July 25, 2006
Contact: Sam Davidson, (831) 235-2542, firstname.lastname@example.org
SALINAS-Trout Unlimited on Tuesday commended the House of Representatives for passing the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Act, saying the bill will provide better protection for at-risk salmon and steelhead populations, as well as for high quality fishing opportunities.
TU praised Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), architect of the bill, for his leadership and commitment to protecting California's fish and game. "Congressman Thompson has demonstrated that he is a champion for sportsmen," said Sam Davidson, TU's California Field Coordinator. "The lands protected under this legislation are very important to trout and salmon, and to the rural communities whose economies depend on hunting and fishing."
Recreational fishing contributes more than $2 billion annually to California's economy, while hunting brings more than $315 million per year into state coffers.
Davidson said the bill's enhanced protection for the Middle Eel and Black Butte rivers will benefit significant salmon and steelhead (ocean-going rainbow trout) fisheries. According to the US Forest Service, which manages these waters as they run through the Mendocino National Forest, both rivers are important spawning and rearing areas for salmon and steelhead listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
TU also lauded House Resources Committee chairman Richard Pombo for enabling the Thompson bill to pass out of committee with few changes. However, Chuck Bonham, TU's Senior Attorney and Director of California Programs, said a late amendment to the bill mandating that roads "cherry-stemmed" into the Wilderness be kept open permanently for motorized access is troubling. "TU agrees that existing, authorized roads in national forests should be properly maintained and kept open if they do not adversely affect fish and game values," said Bonham. "But roads can be harmful to fish and game. We should not be eliminating an oversight agency's authority to manage roads, especially where they may affect critical habitat."
The new legislation honors California's sporting heritage. "Some of the best hunting and fishing in California are found in designated Wilderness," said Davidson. "Protecting this land now means our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the same fishing and hunting experiences as we do today." Wilderness areas offer primitive, non-motorized experiences preferred by traditional sportsmen, Davidson added.