over river access rights in the State of Utah, Monday marked a collective sigh of relief. At least temporarily. Judge Derek Pullan of Utah’s 4th District Court has ruled to uphold Utah public access rights, issuing a much-anticipated decision in the Utah Stream Access Coalition’s constitutional challenge to Utah’s Public Waters Access Act, also known as H.B. 141.
Via Utah Stream Access Coalition: “While the decision in Utah Stream Access Coalition v. ATC Realty, et al., did not fully resolve all stream access issues in Utah, it did resolve several highly-contested issues in favor of stream access, including: (a) the waters flowing in Utah’s rivers and streams are and have always been owned by the public; (b) the public has an easement to use its public waters in place for any lawful purpose, including all recreational activities that use the waters; (c) these rights are protected by Utah’s Constitution; and (d) legislative authority to regulate the public’s right to use its public waters in place is limited by public trust principles. Judge Pullan also ruled that the Legislature exceeded its legislative powers under the Utah Constitution when it passed H.B. 141.
“Judge Pullan requested further briefing on whether H.B. 141’s access restrictions violate public trust principles. USAC counsel is working on the supplemental briefing and is cautiously optimistic that those efforts will result in a favorable ruling on that issue.”
UPDATE: The ruling did NOT overturn the existing law. Any questions regarding where you can and cannot legally fish should be directed to Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), who, along with local authorities, are tasked with enforcing the existing law.Telephone numbers for the DWR and its regional offices can be found, here.
Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.