letter to Utah Governor HB37

From USAC:

January 23, 2014

Governor Gary Herbert
350 North State Street, Suite 200
PO Box 142220
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-2220

Dear Governor Herbert,

Congratulations, Governor, on receiving the 2014 ‘Friend of the Industry’ award. It is clear that you have made a substantial commitment to furthering the Outdoor Industry in Utah, and making it “The Right Place” for Outdoor Recreation. I commend you on your efforts over the past year.

In your acceptance speech, you addressed the efforts to find ‘common ground’ and ‘compromise’ both within your family and your politics. I feel as though I must address the elephant in the room – where is the compromise on the 3,200 miles of Utah rivers and streams that are currently off-limits to the public?

Governor, these are rivers and streams that have been utilized since the early pioneers settled in Utah, both for survival, and for recreation. As early as the First Sabbath, Brother Brigham Young is stated to have said that, “there would be no private ownership in the water streams.”  Since that time, two Utah Supreme Court decisions have affirmed the public’s right to use these rivers, and to touch the river beds while doing so. Even Article XVII of the Utah Constitution states that, “All existing rights to the use of any of the waters in this State for any useful or beneficial purpose, are hereby recognized and confirmed.” Any useful and beneficial purpose, Governor, including recreation.

Yet since 2010, should the public fish, swim, recreate, and touch the riverbed, as the pioneers did on nearly half of Utah’s rivers and streams, we are criminals.

In 2011, fishing contributed $865M to the State’s economy. When you add in kayaking, and other river-centric forms of recreation, that number exceeds the $1.12B generated by the ski industry. There are only so many miles of rivers and streams – infrastructure with which an industry can be built upon – within the State of Utah. When you consider the fact that nearly half of the rivers and streams in the state were handed over to private interests in 2010, so was half of the associated recreation dollars, half of the jobs, and half of the economic impact that could be made to rural communities, at the very least.

Over the past 4 years, we have worked hard to bring all parties to the table and discuss compromise. Our solution – the ‘common ground’ – is a compromise based on Idaho law, protecting both private property and public rights. I guarantee in the early 1970’s Idaho faced a similar struggle between private and public interests. But when we fast forward to today, what we see is this: a law that has worked in Idaho for nearly 40 years, and has fostered the development of several of the greatest fly fishing destinations in the world. Destinations that would not make the map without the rivers that support their local industry, and the economic value that they contribute to the state of Idaho.

All we ask of you is this, Governor. Find the common ground. Support compromise. If given the opportunity, allow HB37 the shot to put Utah among the world-class fly-fishing destinations with Idaho and Montana.

Sincerely,

Kris Olson, President
Utah Stream Access Coalition
PO Box 91154
Salt Lake City, UT 84109

Enclosures (2)

cc: Speaker Rebecca Lockhart, Utah House of Representatives
cc: President Wayne Niederhauser, Utah Senate
cc: Representative Dixon Pitcher, Utah House of Representatives
cc: Frank Huglemeyer, President & CEO, Outdoor Industry Association
cc: Benjamin Bulis, President, AFFTA
cc: Tim Romano, Angling Trade Magazine

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