Faith Jolly, the public information officer for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said there are five new laws that take effect this year people interested in the outdoors should be aware of.
“Here are some bills Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law this legislative session that impact wildlife and outdoor recreation in Utah that you should know about,” Heaton said. “First, boaters must remove their drain plugs in order to help prevent the spread of aquatic species, like quagga mussels, which have infested Lake Powell.”
HB 225, which goes into effect July 1, is a boat fee amendment bill with several changes boaters should be aware of, including a $20 fee for non-resident boaters who launch a watercraft on any body of water in Utah.
The new law also requires all boat owners to complete an online Utah Division of Wildlife Resources education course about preventing the spread of quagga mussels, and to show proof of the course completion before they launch at a Utah waterbody.
The new law requires anyone transporting a boat on a Utah highway, public road, street, bridge or other public-use structure, to remove all drain plugs from the boat and to drain all water from live wells, bilges, ballast tanks or other similar compartments on the watercraft.
All boats must be transported with all drain plugs removed. Anyone who fails to do so could be cited with a class C misdemeanor.
The law also directs the DWR to study options and feasibility of implementing an automated system that can scan, photograph and provide real-time information about when a boat last entered a Utah waterbody and when the boat was last decontaminated.
HCR 24: Concurrent Resolution on Quagga Mussels, is a resolution that acknowledges the importance of keeping quagga mussels from spreading from Lake Powell to other Utah waterbodies.
HB125 is a predator management bill authorizing the DWR director to take immediate action (under certain conditions) when a big game population is under the established herd-size objective for a management unit.
Under this new legislation, DWR biologists will draft management strategy to decrease the number of specific predator species in certain parts of the state. The predator species that prey on big game populations, such as deer and elk, include cougars, bears and coyotes.
New data from GPS collars helps DWR biologists determine the cause of death for many species. When biologists determine that predators are preventing the growth of big game populations, when big game populations are below their management objectives, or when several other conditions exist, the predator-management strategies will be implemented.
“Predator control may allow a suppressed, low-density deer population to increase,” DWR Game Mammals Coordinator Darren DeBloois said. “These predator-management strategies will only be considered when bighorn sheep populations are under 90% of their management objectives and/or have fewer than 125 individuals in a herd, when a deer population is being suppressed by predators, and when large population declines for big game occur or are anticipated.”
HCR 13 is a resolution that acknowledges the importance of wildlife migration corridors and promotes increasing wildlife and motorist safety in these areas.
From 1992 to 2005, the Utah Highway Patrol reported to the Utah Department of Transportation that there were 30,500 wildlife-vehicle collisions, most of which involved deer, elk and moose. There were over 2,000 reported injuries and 18 reported deaths due to wildlife-vehicle collisions.
Utah and other states have implemented wildlife crossing areas on roadways which have reduced vehicle-wildlife collisions by 40-9o percent.
The resolution also encourages state and local governments to adopt policies to protect and restore fish and wildlife connectivity and migration corridors and to promote road safety.
HB 233, created the Utah Natural Resources Legacy Fund, helps support non-game wildlife species in the state by providing funding for research, monitoring and management actions to reduce the likelihood of future species listings under the Endangered Species Act.
“We are confident that these bills, among others, will help us in our mission to effectively manage Utah’s wildlife,” DWR Director Mike Fowlks said.