July 11, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
TU applauds Schwarzenegger’s action to protect California’s roadless backcountry
Petition asks U.S. Department of Agriculture to permanently protect 4.4 million acres of land from new road building and logging
SACRAMENTO—Trout Unlimited on Tuesday lauded Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture asking for full protection of California’s inventoried roadless areas, a move that will help ensure quality fishing and hunting in the Golden State for future generations.
“The governor has recognized that roadless areas are critically important to water quality, fish and game habitat, as well as fishing and hunting opportunities,” said Sam Davidson, TU’s California field coordinator. “California’s anglers and hunters depend on unspoiled land and clean water for fishing and hunting. California’s roadless backcountry is the last, best stronghold for native trout and the source of our state’s clean water. Protecting this land now means our children and grandchildren can enjoy the same fishing and hunting experiences as we do today.”
Schwarzenegger’s petition asks the USDA to set aside the 4.4 million acres of national forest inventoried roadless land in California from new road building, logging and development. The petition cites public health, clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, and the unique recreational benefits afforded by these lands. The petition, coupled with the governor’s new appeal of four separate Southern California forest management plans that leave large tracts of roadless land unprotected, further cements Schwarzenegger’s commitment to open country and quality fishing and hunting opportunities in the state.
“The governor’s proposal maintains the status quo in the state of California, and preserves backcountry access for fishing and hunting,” said John Regan, president of the California Council of Trout Unlimited. “No one wants to see these backcountry areas trashed, and this management approach will make sure they aren’t.”
Inventoried roadless areas are lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service. These areas often include numerous trails and even off-road vehicle routes but no designated, federal-standard roads. Scientific studies have shown that road building and maintenance that regularly takes place to support logging in national forests cause adverse impacts on water quality, fish habitat, wildlife populations and behavior, and on the quality of hunting and fishing in the area.
“Several of California’s native trout species are imperiled and survive only in streams whose water quality and stream channel structure are protected by roadless lands,” said Chuck Bonham, director of TU programs in California. “These include California’s state fish, the golden trout, which is limited to the headwaters of the Kern River watershed, and the Paiute cutthroat trout, the rarest trout in the world, which lives only in Silver King Creek.”
Roadless areas have substantial economic as well as ecological value. Recreational fishing contributes more than $2 billion annually to California’s economy, while hunting brings more than $315 million per year into state coffers. Some of California’s most famous steelhead (ocean-going rainbow trout) streams, such as the Middle Eel River, have healthy fisheries and popular angling because their headwaters are cushioned from development by roadless backcountry.
Davidson noted that many California rivers originate in high-mountain roadless areas, and protecting their headwaters from the adverse effects of roads and other development is a logical action if the state wants to ensure good water quality for downstream users.
“The governor’s petition honors California’s unique sporting heritage,” said Davidson. “Protecting our few remaining roadless areas directly benefits native fish and wildlife, opportunities for hunting and fishing, and drinking water.”
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization, with over 170,000 members nationwide and 17,000 in California.