Dec. 11, 2006
Contact: Kathleen Frangione, (703) 284-9427
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Congress Fulfills Trout Unlimited’s Holiday Wish List
Last-Minute Votes Lead to Public Land Protections and Funding for Cleanup of Abandoned Mines
ARLINGTON, Va. – In the waning hours of the 109th Congress, budget negotiations helped deliver a few surprising holiday gifts to all those Americans who enjoy the outdoors.
“Congress came through on three of our top legislative priorities,” said Steve Moyer, TU Vice President for Government Affairs. “Countless hours of volunteer and staff advocacy efforts really paid off, guaranteeing protection for some of our most treasured wild places and promoting restoration and economic development opportunities in Appalachian communities.”
In the waning hours of the legislative session, the U.S. Senate joined the House of Representatives in approving the reauthorization of the Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund (AML Fund), which will fund the cleanup of abandoned coal mines over the next 15 years.
“Abandoned mines are one of the greatest environmental and economic scars on the Appalachian landscape,” said Amy Wolfe, Director of TU’s Abandoned Mine Program. “Over the past 30 years, the AML fund has enabled the restoration of hundreds of miles of Appalachian rivers that have been rendered lifeless by coal mining. Thanks to the leadership of Senators Byrd, Specter, and Santorum and Representative Peterson, the extension of this funding will assure that this good work will continue far into the future.”
The same bill also contained legislation that permanently protects the Rocky Mountain Front from future oil and gas drilling. The Front is home to robust populations of west slope cutthroat trout, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, wolves, grizzlies and other wildlife. It’s the last place in the country where grizzly bears wander the foothills between the mountains and prairie, and its value to those who hunt and fish is immeasurable.
“Montanans have long recognized that the Front is a truly wild, special place,” said Dave Stalling, a TU field organizer who helped with efforts to protect the Front on behalf of Montana anglers and hunters. “Local citizens and conservation organizations have worked diligently, for many years, to protect the Front from future drilling, and Senators Baucus and Burns deserve a lot of the credit for making it happen.”
These two pieces of legislation followed on the heels of last month’s passage of a bill that sets aside the Valle Vidal from gas and oil exploration and drilling. The Valle Vidal, a vast, stretch of wild land near the state’s northern border with Colorado, is home to some of the state’s strongest populations of increasingly rare Rio Grande cutthroat trout, as well as New Mexico’s storied elk herd that supports a once-in-a-lifetime hunt.
“This is a huge day for anglers and hunters in New Mexico,” said Bill Schudlich, chairman of the New Mexico Council of Trout Unlimited, following the Senate’s approval of the bill. “To be able to set aside an area with so much value to sportsmen in our state is absolutely priceless. To know that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the Valle Vidal, much like we enjoy it today is wonderful—the outcome couldn’t have been better.”
- 30 -