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This Utah hiking video could soon be illegal

Published February 23, 2012 7:48 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If you've done much hiking in Utah you've probably stepped in something stickier and more odorous than red dirt.

Plenty of trails cross public grazing land. In October, I hiked one such trail in the La Sal Mountains near Moab. This cow in the attached photograph stood beside a marker and made for a great fall picture. Some other range cattle made it into the embedded video.

If I take the same photo and video this summer, I could be looking at a year in jail.

HB187 would make it a Class A misdemeanor to photograph livestock, crops or orchards without the owner's consent. The bill has already been passed by a committee in the Utah Legislature. HB187 is now before the entire House.

According to an article in the Herald Journal, the bill is an attempt to thwart PETA and other animals rights groups which have attempted to document the mistreatment of animals. But the bill makes no distinction between people photographing from private or public property or the photographer's intent.

Of course, hikers are more likely to hit the trail to photograph a bighorn sheep than they are a domesticated sheep, or would prefer to video the kind of cow with antlers rather than the kind that will wind up as steaks and hamburgers. But, if HB187 becomes law in Utah, hikers better hope nothing with a brand or ear tag sneaks into that nature photo.

What do you think? Is HB187 good law? Does it just need tweaked? Am I the only one who has ever bothered to photograph a cow on a hiking trail?

Update: A reader correctly pointed out the bill says the photographer must be on the farmer or rancher's property for taking pictures to be illegal. But that doesn't completely clarify the matter. I am no attorney but have read some statutes and the statute defining "property" is vague when you consider many ranchers buy permits to graze on public land. For that matter, there are some public trails with easements onto private property.

Update on the update: Here's what a real attorney says about the bill.

— Nate Carlisle

Twitter: @UtahHikes