The Bishop Angles for the Environment
The Bishop's op ed in the SLC Tribune.
The great conservationist Aldo Leopold explained it this way: "Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest."
I visited the kind of landowner Leopold extolled. He owns 1,800 acres of rural Utah land that includes 1.8 miles of stream. When he purchased the property seven years ago, the banks of the creek had been grazed down to the point where there were no river birches, willows or cottonwoods. Stream banks were eroded and there was little stream complexity, a necessary ingredient for a fruitful fishery.
This landowner spent thousands of dollars and hours restoring the creek to create a productive trout fishery. He fenced the cows away from the stream. He sought expert advice on how to help the stream heal itself. He made stream barbs of rocks that stick out from the banks to create eddies, protect banks from erosion, and change water depth and velocity.
Today river birches, willows, cottonwoods and tall grasses are growing along the banks, a gravel bed suitable for spawning has emerged, and the fish love it.
The landowner's son planned to buy the adjoining property and over time, double the amount of restored creek. Now, all plans are off. If he and his father cannot protect the habitat they create and the fish that thrive there, they are not going to spend anything at all.
Instead of doing back flips over the court's decision, anglers should be asking the Legislature to change the state code on which the decision was based so that landowners will once again have an incentive to restore and enhance streams on their properties.
Otherwise, who is going to fence cows away from the water? Who is going to pay for stream barbs and planting willows? Governments may help on portions of major waterways like the Provo River, but what about all the little creeks that could be as productive as the one I saw?
Many anglers understand the value and potential of private conservation and want to encourage it. The stream-access court decision does the opposite. Productive streams crossing private property will be quickly fished out, as has already happened a few miles below the property I described.
Labels: economic policy