Landmark Utah Supreme Court Ruling regarding fishing access and landowner property rights

The Utah Supreme Court has made a landmark ruling that the public has a “right to float leisure craft, hunt, fish, and participate in any lawful activity when utilizing that water."

"In addition to the enumerated rights of floating, hunting, and fishing, the public may engage in any lawful activity that utilizes the water."
And this detail is what makes this so big for Utah anglers and hunters:
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 incidental to all recreational rights provided for in the easement, so long as they do so reasonably and cause no unnecessary injury to the landowner.
(emphasis added)

This was not about any federal law regarding navigability of waters, or a federal law at all. It was about Utah State law stating that all water, under or above ground, belongs to the state, and that the state has an easement for the public to use the water even if it is flowing over private ground. This easement has existed for decades.

What this Utah Supreme Court ruling did, was clarify what exactly the scope of that easement was. For years, the easement has been allowed, but only for floating the waters. The Utah Supreme Court ruled that the Utah State law governing this easement also allows fishing, hunting and all other lawful recreational activities that "UTILIZE" the water (i.e. floating, fishing, hunting, swimming, etc. but not necessarily general hiking or other activities).

They ruled that you can touch even privately owned stream bed for these activities, including wading, as long as you enter the streambed at a public access point.

This ruling cannot be appealed again. The Utah Supreme Court is the highest authority for interpreting state law. The only way this could be changed, would be if the legislature decided to pass a new law that would alter the existing law.

The key, in my opinion, for sportsmen and women in Utah to not lose this newfound access, would be to always make sure and respect landowners' property, fences, animals, etc. Make sure not to litter, and bring along an extra trash bag so that if you see trash left behind by other inconsiderate people, you can pack it out. The most common landowner complaints when the public uses their land are litter left behind, and damage to their property (fences, ditches, barns, etc.)

So, in summary, get out there and try out some water that hasn't been publicly accessible for possibly decades! Just be sure to respect the landowner and their property while you do so.

You can find the Court's official ruling by clicking here.