The controversial Recreational Use of Public Waters on Public Lands bill continues to evolve with a third, more recreation-friendly version of the measure surfacing Friday.
The newest version of HB187, sponsored by Rep. Ben Ferry, R-Corinne, offers some major concessions to the fishing and recreational boating groups that have been fighting the measure, hoping to keep intact a 2008 Utah Supreme Court ruling that granted recreational access to all stream and riverbeds in the state.
The biggest change in the new version is that it expands the role of the Recreational Access Board, which would gain power to add rivers to the list of those which would be accessible to recreationists. Under the original version of HB187, the board would only have been able to make recommendations to the Legislature.
The makeup of the board under the newest version also would change, largely in favor of recreation interests. Under the measure, the board would be made up of nine members including a Utah Department of Agriculture representative, a farmer or rancher, a real estate person, a Division of Wildlife Resource member, a sport angler, a river outfitter, a recreational boater, a conservation district member and a representative of the public.
As was the case with the second version of the bill, which the House defeated earlier this week, the original list of 17 river sections that would be open has been expanded to 30 with popular stretches of the Logan, Blacksmith Fork, Diamond Fork, East Canyon, Thistle, Beaver, Huntington, Fremont and Lower Fish Creek being added.
Ted Wilson of the Utah Rivers Council said the newest version of HB187 is much better than earlier versions, but he still hopes the final version will include more rivers.
"The question now is where it goes," he said. "If it goes to the Senate, we're going to keep working to improve it."
The bill sets out a list of 30 streams and waterways that will be open to the public, and outlines the makeup of a board to decide future additions to the list.