Business leaders urge guv to veto fishing-access bill

March 21, 2010

Utah Water Guardians

HB141 » Group says property rights bill would choke off many waterways.

Updated: 03/19/2010 07:51:39 PM MDT

Utah business officials and the head of the Outdoor Industry Association met for over an hour with Gov. Gary Herbert on Friday in an attempt to get him to veto House Bill 141, which they say will severely limit fishing access and hurt the state’s economy.

“From the best interest of the state from an economic standpoint and the sustainability of the revenue recreation creates, he needs to veto the bill,” said Steve Schmidt, of Salt Lake City-based Western River Fly Fishers, a business that sold $3 million in nonresident Utah licenses last year.

Schmidt was joined by Fish Tech owner Byron Gunderson, Sportsmen’s Warehouse’s Bobby Lang, Outdoor Industry Association president and CEO Frank Huggelmeyer, of Boulder, Colo., and Sen. Wayne Neiderhauser, R-Sandy, the Utah Senate majority whip.

Schmidt said the fishing-business interests tried to clarify misunderstandings about the bill and urged the governor to veto it.

“People realize that the vast majority of Utah’s waters could potentially be closed to fishing and recreating, even public waters,” he said. “HB141 removes three generations of laws that allows the public the right to access waters, waters for example where I have had the opportunity to fish in the past, like the lower Provo, where I will no longer be able to fish.”

Much of the discussion involved the economic impact of limited angler access to rivers and streams.

“Our big concerns are the economic impact due to the lack of access that this bill will create,” said Schmidt. “Those losses in revenues and jobs are real.”

The fishing and outdoor recreation interests also expressed frustration that the bill was written behind closed doors without any input from hunters, anglers, recreationists or the public in the process. Those groups supported another bill, HB81 sponsored by Rep. Lorie Fowlke, R-Orem, where they had input.

But landowner groups walked out of that discussion and found Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, to sponsor HB141, which they felt protected their private property rights.

Schmidt praised the governor for granting them a gracious amount of time and said he did not think Herbert was aware of the bill’s impact.

The Governor’s Office had no comment on the meeting.

wharton@sltrib.com

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