Legislative Updates: Montana HB 309, Stream Access Fight in Utah, Maryland Felt Ban


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Score One For The Good Guys…
Montana HB 309 Put on Ice

The bill that would have limited anglers’ stream access in Montana, HB 309, aka “The Ditch Bill” a.k.a. The Surest Way for Montana to Kill Its Recreational Fishing Industry, has been officially tabled.  Sponsored by Rep. Jeffery Welborn, R-Dillon, the bill would have changed the definition of irrigation ditches in ways that would have countered the historic 1986 Galt decision by the Montana Supreme Court, which effectively allowed anglers stream access within the high water marks of fishable creeks, streams and rivers.

HB 309 was strongly opposed by various outdoor groups, including AFFTA and other sporting interests.  While the issue isn’t officially dead, it’s looking like cooler and wiser heads might actually prevail on this one.  Midcurrent.com reports on the story, and refers to an article by Ben Pierce of Chronicle Outdoors in southwestern Montana.

AFFTA Supports the Stream Access Fight in Utah

For those of you who missed this announcement last week, this one is worth repeating, because it’s a bold, bright move by the trade organization…

AFFTA president Randi Swisher announced  the formation of a matching fund to be used to support the Utah Stream Access Coalition’s challenge to the constitutionality of Utah’s Public Waters Access Act. “We are going to match up to $2,500.00 in contributions from our members who contribute to the fund,” said Swisher. “We know our members care about access, we have heard that loud and clear and we are asking them to join with us in this financial support.”

AFFTA is asking its members to notify AFFTA when they make a contribution to the coalition. AFFTA will match that contribution dollar for dollar up to a total of $2500.00. The money will be used by the coalition for court costs, witnesses and other related litigation expenses. Without financial support from industry and anglers it maybe a lost cause. “We don’t have a huge financial war chest for things like this,” said AFFTA Treasurer Scott Harkins. “But we want our members to know we will support important challenges to our businesses like this one if they will.”

The coalition has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Utah’s Public Waters Access Act passed last year. The coalition filed the suit because the Act effectively prohibits public access to hundreds of miles of rivers and streams in Utah.

Access to fishing opportunities is an essential element to the financial well being of AFFTA member companies. AFFTA’s mission, to promote the sustained growth of the fly fishing industry, is threatened when fishing opportunities are limited, or in worst cases, denied. “From the perspective of the fly fishing industry as a whole, the multiplier effect of anglers traveling to and fishing in Utah is important, impacting not only guides, outfitters, retailers, and other businesses in Utah, but hundreds of other fishing-related businesses throughout the country,” said AFFTA Chairman Jim Klug.

For more information about the Utah Stream Access Coalition go to www.utahstreamaccess.org

Maryland is Done with Felt

If you go fishing in Maryland rivers, you’d better not be wearing felt-soled boots.  As of two days ago, that became illegal.  Citing felt’s role in the spread of invasive species, particularly didymo, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources banned felt materials outright (violators are just being warned at this point, but they’ll eventually be ticketed and fined).  In doing so, Maryland became the first state in the country to implement a felt ban; Vermont is scheduled to move ahead on its felt ban next month, and Alaska will do the same next year.


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