Loa Fish Hatchery funding, boating registration updates, and other wildlife-related laws passed during 2023 legislative session
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Rainbow trout fish stocking at Jordanelle Reservoir

Correction

A previous version of this news release stated that both the boater registration fee and the aquatic invasive species fee could be paid at the DMV. That has been updated to show that only the boater registration fee can be paid at the DMV — the AIS fee can be paid on the DWR website.

Loa Fish Hatchery funding, boating registration updates, and other wildlife-related laws passed during 2023 legislative session

Salt Lake City — A lot of bills were passed during the 2023 legislative session, and March 23 was the deadline for Gov. Spencer Cox to sign or veto them. There were several bills related to wildlife management that were signed into law this legislative session — here are just a few to know about.

Rainbow trout fish stocking at Jordanelle Reservoir

SB2 New Fiscal Year Supplemental Appropriations Act

Under this funding appropriation, the state received $56.8 million, which was needed to rebuild the Loa Fish Hatchery. The hatchery closed in November 2014 after it was infested by the New Zealand mudsnail, an invasive species. The original hatchery was built in 1936, and due to the age of the raceways and deterioration of the facility, removing the snails wasn't effective. The hatchery had to be closed to prevent the spread of the snails through fish stocking.

Over 1.1 million pounds of fish are raised and stocked in Utah annually, and the Loa Fish Hatchery historically had the capacity to produce the most trout of any of the state's 13 fish hatcheries. Its closure decreased fish production and stocking throughout Utah and put a strain on the other remaining hatcheries.

"Reconstruction of Utah's Loa Fish Hatchery will help provide the additional fish-rearing space needed to redistribute production, improve hatchery fish-rearing conditions and meet the annual angling demands for healthy, stockable fish," DWR Fish Culture Coordinator Roger Mellethin said. "A rebuild on the same site will allow us to take advantage of the area's remarkable local springs and build a cost-effective, secure hatchery that produces 350,000 pounds of fish annually, while returning clean water to the nearby Fremont River. The reopening of this hatchery will benefit the local economy by providing jobs in Wayne County and also by improving fishing in Utah."

This new law goes into effect May 3.

SB112 Aquatic Invasive Species Amendments

This bill made a few administrative updates to boating fees in Utah. Previously, boaters could pay their boat registration fee and their aquatic invasive species fee in the same payment and through the same process. However, in an effort to address fee-collection issues, this new legislation will require boat owners to pay their boat registration fee through the Utah Division of Motor Vehicles and then to separately pay the aquatic invasive species fee online, resulting in two separate proof-of-registration stickers. Boaters will be able to pay the aquatic invasive species fee on the DWR website.

The aquatic invasive species funds are used to help prevent quagga mussels from spreading from Lake Powell to other Utah waterbodies.

This new legislation also requires boaters who live in Utah to take the annual quagga mussel awareness course, which can be found on the STD of the Sea website. Previously, the education course was only required for non-resident boaters.

This new law will go into effect July 1.

HB237 Hunting Mentor Amendments

Many limited-entry and once-in-a-lifetime hunting permits in Utah take years to successfully draw out or may only happen "once in a lifetime," as the permit name indicates. Under this new law, an individual who is being mentored by an immediate family member on a limited-entry or once-in-a-lifetime hunt can still take advantage of that hunting permit if the mentor dies prior to the hunt.

This new law goes into effect May 3.

HB341 Electronic Stamp Designation

In addition to having a hunting license, anyone hunting waterfowl in Utah is required to have a Harvest Information Program (HIP) number, and those 16 years of age or older are required to also have a federal duck stamp. Previously, duck stamps could only be purchased from a local post office, various license agents or by phone. This new law authorizes the DWR to sell duck stamps online on the DWR website, in order to make the transaction easier for hunters. The fee for an electronic duck stamp is $30.

Federal duck stamps help fund wildlife conservation across the U.S., with 98% of the purchase fee going directly to help acquire and protect wetland habitat and purchase conservation easements for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

This new law goes into effect May 3.

HB469 Wildlife Related Amendments

This new law makes a few wildlife-related rule changes including:

  • Cougar hunting: Allows year-round hunting of cougars with just a hunting or combination license and also now allows trapping of cougars. Cougars will still be designated as protected wildlife and will still need to be checked in at a DWR office so biologists can monitor harvest rates and determine the effects of this new hunting strategy.
  • Trail camera use: Prohibits the use of trail cameras on public lands from July 31 through Dec. 31. There are exceptions for the DWR and its partners for monitoring or research, land-management agencies that are conducting their regular duties, agricultural operators who are monitoring livestock depredation, or municipalities enrolled in the urban deer program. This new rule allows the use of non-live transmitting trail cameras for hunting on private properties.
  • Hunting with air rifles: Allows hunters to use air rifles to harvest turkeys during the fall hunts and also cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares. The air rifle must be pressurized at a minimum of 2,000 pounds per square inch from an external high-compression device or source.
  • Regulating hunting guides: Clarifies when the Division of Professional Licensing is to refuse to issue, refuse to renew, or revoke a registration related to hunting guides and outfitters. It also specifies that DOPL must inform the DWR when a license has been revoked.
  • CWMU rule changes: Updates the rules for Cooperative Wildlife Management Units.
  • Wildlife Land and Water Acquisition Program: Creates a program and provides $1 million in funding annually so the DWR may lease or acquire land or water assets that will be used to protect and enhance wildlife populations; provide the public the opportunity to hunt, trap or fish; and to conserve, protect and enhance wildlife habitat.
  • Fee increases: Increases the non-resident application fee by $1 and also increases the Dedicated Hunter buyout hours to $40 per hour.

The DWR is still working through updating their rules to reflect these changes. This new law goes into effect May 3.

SB8 State agency fees and internal service fund rate authorization and appropriations

In August 2022, the Utah Wildlife Board approved a fee increase for hunting and fishing licenses and permits — for both residents and non-residents — in an effort to keep up with increased rising costs of operation. The legislature also passed this fee increase during the legislative session. License and permit fees fund most of the daily operations of the DWR. The DWR is currently 92% self-funded and receives only limited funding from the state's General Fund, which is appropriated for specific issues that impact all Utahns. Prior to this change, the last substantive fee increase for resident licenses was in 2014, and the last fee increase for non-resident licenses was in 2020.

This new bill will go into effect July 1.

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