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Congress Advances Public Lands Measure Via Defense Bill

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While not without shortcomings, the first significant public lands package in five years
conserves vital fish and wildlife habitat in the Intermountain West
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While not without shortcomings, the first significant public lands package in five years
conserves vital fish and wildlife habitat in the Intermountain West
Members, remember to log in to view the rest of this post.
WASHINGTON – The first significant public lands package in five years won passage in the U.S. Senate this afternoon, earning praise from sportsmen for measures conserving important fish and wildlife habitat in the Intermountain West even as they sharply criticized other parts of the bill.
Attached to the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, the public lands component includes the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, North Fork Watershed Protection Act, Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act and Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act, measures beneficial to sportsmen’s access that enable the permanent protection of hundreds of thousands of acres of key fish and wildlife habitat.
The House voted to advance NDAA last week.
“The nearly 100 public lands bills in the National Defense Authorization Act are, taken in whole, beneficial to sportsmen’s access and conserve hundreds of thousands of acres of valuable habitat for fish and game,” said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh. “Many of these measures are the results of collaboration with local hunters and anglers. While not every bill was crafted as we would prefer, the overall package is a win for outdoor enthusiasts.”
The lands package would designate nearly 250,000 acres of wilderness in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Washington; create special management areas and preclude mineral development on hundreds of thousands of additional acres; and protect approximately 140 miles of rivers.
Measures drawing criticism include the Grazing Improvement Act, which would streamline drilling and grazing permits and privatize thousands of federal acres for mining and logging, and a land swap that would transfer ownership of 2,400 acres of national forest land in Arizona to Resolution Copper, which plans to develop the third-largest copper ore mine in the world.
“This bill is far from perfect, but it is a net gain for hunters and anglers,” stated Joel Webster, director of the TRCP Center for Western Lands. “Western sportsmen and -women should feel good heading into the weekend knowing that world-class hunting and fishing destinations like the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana, Hermosa Creek Watershed in Colorado and Pine Forest in Nevada will be safeguarded in perpetuity. We appreciate the long-term vision and leadership of the senators and members of Congress who championed these important conservation measures.”
A breakdown of key components in the public lands bill follows:
Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act
•supported by the Montana sportsmen’s community
•safeguards important trout fishing and bighorn sheep, mule deer and elk hunting
•conserves 208,000 acres via a conservation management area, which would bar future mineral development and road building while maintaining existing access and allowing habitat restoration
•expands the Scapegoat and Bob Marshall wilderness areas by a total 67,000 acres
North Fork Watershed Protection Act
•supported by the Montana sportsmen’s community
•withdraws from mineral development 430,000 acres of public lands within the North Fork of the Flathead River watershed, a big-game hunting and trout fishing destination located west of Glacier National Park
Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act
•supported by the Nevada sportsmen’s community
•secures irreplaceable wild trout fishing and big game hunting
•creates the 26,000-acre Pine Forest Range Wilderness and implements management language to maintain and restore fish and wildlife populations and their habitats
Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act
•supported by the Colorado sportsmen’s community
•safeguards more than 100,000 acres northwest of Durango, upholds opportunities to fish for wild trout and hunt elk and mule deer
•creates a 68,289-acre special management area that is withdrawn from mineral development, maintains existing motorized trail access and allows active vegetation management
•creates 37,236 acres of wilderness
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