The Utah Legislative Session commenced on Tuesday, January 16, 2024, and will extend through Friday, March 1, 2024. During this time, members of the Utah State Legislature convene to revise old or consider new state laws. The volunteer chapter leaders of Utah Backcountry Hunters & Anglers actively engage in the legislative session by monitoring emerging bills on the Utah Legislature’s website relevant to BHA’s mission, meeting with representatives to discuss sponsored bills, and attending the Sportsmen’s Caucus at the State Capitol. While it’s still early in the legislative session, we have outlined a few key bills below that we are tracking. If you would like to learn more about each bill, the representative sponsoring it, and their contact information, we’ve linked to each below so you can easily click through to read more.
Sponsor: Rep. Casey Snider (R)
Chapter Stance: Support
H.B. 382 – Wildlife Amendments is a lengthy bill that updates the language on several previous wildlife policies that will improve the operational efficiency and effectiveness of the Division of Wildlife Resources. Our chapter supports the majority of what’s included in this bill as we believe it will enable the division to spend more of their time and money continuing to protect our wildlife and their habitat. While most of what’s included in this bill won’t directly impact hunters and anglers, we’ve outlined a few proposals below which you should be aware of:
Additional 3% fee for electronic purchases
- Currently, the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) is responsible for paying for fees credit cards charge for electronic purchases (i.e., licenses, permits, preference points, etc..) made by hunters and anglers through the division. According to the division, this is nearing an average annual expense of $1 million. These fees are removing a significant amount of money the division could and should be using on our wildlife and their habitat.
- This bill would enable the division to add a 3% fee to the end of each electronic payment made through them to cover credit card fees.
- As hunters and anglers, we have long been key contributors to raising funds for conservation and have proudly done so knowing the money we spend on licenses, permits, ammo, etc. help our wildlife and their habitat. While price increases are never popular, we believe the majority of hunters and anglers throughout Utah would support this as it will enable the division to spend our money on our wildlife and habitat, rather than credit card fees.
- It’s important to note this 3% fee will only be added for electronic purchases through the division and not through any third-party vendors selling licenses (i.e., Walmart, Sportsman’s Warehouse, etc…).
Shed Hunting Guidelines
- Last year, a Shed Hunting Committee convened at the request of the DWR to research the impacts of shed hunting on wildlife and provide recommendations on how Utah should proceed moving forward. The committee is expected to present their recommendations to the Utah Wildlife Board during the spring / summer of 2024, during which the Board will decide how shed hunting will be regulated. The Committee’s recommendations, which would be vetted by the Regional Advisory Councils and Wildlife Board, would be possible through the inclusions within this legislation.
- This bill outlines guidelines for the Board to follow when deciding how to regulate shed hunting in Utah. This gives the board the ability to establish resident & non-resident shed hunting seasons and rules for commercial gathering and selling of sheds.
- This bill also will implement a requirement for shed hunters to acquire a permit during any season dates (if established). The permit will cost $25 for residents and $50 for non-residents.
Taxidermy Transaction Record
- Currently, taxidermies aren’t required to keep a transaction record of any wildlife they receive.
- This bill will require taxidermies to retain the transaction records for wildlife they receive, which must include the date and time they received the wildlife and the license / permit number associated with the wildlife. Taxidermists will be required to keep the transaction record for three years from the date they received the wildlife.
- The purpose of this bill is to help taxidermists ensure they aren’t receiving animals that have been poached while allowing conservation officers to efficiently track any potential poaching cases.
As mentioned above, this bill includes more than what we’ve outlined. If you are a Utah sportsman or woman, we encourage you to read the bill in its entirety (linked above) and contact your representative to share your opinion on it.
Sponsor: Rep. Raymond Ward (R)
Chapter Stance: Oppose
H.B. 151 – Public Lands Amendments requires an inventory of all public lands owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the state of Utah, with a particular focus on the BLM located within the boundary of a municipality. Municipalities will be allowed to notify the office of the municipality’s interest in public land owned by the BLM that is located within one-half mile outside of the municipality’s border. The municipality will need to provide a legal description of the parcel, identify points of access, and indicate their intended use for the land, which is inclusive of economic development, affordable housing, or recreation, among other things. While on its face this bill may not seem threatening as it only requires an inventory of BLM land in Utah, this inventory study appears to have the intention of preparing the State for the enactment of the HOUSES Act (sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), which BHA opposes at a Federal level. The HOUSES Act would allow state or local entities to purchase federal public lands at a discounted rate in an effort to solve the affordable housing crisis with little guardrails on which public lands would be eligible for such a transfer. Transferring management offederal public lands to state counties and municipalities is a dangerous precedent to set, and BHA opposes mechanisms that would streamline the public lands transfer movement.. Our chapter is closely monitoring this bill as it progresses and engaging the House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee to explain our opposition.
Sponsor: Rep. Doug Owens (D)
Chapter Stance: Support
H.B. 195 – Land Use Planning Amendments would ensure municipalities, counties, and developers consider how new developments will impact wildlife, their habitat, and migration corridors. Utah is one of the fastest growing states in the country and a major driver of this growth is due to our outdoor recreation opportunities, which includes hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing / photography. As our state continues to grow, it is crucial that local governments consider how new development initiatives will impact our wildlife and habitat. This bill helps protect our wildlife and ensures that future generations will be able to experience and enjoy their presence as we do today. We strongly support this bill and are excited to see that our wildlife and their habitat would be a top priority during future developments if this bill is passed.
Sponsor: Rep. Stephanie Gricius (D)
Chapter Stance: No Position
H.B. 222 – Wildlife Hunting Amendments simplifies the “hunter orange” rule in place in Utah. Currently, hunters are required to wear a minimum of 400 square inches of hunter orange material while hunting a species of big game during centerfire rifle hunts. This bill would remove the 400 square inch minimum and instead require only one item of orange material to be worn on the exterior. This includes a hat, shirt, jacket, coat, vest, or sweater, as long as it’s on the exterior of the person. Hunter orange will still not be required on archery, muzzle-loader, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, bison, or moose hunts, unless there is a centerfire rifle hunt in progress in the same area. Additionally, this bill would enable the Director of the DWR to regulate the wearing of hunter orange among non-hunters on wildlife One of the intentions of this bill is to ensure more hunters are in compliance with the hunter orange rule and provide the opportunity to improve safety for non-hunters during rifle hunts in WMAs. Though we are not taking a formal position on this bill, we believe it is important to provide education around it, as these changes would impact a large amount of hunters.
Sponsor: Rep. Casey Snider (R)
Chapter Stance: Support
H.B. 262 – School & Institution Trust Lands Amendments enables the State Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) to sell or lease parcels of their land to other state entities at fair market value. We are supportive of this initiative as it also waives certain requirements of a normal SITLA sale if the land is being sold or leased to the Division of Natural Resources (DNR). This would enable an easier path forward for DNR to acquire land to conserve it for wildlife and their habitat. While this may seem trivial, this has previously been a difficult task for the division to accomplish. In 2021, a state trust land parcel (over 8,000 acres) was put up for sale in Cache/Weber County. Through a concerted effort by the State of Utah, the Division of Wildlife (DWR), and various conservation organizations, the DWR was able to purchase the land after it was put forward for auction by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA). This area is now known as the Cinnamon Creek Wildlife Management Area, and this acquisition has not only protected rich habitat for a variety of wildlife, but also it has opened up ample public access for hunting and fishing. Though the DWR was able to pull this off, the decision-making, collaboration, and pooling of resources all needed to happen within a very short time window and there was no legislated obligation for SITLA to work with partners from the State to find a solution beneficial for public access. By waiving specific requirement when SITLA sells land to the DNR, the DNR will be better equipped to buy more land from SITLA that will benefit hunters, anglers, and our wildlife.
Sponsor: Rep. Ken Ivory (R)
Chapter Stance: Oppose
The Helping Open Underutilized Space to Ensure Shelter (HOUSES) Act is a federally proposed bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). This act would permit and expedite the transfer of multiple-use federal public lands for residential development at discounted rates well below market value. A joint resolution doesn’t have any legally binding or enforceable power if passed; rather it is merely an expression made by the Utah Legislature that voices their support or opposition on a particular subject. If the Utah Legislature passes H.J.R. 19, they would be sending a clear message to our federal congress and the rest of the nation that Utah supports the HOUSES Act and transfer of public lands out of public hands. As the voice for our wild public lands, waters, and wildlife, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is opposed to any legislation such as the HOUSES Act that would limit the ability for sportsmen and women, as well as all Americans, to access our outdoor heritage by selling off public land. In addition to losing access, our wildlife will also suffer due to the habitat loss that will occur as these lands are developed. While the likelihood of accomplishing the Act’s supposed goal of solving the affordable housing crisis is unlikely, the HOUSES Act would most certainly create a streamlined process to foster the privatization of federal public lands. Our chapter strongly opposes H.J.R. 19 and encourages you to do so as well.
We will continue to keep our members up to date on priority bills as they emerge and change throughout the session. We encourage you to follow along and engage in the process by paying attention to the “status” section for each of the bills on the Utah Legislature’s website and contacting the relevant Committee members and your local representatives to let them know what your opinions are on each bill.