It hardly seems right that issues involving fish and ducks should be lumped in with those dealing with taxes, education, fair housing and a common language.
Yet, men and women stuck behind big desks in rooms without so much as a window to the out-of-doors may be asked to decide the future of some of these animals.One bill has already been introduced; another is hanging over the heads of fishermen like an ax ready to fall. Our elected legislators will be asked to decide.
The first, House Bill 208, would leave millions of ducks homeless. Another bill, supposedly written but not yet introduced, would put fish at Scofield Reservoir out of hook's reach in the winter.
First, H.B. 208 . . . Talk of taking the salt out of Great Salt Lake has been around since tourists were first discovered. Until now, the idea was listened to and smiled at but never taken seriously. A fresh-water lake? OK. Next item! This bill to give building powers to the Great Salt Lake Development Authority is gaining a following. On the cover page there are 28 co-authors listed. The bill would give authority to the group to build a dike, acquire water rights, levy taxes and raise fees to make part of the lake sodium-free.
It does not mention water levels. Talk is that the new fresh-water pond would peak at between 4,208 and 4,210 feet above sea level. Or, between two and four feet higher than it is now and only a foot lower than when the lake was said to be "flooding."
The idea being that if the east (fresh) side were higher than the west (salty), then any disaster - natural or unnatural - would send the water west, away from homes.
The problem is that most of Utah's waterfowl marshes are to the east. At 4,210 feet, 80 percent of the marshes would again be flooded.
Relocate the marshes? Where? Move the ducks? That happened at the last flood stage. Duck hunters will attest to that. With 80 percent of the ducks' habitat gone, local duck hatches dropped 75 percent. Migrating ducks stopped coming. Where we used to get 60,000 swans in Utah in the fall, we now get fewer than 2,000.
And, of course, this would flood forever the private clubs along the eastern shore and most of the managed waterfowl areas, while destroying all chances of ever luring back relocated waterfowl.
Just as serious is the problem at Scofield. For a lot of years now, people of Price have been up set by winter fishermen who seem to work harder at creating trash and pollution than at catching fish.
They leave burning fires, broken bottles, empty sacks and cans, and relieve themselves wherever is quick and convenient.
Remember, now, this is Price's drinking water.
Enough is enough, said Rep. Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, and Sen. Omar Bunnell, D-Price, and they set about writing legislation that would close Scofield to winter fishing. Both, however, have agreed to take a wait-and-see approach before introducing the bill. If things don't improve, and soon, they will introduce it, and chances of passage are excellent.
The DWR has increased enforcement at Scofield, and portable toilets have been brought in. Also, fishermen are being asked to treat the area as if it were their living room.
Some argue that the litter and pollution are not the only reasons. The fish at Scofield, one of the state's best and most productive trout waters, are shrinking in size. They feel winter pressure is the reason, and would like to see it closed so there are more and bigger fish in the summertime.
Whatever the reason, the picture should be clear enough - shape up or write Scofield off for winter fishing.
As Tim Provan, acting director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said: "This is our last chance. If fishermen don't do something to help keep it clean, we'll lose it."
There is still time for sportsmen to do something about both potential problems. But time is running out. Sportsmen need to act now or forever lose.