Backtracking on Public Water Access?

As reported in the Salt Lake Tribune, and later at Midcurrent.com, a bill introduced in the Utah State Legislature by Rep. Ben Ferry, R-Corinne, and made public yesterday, would effectively quash a Utah Supreme Court ruling in favor of public wading access on the state's rivers and streams. Under the bill, sections of only 14 rivers would be designated open to recreational use by anglers. Everything else would be shut down... and that's a lot of water.

I truly understand the interests of property owners, and I fish private water myself. Part of me can argue on behalf of private ownership and limited access with regard to controlling and protecting resources. But it ultimately seems to me that working to limit access where it now exists is wrong. I don't see how that can possibly benefit the public at large, in Utah... among the outfitters who comprise multi-million dollar tourism industry... or the country as a whole. The winners will be realtors.

The dirty truth is that many of us who live in states where stream access is restricted (like Colorado) are green with envy over states (like Montana) where things are more open. Oh, the fishing is good if you're on the inside of those fences. Sometimes better. But that costs money.

And with more and more of us having less and less to spend, with more businesses depending on people to get out and fish, and more people clinging to what is a relatively affordable pastime... well, I think, if anything, we should be taking down more fences, and not building new ones.

Deeter