On June 4, 2000, Kevin and Jodi Conatser loaded their raft into the Weber River located in northern Utah at a public access point and began to float down the river. On occasion, the raft and Kevin Conatser touched the river bottom, and Kevin waded through the river to fish. The Conatsers floated through property owned by the Johnson family and were instructed to leave the river. The Conatsers ignored the Johnsons’ request and were subsequently cited by law enforcement for criminal trespass.
The Justice Court of Morgan County, Utah, found the Conatsers guilty of criminal trespass. The Conatsers appealed the decision of the Justice Court. The Sate dismissed the charge finding that the Conatsers’ status as trespassers was uncertain.
While waiting for a resolution of the criminal matter, the Conatsers filed an action in civil court for a determination of their right to use the Weber River. The District Court held that the Conatsers could walk along the banks of the river (or river bottom) on private property only where such conduct was incidental to floating on the river. In other words, the Conatsers were permitted to touch the river bottom or wade the shoreline where such conduct was necessary to continue their float down the Weber River; it was not permissible to wade where such conduct was for other purposes (such as fishing).
The Conatsers then sought a declaration from the Utah Supreme Court, that as members of the general public, they had the right to walk on the bed of the Weber River and wade in its waters. On July 18, 2008, the Utah Supreme Court held that scope of the public’s easement allows the public to engage in all recreational activities that utilize the water. The Court thereby allowed the public to wade in rivers that run through private property as long as such conduct was incidental to an activity that utilizes the water (such as fishing).
Currently, a bill is under way to negate the rights of the public clarified in the Utah Supreme Court’s ruling. As a public in general, we are working hard to lobby against this bill and any similar legislation.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
On July 18, 2008 – The Utah Supreme Court unanimously ruled 5-0 in favor of the public right to use and recreate on water the public owns. The Court concluded – “we hold that the scope of the easement provides the public the right to float, hunt, fish, and participate in all lawful activities that utilize the water. We further hold that the public has the right to touch privately owned beds of state waters in ways incidentally to all recreational rights provided for in the easement, so long as they do reasonably and cause no unnecessary injury to the landowner”. See Conatser vs Johnson –>http://www.utcourts.gov/opinions/supopin/Conatser071808.pdf
January 1, 2009 – Salt Lake Tribune, Brett Pettyman writes Stream access may partly evaporate. “Anglers knew it was only a matter of time” Article for SLC Trib –>http://www.sltrib.com/ci_11519012
January 29, 2009 – City Weekly, Ted McDonough writes River Dance: Legislator shops a bill to undo Utah Supreme Court on public access to rivers. –>http://cityweekly.net/index.cfm?do=article.details&id=2A07DCE9-14D1-1357-9C3DF489542277D0
February 6, 2009 – Bill Introduced –> “H.B 187 Recreational Use of Public Waters” (Ferry, B.). Bill Numbered by Title without any Substance –> H.B 187
February 7, 2009 – Numbered Bill Made Available for Public
February 7, 2009 – Bill Numbered by Title without any Substance
February 11, 2009 – Content of the HB 187 is released to the public
February 11, 2009 – Salt Lake Tribune, Tom Warton writes; “Bill Would Limit Fishing Ground Access” –> HB 187 Anglers and Boater Vow to Fight Legislation –> http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_11684170
February – 11, 2009 – Utah Rivers Council Releases statement – “Bill to Revoke Anglers Rights and Access Unveiled to the Public. –> http://media.bonnint.net/slc/959/95993/9599304.pdf
February 12, 2009 – Salt Lake Tribune, Dr. John Weis; Legislature trying to keep the public off public waters –> http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_11692395
February 12, 2009 – Field and Stream: “Backtracking on Public Water Access?” –> http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/where-fish/2009/02/backtracking-public-water-access
February 12, 2009 – MidCurrent: Marshall Cutchin writes; “Utah Lawmaker Seeks to Reverse River Access” –> http://www.midcurrent.com/news/2009/02/utah-lawmaker-seeks-to-reverse.html
February 13, 2009 – The Utah Department of Wildlife Releases a statement, Division of Wildlife Resources position on HB 187 — Recreational Use of Public Waters –> http://wildlife.utah.gov/fishing/hb187-position.php
February 13, 2009 – Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board writes; ” Closed to Fishing” bill would cut access to streams –> http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_11701247
February 17, 2009 – Fly Fish Radio: Episode 45: Utah’s Recreational Water Rights –> http://www.flyfishradio.com/2009/02/episode-45-utahs-recreational-water.html
February 14, 2009 – Salt Lake Tribune, Brett Prettyman writes; ” Rally Against HB 187 – Stream Access, or Lack Thereof “–> http://blogs.sltrib.com/outdoors/2009/02/rally-against-hb187-stream-access-or.htm
February 19, 2009 – RALLY at the CAPITOL – 250+ attended the rally, major media outlets covered the event.
February 19, 2009 – Idaho Local 8; Anglers upset about bill to reduce riverbed access –> http://www.localnews8.com/Global/story.asp?S=9874609&nav=menu554_2_3
February 19, 2009 – ABC Channel 4; Anglers upset about bill to reduce riverbed access –> http://www.abc4.com/content/news/state/story/Anglers-upset-abou-bill-to-reduce-riverbed-access/UIVlSiYTnkyRtOh7MBr3AQ.cspx
February 19, 2009 – Salt Lake Tribune , Prettyman; Finally, water lovers in the same boat –> http://www.sltrib.com/ci_11743015
February 19, 2009 – Salt Lake Tribune Cawler, Glen Warchol; Anglers skunked on the Hill–> http://blogs.sltrib.com/slcrawler/2009/02/anglers-skunked-on-hill.htm
February 19, 2009 – KSL Channel 5 news, TV – John Daily; Outdoorsmen speak out against bill that would restrict access to rivers – Footage –> http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=5638312
February 19, 2009 – Salt Lake Tribune, TomWharton; Anglers rally to fight stream access bill –> http://www.sltrib.com/ci_11744385
February 20, 2009 – DNR Committee hearing – Bill passed 10-4. HB 187 now goes to the House floor. Audio –> http://ra.le.state.ut.us:8080/ramgen/broadcast/roomC445.rm
February 20, 2009 – NEW amended bill, H.B. 187 Substitute –> http://le.utah.gov/~2009/htmdoc/hbillhtm/hb0187s01.htm
February 21, 2009 – Salt Lake Tribune, Jim Karpowitz (DWR); Stream bill will balance needs of anglers, landowners –> http://www.sltrib.com/ci_11751118
February 23, 2009 – Salt Lake Tribune, Tom Wharton: Bill to limit riverbed access clears first hurdle, passes House panel –> http://www.sltrib.com/ci_11767346
February 23, 2009 – Salt Lake Tribune, Brett Prettyman; Stream access may partly evaporate, Editor’s note: This column originally ran Jan. 23. –> http://www.sltrib.com/ci_11519012
February 25, 2009 – Salt Lake Tribune, Tom Wharton; Stream, bill would protect lawmaker’s land –> http://www.sltrib.com/ci_11784137
February 26, 2009 – Salt Lke Tribune blog, Tom Wharton; Readers ask good stream access bill questions –> http://blogs.sltrib.com/outdoors/2009/02/readers-ask-good-stream-access-bill.htm
February 27, 2009 – HB 187 is “circled”
February 27, 2009 – Salt Lke Tribune blog, Tom Wharton; HB 187 remains in limbo –> http://blogs.sltrib.com/outdoors/2009/02/hb-187-remains-in-limbo.htm
February 28, 2009 – Fly Fish Radio; Episode 46: Utah water rights follow up –> http://www.flyfishradio.com/2009/02/episode-46-utah–water-rights-followup.html
March 18, 2009 – Meeting #1 – Representative Fowlke holds 1st meeting.
Representative Fowlke holds 1st meeting post HB187 to form a dialogue with all users to define Conatser, everyone was allowed time at the microphone to air any grievances, good or bad.
·attendance: Reps. Fowlke, McIff, Webb, along with UWC Fred Finlinson, DWR – (spoke of contact with Mont./Idaho DWR and no problems since rulings), Utah Association of Realtors- (Spoke to be neutral would not need to attend further meetings), Farm Bur. Todd Bingham/Sterling Brown, Cattlemans Assoc. Sessions/??, Jeff Hartley, TU, Stone Fly, Anglers (Many), Landowners (Many), URC, Fish Retailers
April 4, 2009 – Meeting#2 – Representative Fowlke holds 2nd meeting
·more grievances and discussion on definitions
April 4, 2009 – Chris Barkey met with VP of Public Policy Farm Bureau Sterling Brown.
·Farm Bureau Utah had reached out to Farm Bur’s in Mont./ Idaho and received the same answer DWR received, no issues.
oFarm Bureau accepts that the access exists.
·Discussed wet boot vs ordinary high water mark and ended with appreciation for listening to both sides (one angler and one Farm Bureau representative)
July 7, 2009 – Meeting #3 – Representative Fowlke holds 3rd meeting
Others in attendance; Representative’s Becky Edwards and Kraig Powell.
·definitions are a heavy topic of discussion
·Laws are discussed
·” Farfetched” problems are brought up as propaganda from landowners
·Harassment is a topic
August 08/04/09 – Farm Bureau meets with anglers.
Topics: helping with funding, work, fish health, “wet boot” vs “ordinary highwater mark” -a friendly “what can we do for you” meet and greet
·Attendees: Tim Hawkes/TU, Paul Drehmann/BRFAC, Bob Diblee/TU, Steve Schmidt/western Rivers/URC, Chris Barkey
·Meeting stalled on “wet boot”
·Water users reassured Farm Bur. they had no interest in;
oNo interest in damage
oFarm Bur accepts the access exists again.
August 8, 2009 – Anglers meet with Representative Fowlke.
Main topic – “ordinary high-water mark” vs “wet boot”. Representative Fowlke is leaning to “wet boot” but listens to anglers statements, she will consider them.
·attendees: Jason Haslam/Stone Fly, Cary Asper, Dave Serdar, Chris Barkey
October 09, 2009 – 1st draft of Representative Lori Fowlke’s Bill was released
·#1 Here –> Fowlke Access Bill_#1
October 13, 2009 – 1st meeting at the Capitol with large group from spring-summer on 1st draft
October 20, 2009 – Water tour with the Legislature, Farm Bureau, water users and landowners on the Weber & Provo River Wanship
October 29, 2009 – Subcommittee met at the Capitol, 2nd draft of Representative Lori Fowlke’s Bill was released
November 12, 2009 – 3rd draft of Representative Lori Fowlke’s Bill was released
·#3 Here –> Fowlke Access Bill_#3
·Changes to draft #3 here (notes from Chris Barkey) –> Notes/Changed Language
January 13, 2010 – HB 80, Representative Lori Fowlke’s Bill, was released
January 22, 2010 – Salt Lake Tribune Article – Fowlke bill a good compromise on stream access – John H. Weis
January 26, 2010 – Salt Lake Tribune Article – Brett Prettyman – Anglers Support Stream Access Bill
January 30, 2010 – Backcountry Radio interview with Chris Barkey