About State Lands

Photo of wetlands in Utah

The State of Utah recognizes and declares that the beds of navigable waters within the state are owned by the state and are among the basic resources of the state, and that there exists, and has existed since statehood, a public trust over and upon the beds of these waters. It is also recognized that the public health, interest, safety and welfare require that all uses on, beneath or above the beds of navigable lakes and streams of the state be regulated, so that the protection of navigation, fish and wildlife habitat, aquatic beauty, public recreation and water quality will be given due consideration and balanced against the navigational or economic necessity or justification for, or benefit to be derived from, any proposed use.

The Equal Footing Doctrine serves as the basis for Utah’s claim to fee title ownership of sovereign lands (more widely known as submerged lands). The Equal Footing Doctrine is a principle of Constitutional law that requires that states admitted to the Union after 1789 be admitted as equals to the Original Thirteen Colonies in terms of power, rights, and sovereignty including sovereign rights over submerged lands. The Utah Enabling Act, enacted by the U.S. Congress on July 16, 1894, officially declared Utah as a state “to be admitted to the Union on an equal footing with the original States.”

The Utah State Legislature has designated the Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands as the executive authority for the management of sovereign lands, and the state’s mineral estates on lands other than school and institutional trust lands. Sovereign lands are defined by the Utah State Legislature as “those lands lying below the ordinary high water mark of navigable bodies of water at the date of statehood and owned by the state by virtue of its sovereignty.”

The State of Utah manages the following as sovereign lands:

Bear Lake (Utah portion)
Great Salt Lake
Utah Lake
Bear River (portions)
Colorado River (portions)
Green River (portions)
Jordan River
Moab Exchange Lands


Title 65A. Forestry, Fire, and State Lands

Administrative Rule

Title R652. Natural Resources; Forestry, Fire & State Lands