Monday, January 28, 2013

Utah anglers, boaters use 1800s law to fight 2010 waterway law

In the 1880s and 1890s, the Provo River through the Heber Valley served as a floating highway for timbers and railroad ties logged in the Uinta highlands. That century-old practice is being cited today in court to argue that Utah boaters, anglers, hunters and others should be allowed access to waterways even when they flow through private property — access that has been blocked by a law adopted in 2010.  Representing the Utah Stream Access Coalition (USAC), attorney Craig Coburn argued last week in a Heber City courtroom that HB141 violates the "public trust doctrine" in a case that highlights the growing tension between private property and recreational access to public land and waters. Public trust is a centuries-old legal concept that maintains certain natural amenities — like coastlines, lakes, rivers and their beds — remain public domain because of their importance to commerce, according to University of Utah law professor Robin Craig. USAC claims the doctrine imposes a duty on government to manage such assets for the benefit of the public, while streamside property owners and the state say the government meets its obligation by simply retaining title or control. "The public has the same right as the owner of that [river] bed to use those waters. It includes the right to reasonably touch the bed. The only caveat is the public has to gain lawful access to those waters. They can’t cross private land to get there," Coburn told 4th District Judge Derek Pullan on Tuesday. HB141 made it so anglers, kayakers and others have to get a landowner’s permission before walking on the private bed of a public body of water...more

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