Wilderness, water bills get House approval

Tue, 03/24/2009

Wilderness, water bills get House approval

March 25, 2009


Sam Davidson, (831) 235-2542


Wilderness, water bills get House approval
Sportsmen celebrate protection of invaluable fish and game habitat

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, the bill that sportsmen around the country have called the most important habitat conservation measure in the last 25 years. The final vote in favor of the measure was 285-140.

The omnibus lands bill contains legislation designating 450,000 acres of public lands in California as wilderness and segments of several rivers as wild and scenic.  Sportsmen applauded the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Mountains Wild Heritage Act, one of the more than 150 bills in the omnibus act, as being particularly important for keeping habitat intact and preserving access for fishing and hunting in California. The bill also provides for vital water conservation and river restoration projects to get under way in the Golden State.

“This is legacy legislation for California’s anglers and hunters,” said Sam Davidson, Trout Unlimited’s California field director. “Rep. McKeon and Sen. Boxer, in particular, have listened to sportsmen in this state and have crafted their bill to protect some of our best remaining public lands habitat and to keep our hunting and angling traditions alive.”

The lands act permanently protects from development the headwaters of the Owens and West Walker rivers, two of the state’s best trout streams. These headwaters harbor dozens of alpine lakes and creeks offering excellent backcountry fishing and spectacular scenery. The act also protects stream flows and water quality in Piru Creek, one of the few designated wild trout streams in Southern California.

The lands act protects productive deer and upland bird habitat and preserves access for hunting in the X12, D-11, and other deer zones. The X deer hunting zones are the source of the largest mule deer taken in California, while the D-11 zone abuts the greater Los Angles urban area and offers the closest public lands deer hunting for many Southern Californians.

Also included in the omnibus legislation is a bill that implements the San Joaquin River Settlement, which provides for a return of river flows in the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam and for eventual restoration of salmon and steelhead to this part of the river. 

“With many salmon and steelhead populations in decline or on the verge of total collapse,” said TU’s Davidson, “we need to protect and restore all waters which are historic habitat for California’s native trout and salmon.  Thanks to Sen. Feinstein's leadership on the San Joaquin, water users and fish conservationists will be working together to bring salmon back to the river.”

Davidson added, “We’re fortunate in California to have places where sportsmen and women still can go and experience world-class fishing and hunting, without paying special fees for access, and many of the best of these places were protected today, thanks to Rep. McKeon, Sens. Boxer and Feinstein, and the other far-sighted members of Congress who voted for this bill.”

Trout Unlimited is a private, non-profit organization with more than 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. 

Date: 3/25/2009


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