Big day for public lands, big day for anglers

Today was a big day for public lands. 

A major package of bills protecting hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands and providing permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund passed the House today with a vote of 363-62.

The vote was a swift and bi-partisan action by both the House and Senate to advance the Natural Resources Management Act, a package of more than 100 lands bills, was celebrated by sportsmen and women. 

“The good that has been done with today’s vote will reach communities across the country," said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. "For all those who love these places, who worry about what will become of them, your moment of peace that comes with protection is almost here. Today is truly a day for a sportsman's heart to feel full.” 

While there were some concessions for sportsmen such as provisions concerning provisions related to land allotments in Alaska, which we believe run counter to the spirit and intent of Alaska’s original Allotment Act and will unnecessarily fragment and privatize important federal public lands in Alaska. It also did not provide permanent funding for LWCF. However, the bill was, by in large, a win for anglers. The Natural Resources Management Act includes highlights such as: 

  • The Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Designation Act protects some 100,000 acres on Steamboat Creek, an important spawning tributary of the North Umpqua River used by wild summer steelhead and spring Chinook.    
  • The Oregon Wildlands Act designates more than 250 new miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, in iconic fisheries like the Rogue, Chetco, Elk, and Molalla basins, and creates new wilderness in the Devil’s Staircase area east of Reedsport.    

  • Methow Headwaters Protection Act places 340,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in the Upper Methow Valley off limits to large-scale mining. This much-needed measure is critical to protect crucial coldwater habitat for rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, bull trout, mountain whitefish, Chinook salmon, and steelhead.    

  • The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act prohibits new mining claims at the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park. Fisheries in the area include the North Fork of Sixmile Creek drainage, which supports an important population of native Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout, as well as headwater streams that feed the Yellowstone River, a world renown blue ribbon trout river.   

  • The California Desert Protection and Recreation Act better protects some 76 miles of streams, including segments of Deep Creek, which provides a rare opportunity for freshwater fishing in Southern California and is one of the region’s few designated Wild Trout streams. The Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River designations conferred by this bill will safeguard and enhance important habitat for fish and other species, fishing and other recreational opportunities, and sources of drinking water for downstream communities.  

  • Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Act includes federal authorizations needed to advance the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, a balanced package of actions that will restore hundreds of thousands of salmon and steelhead to the basin, improve water quality and quantity, and support a healthy agricultural and recreational economy. The Plan was agreed upon by a diverse coalition of conservation groups, irrigators, farmers, sportsmen and women, local, state, and federal governments and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. 

  • The Cerros del Norte Conservation Act designates areas within New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte National Monument as wilderness areas.  The Rio San Antonio Wilderness area (8,120 acres) and the Cerro Del Yuta Wilderness area (13,240 acres) will benefit public land conservation and local economies. 

Additionally, this legislation also includes measures to reinvigorate the nation’s Conservation Corps and to promote access to public lands and the outdoors (Every Kid Outdoors Act).  

From here the bill will be sent to the President’s desk to be signed in to law. 

“This bill is a tribute to the power of collaborative stewardship where communities of place and interest come together to protect and preserve the places they live and the rivers they love to fish,” Wood said. “There is more work to follow, and our efforts to protect and restore the lands and waters that we cherish is never done, but today is a day to celebrate.  We offer our true thanks to our members of Congress and their staff who worked hard to advance this historic agreement, and we celebrate the hard work of sportsmen and women in our efforts to protect these special places across the country.” 



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