Administrative rule R657-56
Lease of private lands for free public walk-in access
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KEY: wildlife, private landowners, public access
Date of Last Change: October 1, 2023
Notice of Continuation: September 8, 2020
Authorizing, and Implemented or Interpreted Law: 23A-2-304; 23A-2-305; 57-14-1
R657-56-1. Purpose and Authority.
Under the authority of Sections 23A-2-304, 23A-2-305 and Subsection 23A-2-102 (2), this rule provides the procedures, standards, and requirements to administer a Walk-in Access program designed to compensate private landowners for leasing private property for the purpose of allowing free public access for wildlife-dependent recreation.
(1) Terms used in this rule are defined in Section 23A-1-101.
(2) In addition:
(a) "Contiguous" means parcels of real property that share a common property line and are otherwise connected as a single mass, excluding parcels that adjoin only at corners.
(b) "Division" means Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
(c) "Private landowner" means any individual, partnership, corporation, lessee, or association that possesses the legal right on private property to grant rights for hunting, trapping, or fishing within a lease agreement.
(d) "Recreational lease activities" means specific wildlife-dependent recreation activities that are made available to the public on a Walk-in Access property, through a Walk-in Access lease agreement.
(e) "WIA" means Walk-in Access, a program of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
(f) "Wildlife-dependent recreation" means hunting, trapping, or fishing.
R657-56-3. Walk-in Access Private Landowner Enrollment Procedures.
(1) A private landowner with eligible property as outlined in Section (4) may be considered for a WIA recreational lease agreement upon providing:
(a) evidence of property ownership;
(b) evidence of a lease agreement or other form of certification verifying a lessee's right to enter a WIA recreational lease agreement with the division, if applicable; and
(c) county recorder plat or equivalent map depicting property boundaries and ownership.
(2) Verification of property ownership shall be obtained prior to finalization of a WIA agreement.
(3) The division may require additional supporting documentation to verify property ownership, boundaries, statements or claims.
R657-56-4. Walk-in Access Program Minimum Requirements.
(1) Private property enrolled in the WIA program must provide suitable habitat to support the recreational lease activities described in the WIA recreational lease agreement, and contain:
(a) no less than a 40 acre contiguous block of land, wetland, or riparian area for hunting or trapping;
(b) a minimum of 0.25 continuous miles of stream or river; or
(c) a minimum of one contiguous acre of lake, reservoir, or pond.
(2)(a) A private property which does not meet the minimum acreage or mileage requirements may be considered for approval based on the division's determination that the property holds a unique value which is highly beneficial to the public and not otherwise attainable.
(b) The statewide WIA coordinator must give specific approval for any property which does not meet the minimum acreage or mileage requirements.
(c) The property shall not be exempt from any other minimum requirement.
(3)(a) A WIA lease agreement may be developed for a property which provides a corridor to public lands or waters suitable for hunting, trapping, or fishing that are otherwise inaccessible, or reasonably inaccessible without such corridor or easement.
(b) Agreement terms for a WIA property containing an access corridor to public lands may be compensated with a rate consistent to the amount of land or water being made available to the public.
(4) No land parcel may be included in more than one WIA agreement, nor may a WIA property be in another lease or other agreement regarding the same hunting, trapping, or fishing access privileges.
(5)(a) The division shall evaluate a prospective WIA property to determine suitable wildlife and habitat for the designated recreational lease activities.
(b) The property must be capable of independently maintaining and harboring the respective species for the recreational lease activities identified for the period designated in the recreational lease agreement.
(c) The division may review the property periodically throughout the term of the lease agreement to determine if quality is maintaining, improving, or declining.
(d) The access, area, and boundaries of the property must be practicable to and suitable for the wildlife recreational lease activities.
(6)(a) Enrollment and participation in the WIA program is a privilege, not guaranteed, and at the sole discretion of the division, even if an applicant satisfies the minimum program requirements.
(b) The division may prioritize program enrollments and allocate lease compensation amounts based upon identified public recreational access needs, wildlife resource management objectives, and administrative limitations.
R657-56-5. Walk-in Access Lease Agreement.
(1) A WIA property is established through a written WIA lease agreement between the private landowner and the division.
(2) Terms of the agreement shall include private landowner and division responsibilities and compensation amount for the term of the agreement.
(3)(a) The private landowner transfers all access rights for the wildlife activities included in the WIA lease agreement for the agreement's term.
(b) WIA leases containing corridors to public land or water, or that are immediately adjacent to public land or water, transfer all access rights to cross through the WIA property to the division for the wildlife activities included in the WIA recreational lease agreement.
(c) Public access on a WIA property shall be by foot only, unless otherwise authorized by the private landowner.
(d) Public access on a WIA property does not authorize trespass on adjacent private lands or waters.
(4) The terms and provisions of the WIA recreational lease agreement may be formally amended in writing at any time upon the mutual agreement of the division and the private landowner.
R657-56-6. Walk-in Access Compensation.
(1) The amount of compensation paid to the private landowner may be determined by the:
(a) type of recreational activities allowed;
(b) duration of the recreational lease agreement;
(c) actual acreage of land or flat water, or length of stream or river which is legally allowed to be hunted, trapped, or fished; and
(d) quality of the habitat, location, species abundance or opportunities, and potential for public use.
(2)(a) Total compensation may be reduced or increased by the division based upon: (a) the type of recreational lease activities allowed:
(b) quality of public accessibility;
(c) number of consecutive years within an agreement;
(d) number of persons using the property;
(e) number of visits to the property per year by the public; and
(f) quality of the wildlife experience provided by the property.
(3) Final payment for an agreement which is terminated prior to the established expiration date, for which was given a higher rate of compensation due to the term length of the agreement, may be reduced according to the rate equivalent to the actual term length of the agreement.
(4)(a) Upon mutual agreement, the division may provide habitat improvement, materials, or labor on the WIA property in lieu of all or part of the monetary compensation otherwise due for free public walk-in access.
(b) If a habitat improvement project performed or funded by the division is used as compensation for a walk-in access agreement, the division will provide an evaluation of the property, a summary of the proposed project, and an estimated in-kind value estimate to the landowner.
(c) A habitat project proposal must be completed, reviewed, and approved through the Habitat Council, Blue Ribbon Fisheries Council, or the Watershed Restoration Initiative to qualify for use in the walk-in access program.
(d) The division and the private landowner must mutually agree to the use of a habitat project, its estimated cost, and in-kind value to be used as compensation for a WIA lease agreement.
(e) A private landowner that received habitat improvement, materials, or labor in lieu of compensation, who ends a WIA lease agreement prior to the compensatory conditions of the habitat project agreement being fulfilled, may be assessed the balance of the predetermined cost.
R657-56-7. Walk-in Access Program Private Landowner Responsibilities.
(1) Each WIA property with an active lease agreement must provide for the duration of the agreement:
(a) free public walk-in access for recreational lease activities described within the agreement;
(b) at least one designated and reasonable public access point to enter the property; and
(c) at least one designated and reasonable public parking area in close proximity to the access point.
(2) The private landowner is responsible to verify accuracy of their WIA property map, description, conditions and other details as displayed on the division's webpage and must report any inaccuracy immediately to the division.
R657-56-8. Walk-in Access Program Division Responsibilities.
(1) The division shall provide:
(a) an evaluation of the property prior to entering into a WIA agreement;
(b) an annual WIA authorization document which public users must obtain prior to entering WIA properties;
(c) a webpage displaying active properties, maps, authorized wildlife recreation activities, access points, designated parking areas, and special terms or conditions;
(d) WIA signage and adequate posting of signs as determined by the division; and
(e) discretionary law enforcement during seasons relative to the lease activities.
R657-56-9. Termination of Walk-in Access Recreational Lease Agreement.
(1) The WIA recreational lease agreement may be terminated with 30 days notice for any reason by either party.
(2) The WIA recreational lease agreement shall be terminated immediately upon:
(a) sale of any portion of the WIA property that is under lease;
(b) any change in ownership of a WIA property;
(c) misrepresentation, deceit, or fraud pertaining to the agreement or any of its provisions; or
(d) any uncured breach or default of the WIA recreation lease agreement.
(3) The WIA recreational lease agreement may be terminated immediately upon:
(a) unauthorized restriction of public use by the private landowner; or
(b) any habitat or property evaluation occurring within the term of the agreement indicating the property is no longer capable of supporting the recreational lease activities listed within the agreement.
(4) Agreements having been terminated prior to the term completion may be subject to reduced compensation, prorated according to the number of days recreational lease activities were prematurely ended.
R657-56-10. Liability Protection for Walk-in Access Private Landowner.
Private landowner liability may be limited when free public access is allowed on private property enrolled in the WIA program for the purpose of any recreational lease activities as provided in Title 57, Chapter 14, Limitations on Landowner Liability.
R657-56-11. Licenses, Permits, Seasons and Boundaries
(1) Any person hunting, trapping, or fishing must obtain and possess the valid and necessary licenses or permits while participating in those activities on a WIA property.
(2) Seasons and field regulations on WIA properties are consistent with the respective hunting and fishing guidebooks published by the division.
(3) Public access to a WIA property may be restricted during times of the year when there is not a hunting, trapping or fishing season for the wildlife recreational activities in the WIA lease agreement.
(4) Additional weapon type restrictions may be established for WIA properties and listed in the WIA recreational lease agreement and on the division's webpage.
(5) Special closures, restrictions or conditions regarding WIA properties shall be published on the division's website respective to each WIA property.
(6) Boundaries for WIA properties shall be provided on the division's website.
R657-56-12. Walk-in Access Authorization.
(1) Any person accessing a WIA property must obtain an annual WIA Authorization and be able to show proof of authorization while on any WIA property.
(2) WIA authorizations are available on the division's website and are valid for a one year period from the date issued.
(3) A WIA authorization grants access to WIA properties to participate in the wildlife recreational lease activities listed in the WIA lease agreements.
(4) A WIA authorization may grant access through an active WIA property to access other public land or water, or private land the person has legal right to enter.
(5) The WIA authorization document may be used to authorize individual public access, monitor usage and satisfaction rates and other purposes respective to wildlife-dependent recreation on WIA properties.
(6) An annual report or survey may be required for a person to obtain a WIA authorization.
R657-56-13. Right to Deny Access.
(1) The division reserves the right to deny public access to any WIA property or a portion thereof for any reason and without notice.
(2) The private landowner reserves the right to deny a member of the public access to the WIA property for the following causes:
(a) the member of the public being intoxicated;
(b) causing property damage or vandalism;
(c) violation of property use terms or conditions in the WIA lease agreement or this rule;
(d) failure to possess a WIA authorization;
(e) committing any wildlife violation or crime on the WIA property; or
(f) any situation reasonably deemed an emergency.
(3)(a) A private landowner may give verbal notice to a member of the public who is being restricted or denied public access under Subsection (2) and must immediately notify the division.
(b) The private landowner may not otherwise restrict, limit, or prohibit public access.
(4) The division may revoke a WIA authorization and prohibit access to WIA properties for a person who has committed a wildlife violation or other civil or criminal offense while on a WIA property.
R657-56-14. Prohibited Activities.
(1) It is unlawful for any person to access or use a WIA property in violation of the terms and conditions of the WIA recreational lease agreement, Title 23A Wildlife Resources Code of Utah, all rules and proclamations of the Wildlife Board.
(2) It is unlawful to refuse to leave a WIA property when requested by the private landowner, a division representative, or other peace officer.
(3) Any person accessing WIA property in violation of Subsections (1) or (2) may further be subject to criminal trespass prosecution as provided in Sections 23A-5-317 and 76-6-206.
R657-56-15. Effective Date and Prior WIA Lease Agreements.
(1) Amendments to this rule do not invalidate the terms of a valid WIA lease agreement, unless those terms are otherwise unlawful or unenforceable.
(2) Renewal of a WIA lease is contingent upon the private landowner agreeing and complying with the rule's terms in effect at the time the WIA lease renewal is executed.