Ruling opens legal can of worms for Utah rivers

Brady Willison on Tuesday fishes Provo angler a stretch of the Upper Provo that cuts through the 7,000-acre Victory Ranch, a luxury destination near Francis. Until a Nov. 4 court ruling invalidating Utah’s restrictive stream access law, such streams were not available to anglers without property owners’ permission. Stream access advocates successfully sued Victory Ranch, claiming that the landowners’ practice of keeping non-guests off the river violates an easement the public has to stream beds. But without further guidance from the court, the scope of that easement is not clear, lawyers say. Victory Ranch insists the ruling should be stayed pending its appeal, which it expects to win. Brian Maffly reports on the legal tensions arising from this landmark case in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Great Salt Lake bioherms

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Geologist Mike Vanden Berg of the Utah Geological Survey investigates Great Salt Lake’s microbialites. These domed structures cover about 386 square miles, or nearly 23 percent of the lake’s bed, and offer a glimpse of what the Earth was like for its first 3 billion years.

In a video, Bonnie Baxter, a biologist with Utah’s Westminster College, explains how cyanobacteria form microbialites and their imporant role in the lake’s ecosystem. The Natural History Museum of Utah will incorporate a specimen into a new exhibit. —Brian Maffly, Salt Lake Tribune

Forest Service rethinks new ATV loops through roadless areas in Utah’s Uinta-Wasatch-Cache

Mollens HollowA proposed ATV trail near this spot on the Monte Cristo plateau, overlooking Mollen’s Hollow, has been cancelled. The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest has revised its travel plan for Ogden Ranger District, nixing plans for two new motorized loops through roadless areas. This district is a haven for ATV riding and the district ranger is concerned that keeping motorized users on designated routes may prove difficult. Brian Maffly reports in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Utah wants road through Red Cliffs tortoise preserve

Utah’s Washington County says the BLM promised to allow a transportation corridor across the Red Cliffs National Conservation AreaIMG_3820 as part of a deal to set aside the land north just of fast-growing St. George. But this place is supposed to be protected for Mojave desert tortoise, conservationists say. Would road across it defeat the purpose of the preserve and invite even more sprawl? —Brian Maffly

Utah court tosses out restrictive stream access law

Utah judge Derek Pullan found that the state’s “unfittingly” titled Public Waters Access Act accomplishes the opposite of public access and declared it unconstitutional on Wednesday. The ruling affirms boaters, anglers and other recreationists’ right of access to 2,700 miles of streams that cross private land. Now it’s up to the Utah Department of Natural Resources to clarify the rules for how the public use these streams. The state is expected to appeal to the Utah Supreme Court. —Brian Mafflydt.common.streams.StreamServer

Utah looking to export its coal

Utah proposes to send 4 or 5 million tons of coal through an export terminal underdevelopment in Oakland at the former Army base. The state Community Impact Board intends to loan $53 million to four coal-producing counties to invest in the project led by Oakland developer Phil Tagami. However, critics say this is an utter misuse of money that is supposed to be spent on facilities that serve the public, not private industries. —Brian Maffly reports in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Coal load-out in Levan, Utah

Coal load-out in Levan, Utah