A long-simmering feud between hunters and property owners who don't want them on their land has found a focus in a measure approved last week by a Utah legislative committee. It won't satisfy everybody, but the bill is at least a step in the right direction.
With up to 200,000 hunters flooding Utah during deer season, there are always some who damage fences, use barns and other buildings for target practice, and shoot domestic animals. Other special hunts and even fishermen have caused problems. Over the years, more and more farmers and ranchers have closed their property to hunting and fishing, causing additional ill feelings.The new legislation comes from an attempt by all parties to find a middle ground for resolving their grievances. The bill does not open more land to hunting. But it does clarify and refine the rules and is the first such consensus reached in more than 20 years.
The bill backed by the Energy, Natural Resources and Agriculture Standing Committee was hammered out in negotiations involving representatives of farmers, ranchers, hunters, fishermen and state agencies. As with every compromise, nobody is totally happy.
Under the proposed measure, property owners must post "No trespassing" signs in bright yellow or fluorescent paint at property corners and on all roads, gates, rights-of-way, trails and streams crossing property lines. The proliferation of notices would make it easier for hunters to recognize posted land. And the notices would help game wardens and law enforcement officers issue citations and get convictions.
Trespassing would be a class B misdemeanor under the bill, which also seeks to increase penalties for repeat offenders. Those guilty of multiple violations could be banned from obtaining hunting or fishing licenses or tags for periods up to five years.
In considering the new bill regulating hunting, the Legislsture should give great weight to the fact that it was worked out by the people most affected by its provisions.