New out-of-state boating fees and 10 other signed bills related to Utah’s outdoors

New out-of-state boating fees and 10 other signed bills related to Utah’s outdoors

(John Hollenhorst, KSL TV, File)



Estimated read time: 9-10 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Looking to travel to Utah for boating this summer (or once the pandemic is over)? It's going to cost you a little more starting July 1.

That’s when HB255 goes into effect. The bill, which was passed on the final day of the legislative session and signed by Gov. Gary Herbert on March 28, includes a $20 fee for non-Utah resident boaters who launch watercraft in any of the state’s bodies of water. Those fees go toward preventing the spread of quagga mussels or other aquatic invasive species. Utah residents already pay $10 annual fee for this purpose, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources spokeswoman Faith Heaton Jolley said.

In addition to fees, all boat owners are required to complete an online education course regarding how to prevent those species from spreading and show proof they completed the course before they are allowed to launch their boat in a body of water in Utah. Boat owners are also required to drain water from all compartments of a watercraft before transporting a boat on any public road or highway in the state. Failing to do so is a class C misdemeanor

Quagga mussels are considered a nuisance because they alter food webs in water bodies by removing plankton and clog water-intake pipes and other water infrastructure, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, they can easily be transferred from one body of water to another via watercraft that the mussels attach to.

They’ve been an ongoing problem at Lake Powell. In fact, 44 boaters were cited and 98 boats had to be decontaminated due to quagga mussels during the Labor Day weekend last year.

"We’re trying to minimize quagga mussels and zebra mussels and all kinds of invasive species that we’ve got coming in," said Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, on March 12. He was the bill’s floor sponsor. "What this does is it adds a fee to pay for the boat checks to make sure that we’re not transporting these into other bodies of water in the state. We’ve got a problem at Lake Powell right now, and we’re trying to make sure it stays there and does not leave that area."

Hinkins pointed out costs from other regions of the country where the invasive species has created headaches. In 2009, the Idaho Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force estimated that zebra mussels cost power companies $3.1 billion between 1993 and 1999 in the Great Lakes region alone. The total economic costs exceeded $5 billion for the communities, the report added.

"We just want to be able to track and make sure we’re not transporting these (mussels) because the cost is astronomical," Hinkins said.

As a part of the bill, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will also study the possibility of an automated system that can scan, photograph and provide the agency information about a boat, such as when the boat entered a Utah waterbody and when it was last decontaminated, DWR officials said.

The bill is part of a handful of new legislation that focuses on outdoor-related topics.

While bills involving eminent domain for trails made noise heading into the 2020 session, they ultimately went nowhere. Both HB133, which sought to use eminent domain as a way to carve future trails, and HB261, which would have limited eminent domain for that function, failed to make it out of house committees.

Now that the 2020 legislative session is over and Herbert is done signing bills that were voted on during the session, here’s a look at the bills that passed that have some mark on outdoors in one way or another:

HB125: Division of Wildlife Resources amendments

This bill was among the first Herbert signed during the session, as he made it official on March 2. It allows the head of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to take "immediate action under certain circumstances" if big game herd populations fall under the number sought by the state biologists.

That means state wildlife biologists will be tasked with creating management strategies to lower the number of predator species in parts of the state if it is necessary. These include such cougars, bears and coyotes.

HB228: Livestock predator removal amendments

The bill mostly addresses how livestock owners handle a mountain lion or bear that "harasses, chases, disturbs, harms, attacks or kills" livestock. It allows livestock owners, as well as family members or employees of the livestock owner, to harvest the predator within four days of an attack — given they have been granted a depredation permit by the DWR. It was previously allowed within three days of an attack.

Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, who served as the bill’s floor sponsor, explained that the bill "codifies existing practice in Division of Wildlife Resources" during a Feb. 27 Senate meeting. Herbert signed the bill on March 24.

HB233: Natural resources legacy funding amendments

This bill, which will go into effect at the beginning of the fiscal year, July 1, creates the Utah Natural Resources Legacy Fund. It helps fund the research, monitoring and management actions to reduce the probability of a species ending up on the endangered species list. As DWR officials point out, a portion of the fund will also go toward preserving open spaces, as well as limiting harm to wildlife habitats and also "providing perpetual land and water access for hunting, fishing or trapping."

"We are confident that these bills, among others, will help us in our mission to effectively manage Utah’s wildlife," DWR Director Mike Fowlks said in a prepared statement. Herbert signed the bill on March 28.

HB283: Outdoor Adventure Commission amendments

This bill does exactly what you’d expect from its title. It creates the Outdoor Adventure Commission, which will look into the future needs of outdoor recreation in Utah.

Members of the committee will include the director or designee from the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation, managing director or designee from the Utah Office of Tourism, the director or designee from the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, as well as appointees from legislators and various other groups in the state. Herbert signed it on March 28.

HB371: Wildlife tagging amendments

This bill, signed by Herbert on March 24, allows the Utah Wildlife Board to clarify its rules about hunters tagging species at the site of a kill.

The change in the law states: "Except as provided by the Wildlife Board by rules made in accordance with Title 63G, Chapter 3, Utah Administrative Rulemaking Act, the carcass of any species of protected wildlife required to be tagged shall be tagged before the carcass is moved from or the hunter leaves the site of kill."

HCR 2: Concurrent resolution creating Old Iron Town State Monument

Herbert signed this resolution on March 24, which designated Old Iron Town in Iron County as a state monument. The area is now mostly deserted, but it was once an important spot in the 1860s and 1870s.

"Old Iron Town is symbolic of early Utah leadership's efforts to remain independent of the United States by developing industrial centers after the transcontinental railroad connected the country from coast to coast," the resolution states. "Old Iron Town was a thriving company community from 1868 to 1876, with several hundred residents, a school, a boarding house, a general store and a post office, in addition to the iconic conical charcoal kilns, foundry, and iron works; and Old Iron Town operations supplied ore to the region for industrial and community projects."

HCR 13: Concurrent resolution supporting the protection and restoration of wildlife corridors

The state reports that wildlife-vehicle collisions have decreased anywhere from 40-90% since implementing wildlife crossings. This resolution, which Herbert signed on March 24, encourages the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Utah Department of Transportation and others to look for more "wildlife migration corridors" for future wildlife crossing spots.

It also encourages "state and local governments to adopt policies to protect and restore intact fish and wildlife connectivity and migration corridors and promote road safety."

HCR 19: Concurrent resolution opposing the introduction of wolves

This resolution is timely, considering 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of wolves being reintroduced into nearby Yellowstone National Park.

The resolution, signed by Herbert on March 28, calls for state officials to "call upon the President of the United States, the United States Department of the Interior and Congress, to block efforts to force wolves on the state of Utah to preserve the historical and conservation values of Utah, its wildlife, its family ranchers, its economy, its outdoor heritage and its citizens."

HCR 24: Concurrent resolution on quagga mussels

No wolves and no quagga mussels. In addition to HB 255, this resolution urges the National Park Service and other federal entities to "prevent the spread of invasive quagga mussels and improve the inspection and decontamination for all watercraft leaving Lake Powell."

A copy of the resolution was to be sent to President Donald Trump, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and other federal officials, per instructions within the resolution. Herbert signed the resolution on March 24.

SCR 1: Concurrent resolution creating Danger Cave State Monument

Danger Cave had been under threat after looters damaged the place in 2019.

This resolution, signed by Herbert on March 30, makes Danger Cave in Tooele County a state monument and adds Jukebox Cave under the umbrella of the monument. The area has a significant history, as it has been occupied for more than 11,000 years, legislators pointed out. Jukebox Cave served as a dance hall for troops who were stationed at Wendover but also contains "artifacts showing occupation patterns similar to those of Danger Cave," the resolution stated.

"Danger Cave is one of the most important and renowned archaeological sites in North America and was used to help set the timeline for Great Basin archaeology," the resolution also states.

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