Friday, February 20, 2009

A worthy cause

OK, I'm going to try to keep this as brief as I can. Any of my blog readers who reside in Utah should be very concerned about their rights to access public waters. Tomorrow, February 20, 2009, a committee of the Utah House of Representatives will be voting on whether to send a bill to the floor of the House, or to kill it now.

The bill is House Bill 187, and its purpose is to turn back the clock on a Utah Supreme Court decision, Conatser v. Johnson,. The gist of the Conatser decision was that the public has the right to access public waters for any lawful purpose, even when the waters run through private property, provided that the public is not entitled to trespass to get to the water, must stay in the river or immediately adjacent to it, and that the public must not damage the landowner's property while using the river. Makes sense enough, right? It's public water, after all. Why not allow the public to access and use its resource, right?

House Bill 187 will change all that. Here's what it would mean for you and me. If you want to float a river that goes through private land, you can still do that, as long as the river you want to float runs through one of the rivers specified in the bill. The bad news is that the bill only specifies 14 rivers. There are quite a few more rivers than 14 in this state. If your river isn't on the list, you can't float it.

And if your river is on the list, you can float it, as long as you don't trespass to put in. But once you're on the river and enter private land, if you stand up, you're committing criminal trespass, a class B misdemeanor. That's right, floating is legal, standing up is illegal, unless you're doing it to get around an obstruction that materially impairs your ability to float on through.

If you want to fish, the news is even worse. Any portion of any river that runs through private land is off limits, unless the land owner allows you, of course. That's how it was before the Conatser decision.

But it gets far worse. If an owner of a single family dwelling that abuts a river puts up a sign that says "no fishing," not only are you prohibited from fishing in the portion of the river that abuts his property, you are prohibited from fishing within 500 feet of that property. That's about 170 yards. This applies even if you're in a publicly owned portion of the river. So one land owner could potentially shut down close 400 yards of a river.

Additionally, this means that you could be standing on publicly owned ground, fishing on publicly owned ground in publicly owned waters, but committing a class B misdemeanor. Let you think I'm making this crap up, read lines 191 through 198 of the bill:

So what should you do? You should email your representative RIGHT THIS INSTANT and tell him/her that you will not vote for him/her if s/he supports HB 187. If you don't know how to contact your representative, go here to figure it out:

There is also an online petition that you should sign:

It's pretty urgent that you make your voice heard. The Legislature has a long track record of pushing things through when they think nobody cares. It could very easily happen with this bill if we don't get enough of a popular groundswell to kill this thing now. This is urgent, so waste no time contacting your representative and telling him/her to vote against House Bill 187.

So I failed at keeping it brief. Sorry. To those of you who know me, this should come as no small surprise.


Monday, February 16, 2009

All work and no play makes Dallas a dull boy

Apparently there are still a few folks out there who bother to check this blog. I'm not sure why, because I really haven't had anything worth posting since I had the incredibly bad judgment to ask for a third shot of pepper spray. But I thank you for your persistence in checking up.

So, by way of update, I'm getting ready to take the bar. It's next week on the 24th and 25th of this month. Read: one week from tomorrow. That means that for the last couple of months, I've done precious little other than sit on my butt and study law, the vast majority of which I will never need to know again in my life. Basically, it's a twisted form of hazing, as far as I can tell. Anyway, that's enough whining about it out of me. I knew what it was when I picked it up.

Anyway, I thought I'd make an effort to start blogging at least more than semi-annually. If I have any thoughts worth posting in the future, you'll be the first to know. This was just a quick note to notify the blogosphere that I'm not dead. I'm still boring, but I'm not dead.
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