Monday, November 7, 2011

Conservation Update: Progress

For all those interested in conservation, particularly here in the West, here's a quick update on some recent progress hunters and anglers are making on the ground, even though things in Congress remain gridlocked.

Pine Forest Range tiger trout.
  • The Pine Forest Wilderness Act of 2011: After working with landowners, county commissioners and the state Legislature, anglers and hunters were able to convince U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, and the rest of the Nevada delegation, to introduce this important bill that will protect much of the pristine Pine Forest Range in northwest Nevada in perpetuity. But, like all good legislation these days, there was some considerable compromise. First, some land presently designated as wilderness study areas will be released from that restrictive management. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing--some of this land really doesn't meet wilderness criteria and is in need of reclamation from fires and noxious weed infestations. But the best of the best in the Pine Forest Range, including Blue Lakes at the top of the mountains, will be protected just like they are today for future generations. Why is that important? Just take a look at this photo ... that's a sweet tiger trout caught in Blue Lakes, less than a mile of easy walking from the trailhead. 
  • The 10th Circuit Court, just like the 9th Circuit Court has already done twice, reinstated the 2001 Roadles Rule, which protects nearly 50 million acres of backcountry fish and game habitat from coast to coast. Sportsmen all over America have worked to keep this rule intact, and, despite a number of back-and-forth contests in the courts, they're remained steadfast. As I've often said, the best fishing and hunting begins where the road ends. In order to protect the best of what's left of America, this rule should remain in place.
  • The Senate introduced a bipartisan bill that would deal with renewable energy projects on public lands in a way that's more equitable to the people on the ground, where these projects would occur. This means companies interested in public land for wind farms, solar fields or geothermal projects would have to bid in a competitive leasing process, much like the process that exists today for oil and gas drilling. The big difference, though, is that some money from the lease sale would be earmarked for fish and game mitigation and conservation programs to reduce the environmental impacts the projects can have on land belonging to every American. There's some push-back on this bill right now, especially from those on the left who claim the bill makes it too easy to develop energy on public lands. My first answer to that claim is that renewable energy is, by far, inherently cleaner than oil and gas drilling operations, and it's important to our future as we work to gain some sense of energy independence. Second, this is domestic energy, not foreign energy. Third, the leasing process and the conservation fund make this much more attractive than the difficult process in place now that often requires the states to declare imminent domain and essentially commandeer public lands for these projects. And, there's no fund for conservation. It's a good bill with support in both parties. That's rare these days.
 If you have the chance, and the inclination, drop your representatives in Congress (House, Senate) a line and let them know that you support the Pine Forest Wilderness Act and the bipartisan Renewable Energy act. Both are good, common-sense pieces of legislation supported (and, in the case of the Pine Forest bill, crafted) by sportsmen and women. What's more, they're both bipartisan, proof that conservation doesn't have to political if you can seek out common ground.

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