Hunting and fishing enthusiasts will need to practice a little more caution next year if proposed legislation endorsed by the Legislature's Energy, Natural Resources and Agriculture Interim Committee wins final approval in January.
The proposed bill substantially increases the powers of peace officers to enforce trespassing laws, and it stiffens penalties associated with trespassing violations.Especially hard hit would be second offenders who would face revocation of their hunting and fishing privileges while being charged with a class B misdemeanor violation. Class B misdemeanors can mean jail time of up to six months and fines.
Tom Bingham, representing the Utah Farm Bureau, said the proposal is the result of 18 months of working with landowners, Utah Division of Wildlife Resource officials and various hunting and fishing organizations. Bingham said the bill does not satisfy everyone but represents a workable compromise that has been endorsed by the various groups.
The bill establishes specific guidelines for landowners to use in posting property either limiting or prohibiting hunting and fishing. It also outlines a method for issuing written permission for hunters allowed onto the posted land.
Bob Hasenyager, representing the division, said requiring hunters to have written permission in their possession makes it easier for peace officers trying to enforce the law. It also means landowners do not have to be contacted during the initial arrest or issuing of a citation, although it is likely they will have to testify at trials if the hunter challenges the citation.
The bill also requires the division to begin an extensive education program to make hunters aware of the changes. That program is expected to be similar to recent anti-poaching campaigns that used extensive media promotion and included the changes in all printed hunting and fishing proclamations.
Supporters said the focus is on punishment. They said it has become evident in the past that simply preaching the philosophy does not change attitudes. They said the change must be accompanied by some form of punishment to be effective. And, experience shows, the most effective form of punishment is the threatened loss of hunting and fishing privileges.
The bill provides that first offenders can settle their citations by posting a $35 forfeitable bond. Second offenders will be required to pay $500 and will lose hunting or fishing privileges for a year.