Sportsmen stand behind land protection bill
Jan. 9, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Sportsmen stand behind land protection bill
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Hunters and anglers throughout the country support an omnibus public lands protection bill (S. 22) that, if passed, would safeguard dozens of hunting and fishing destinations important to sportsmen nationwide.
“This is a landmark natural resource conservation bill by any measure,” said Charles Gauvin, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, the nation’s largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. “Quite simply, it would protect some of the best places we visit to hunt and fish, and allow us to share our sporting heritage with our children and our grandchildren. I stand with my fellow sportsmen and ask Congress to move swiftly to pass this vital bill.”
Unfortunately, the bill, which would protect places like the Wyoming Range and the proposed Copper-Salmon Wilderness in southwestern Oregon, among others, has opposition. U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has vocally opposed this bill, calling it wasteful and unnecessary. Unfortunately, Sen. Coburn is using erroneous information to discredit the bill.
For example, Coburn claims the Wyoming Range Legacy Act—part of the omnibus package—would take 8.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 300 million barrels of oil out of prospective production. In fact, according to the U.S. Geologic Survey, the range harbors only 1.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 5 million barrels of oil—resources that would be burned through in less than a month of American consumption. Moreover, the bill allows for directional drilling to tap those resources regardless. The bill, incidentally, would not stop any ongoing production of gas or oil, and leaseholders in the Wyoming Range would have the option of selling their leases to conservation interests. The Congressional Budget Office has declared the Wyoming Range Legacy Act a “cost neutral” bill, meaning it wouldn’t cost taxpayers anything to protect it.
“This is a very special place in need of protection,” said Tom Reed, a Trout Unlimited field coordinator who works with sportsmen. “It’s home to trophy mule deer and elk herds, as well as the West’s largest herd of moose. Just as important, the Wyoming Range is home to three separate subspecies of cutthroat trout—it’s a fishing paradise that’s unmatched anywhere else in the West.
“Sportsmen have worked hard to get the state’s Republican delegation behind this bill, and our Democratic governor is supporting it as well,” Reed continued. “To hear Sen. Coburn from Oklahoma blast the Wyoming Range Legacy Act as wasteful is disheartening, particularly to the hunters and anglers who know and use the area. Some of them are even from Oklahoma.”
The Copper-Salmon Wilderness Act, also included in the larger bill, would set aside 13,700 acres of headwater habitat along the Elk River, one of the best coastal steelhead and salmon streams in the Northwest. By protecting the headwaters of the Elk River, which are still largely intact, the act would fortify a trophy recreational and commercial fishery vital to the community of Port Orford, Ore.
“This is a unique bill in that sportsmen led the way to getting it introduced,” said Mike Beagle, a TU field coordinator based in Medford, Ore. “All along, it’s been the local fishing community lobbying Congress, and convincing lawmakers to do the right thing and protect this place in the interest of keeping it a viable fishing destination in our state. It would be a shame to lose this momentum because of Sen. Coburn’s efforts to derail the larger bill.”
The omnibus bill also includes legislation that would permanently protect the National Landscape Conservation System, a network of highly valuable public lands of acute interest to anglers and hunters. Included in that system is the famed Gunnison Gorge in Colorado, one of the best trophy trout fisheries in the West, and the Steens Mountain region, an irreplaceable hunting and fishing destination in eastern Oregon.
Sen. Coburn’s efforts to sink the bill could also impact an important wilderness proposal in the headwaters of the West Walker River in California. U.S. Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and others in the state have worked for several years to carve out a compromise that would designate as wilderness more than 450,000 acres of land stretching from the West Walker River headwaters just north of Yosemite to Los Angeles County. The West Walker headwaters portion of the bill would add about 40,000 acres of high-country fish and game habitat to the Hoover Wilderness, and is riddled with mountain lakes bursting with wild trout. It’s also excellent deer and upland game bird habitat.
The California bill would also designate land important to hunters and anglers in other parts of the Eastern Sierra and in the San Gabriel Mountains as wilderness, and give three stretches of the upper Owens River and Piru Creek Wild and Scenic designations—both streams are renowned trout fisheries.
“This is legacy legislation for California’s sportsmen and women,” said Sam Davidson, California field director for TU. “The bill ensures that lots of good, wild country won’t get trashed by development or over-use, and that our kids and grandchildren will have the same opportunities to fish and hunt these lands that we do today.”
Sportsmen and their allies in the conservation community also support of a number of other noteworthy provisions in the omnibus bill, including the Secure Water program, the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, the West Virginia Wilderness proposal, and the Owyhee Public Land Management program in Idaho. All of these have great fish and wildlife conservation merit, and have been developed in a bipartisan manner.
“This bill is hugely important to sportsmen throughout the country, and it deserves to be considered based on its merits,” Gauvin said. “It’s one thing to oppose the bill, but quite another to use bad information to try to torpedo one of the most important conservation efforts in recent history. I hope Congress will disregard the attacks on the bill and give it due consideration. America’s sportsmen and women will be most grateful.”
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization, boasting over 140,000 members from coast to coast. TU’s mission is to Protect, Reconnect, Restore and Sustain trout and salmon habitat in the United States.