The Appellate Group

Utah Stream Access Coalition

Utah Stream Access Coalition, 2023 UT 9 (Durrant, C.J.)

Civil Procedure

The Utah Stream Access Coalition (USAC) is a public interest group seeking to preserve recreational access to Utah rivers and streams. On remand after a prior appeal, the district court granted summary judgement to VR Acquisitions because it concluded that USAC had not shown a historical legal basis for the easement on which it relied and therefore could not meet the standard the Utah Supreme Court had articulated. USAC appealed. The Utah Supreme Court affirmed, holding:

  • Summary judgment was appropriate, because the district court did not rely on any disputed facts for its decision.
  • The district court properly determined that USAC did not make the required threshold showing, because USAC cannot identify an affirmative, 19-century legal basis for the type of easement it claimed existed.
  • Practice Tip: The court appears to reason that a private right is stronger than a public right: “without a legal basis for an easement, the public’s right to fish cannot trump private individuals’ rights to exclude people from trespassing on their property.” If arguing for a particular policy point, practitioners should frame rights as individual rights as opposed to public rights to maximize their strength.

Read the full court opinion