Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke address attendees at the Sportsmen Access Ramp-Up Summit in Washington, D.C. Courtesy @SecretaryZinke on Twitter
By Keith Curley
Trout Unlimited recently accepted an invitation from the Department of Interior and attended the Sportsmen Access Ramp-Up Summit in Washington, D.C.
While the title of the meeting emphasized access, Greg Sheehan—the new Principal Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—highlighted the essential relationship between access and the “availability of the resource.” In other words, the healthy habitat and clean water needed to sustain a fishery worth accessing in the first place.
Sheehan came to the position from Utah where he had been serving as the Director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. His work in Utah included a partnership between Trout Unlimited and the state to create the Utah Cutthroat Slam.
In the room were representatives of numerous hunting and fishing organizations and sister agencies like the U.S. Forest Service. Various ideas for improving access were floated by attendees, many of them reiterations of the importance of proven programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Farm Bill’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program.
The Department of the Interior has massive responsibilities when it comes to conservation stewardship and outdoor recreation. Its agencies manage millions of acres of public lands, and administer critical conservation programs like the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program, Fish Passage Program, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, and National Fish Habitat Partnership.
By leveraging these programs, TU has been able to bring native brook trout back to once-dead streams in the Appalachian coal fields, increase in-stream flows through innovative approaches to irrigation, reconnect thousands of miles of habitat, and work with private landowners to fence out livestock and restore streams on hundreds of farms across the country.
The meeting was one of the first opportunities to engage with the Department of Interior’s new leadership and discuss how they can work with partners to fulfill commitments to America’s hunters and anglers. As these discussions continue, we encourage you to join us in advocating for the kind of habitat protections and conservation programs that we need to achieve our mission. Visit the Stand Up with Trout Unlimited action page for more information.
Keith Curley is the vice president for Eastern Conservation.