advocacy

Colorado Trout Unlimited celebrates passage of lands bill

House passes bill to restore the Land and Water Conservation Fund and protect public lands 

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(Feb. 26, 2019) Denver, Colo. – The Land and Water Conservation Fund is now one step closer to being permanently re-authorized. With a vote of 363 to 62, the US House of Representatives passed the Natural Resources Management Act today, sending the historic package of bills to the President’s desk. 

“Today the House of Representatives put public lands over politics and passed this important legislation. On behalf of Colorado Trout Unlimited’s 11,000 members, I want to thank Representatives DeGette, Neguse, Tipton, Crow, Lamborn and Perlmutter for voting to support conservation. We deeply appreciate their commitment to investing in Colorado’s public lands and outdoor recreation,” said David Nickum, Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “This vote comes on the heels of Senators Gardner and Bennet helping shepherd the bill through the Senate, reflecting the broad, bi-partisan support for conservation in Colorado.”  

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For more than half a century, LWCF has used a portion of federal offshore energy revenues — at no cost to taxpayers — to conserve our public lands, water, and open spaces and protect the outdoor recreation opportunities they offer. LWCF has invested over $268 million in Colorado, helping to secure access and conserve special places across the state, including the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and boat launches on the Colorado River. 

Also included in the package were numerous provisions protecting public lands with important fish and wildlife habitat, including mineral withdrawals in Washington’s Methow Valley and the upper Yellowstone in Montana, a special designation to conserve wild steelhead habitat in Oregon’s North Umpqua watershed, new Wilderness in Oregon and New Mexico, Wild and Scenic River designations in Oregon and California, and a unique collaborative plan to protect water quality and quantity in Washington’s Yakima Basin. Significant to Colorado, the act extends the authorization of the Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Implementation Program, a partnership between local, state and federal agencies, water and power interests, and conservation groups working to recover endangered fish in the Upper Colorado River Basin. 

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“Passing this package of bills is a huge win for sportsmen and women,” said Scott Willoughby, Colorado Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “Anglers and hunters know first-hand what it means to be connected to place and to the fish and wildlife that make a place special. The work isn’t over, and we look forward to working with Colorado’s delegation to secure dedicated funding for LWCF, but I think all sportsmen and women can take a moment today and celebrate such an achievement as the reauthorization of LWCF and protection for hundreds of thousands of acres of special places across the country.” 

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Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and TwitterInstagram and our blog for all the latest information on trout and salmon conservation. 

 

#STANDFORPUBLICLAND

Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park, California

Guest blog by Catherine Belme

When I moved into my @vanforpublicland and drove off on the open road last fall, it was to fuel my soul and better connect with and get to know the land I call home. It’s so much more than that though. I have the deepest, most passionate feelings for this land, for the rivers and plants and animals that inhabit it with us. We are creatures of the wild, somewhere along the lines domesticating ourselves a little too much, in my opinion. I strongly believe all of us have a primal connection to the outdoors, the wild. Some of us just may never have had the chance to explore that yet, and others may have forgotten or suppressed it while caught up in modern life. I want to change that.

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Kings Canyon National Park, California

I strongly, strongly believe that interacting with nature heals the body and soul, grounds us, helps us understand life and get a grip on what actually matters and why, gives us fuel and a deep sense of fulfillment. I want to share the feelings I get when in the outdoors with as many as possible. For these feelings – they’re the first step in developing a lasting relationship. The way I see it, there’s something in the outdoors for everyone, and once found it leads to an appreciation for and love of the environment. Once that foundation is laid, people begin feeling passionate about the wild spaces in their lives, and with that comes a reason to protect these places. Our public lands are threatened every day, not just by humans mistreating them but also by our government and special interest groups. Now, more than ever, there is no guarantee these last wild places will remain protected for future generations to enjoy.

Monahans Sand Hills State Park

Monahans Sand Hills State Park

Bears Ears National Monument

Bears Ears National Monument

Monahans Sand Hills State Park

Monahans Sand Hills State Park

I set out on the road to see as much of our nation’s public lands as possible, with the intent of sharing their largely unrealized beauty and power with others, and to meet with and share the stories of as many folks in the outdoors as I can.
Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park, Utah

My hope is that through sharing these stories, others will find someone they can relate to and thus be inspired to engage in the outdoor world. Over time, they’ll get the same wonderful feelings as the rest of the outdoorsy community, feel empowered, and find a reason to protect these spaces. Then, in my wildest fantasy, everyone will fight for conservation and know how to responsibly interact with nature. From exposure to experience to connection to conservation, bam! We all will be out there taking a stand for public land.

Along my journey I have met some of the most interesting and kind people, and witnessed first hand so much lost culture and raw natural beauty. My first stop was to link up with a couple who live on the road with their pup and have fallen in love with Bears Ears National Monument and the surrounding areas. I’ve driven through Utah on trips between Colorado and southern California several times before, but never even realized how much public land is there, and how amazing the topography and rich history of these places is! We drove around the land within the old Bears Ears border, stopping to look at Native American artifacts, kivas, and petroglyphs. The area is sacred to several tribes, and incredibly rich in cultural history. (In case you aren’t aware – last December President Trump announced a reduction in size of Bears Ears National Monument by a staggering 85%; a real blow to The Antiquities Act, outdoor enthusiasts, and especially to Native peoples, to say the least.)

I have really fallen for southern and eastern Utah from my travels, though! Cyanobacteria, lichens, and mosses form a crust over the earth called cryptobiotic soil – it’s very alive and very fragile so you must be careful not to tread on it, but it is so interesting to look at and unlike any other soil I’ve ever seen. The ground is red, and at first glance may seem barren, but when looking deeper you’ll find that’s not the case at all. Buttes, canyons, rivers, and dry creek beds make for a drastic landscape. At dusk and dawn the air is alive with the sounds of coyotes on the hunt. Skies are full of stars and, out there, a full moon lights up the landscape better than any flashlight could. Some of my favorite spots are the Bears Ears area, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Monument Valley, and the area surrounding Moab.

At dusk and dawn the air is alive with the sounds of coyotes on the hunt. Skies are full of stars and, out there, a full moon lights up the landscape better than any flashlight could.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

My absolute favorite spots in terms of raw beauty that I have traveled so far have been sand dunes. There’s just something about an endless stretch of hills of sand at sunset that makes all the grains getting in my clothes, food, and all over the van totally worth it. White Sands National Monument is in southern New Mexico and is known for it’s sprawling dunes of, you guessed it, white sand. It almost looks like snow at times, and makes for incredibly high likelihood of getting a sunburn. Bring the kids for a sledding trip, or get to the visitors’ center early and reserve a backpacking campsite. My partner met me in El Paso and we spent a day and night at the dunes, I can assure you that sunset is nothing short of magical. My other favorites dunes were at Monahans Sandhills State Park in Texas. The state park is a bit smaller, but they have a good amount of campsites that you can drive right up to, as well as a day-use area. Unfortunately, someone discovered that the area is great for fracking, so there are a ton of extraction sites going up all around the park and some are visible from the sandhills. Definitely still worth a visit though!

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Down in Texas I visited Big Bend National Park. Big Bend lies on the Rio Grande, at the border of Texas and Mexico. Across the border the land is preserved by two national parks as well, so add that to the fact that Big Bend is way off the beaten path, and it makes for an extremely well conserved area. Big Bend is where I learned about riparian areas – it’s the native plants and trees surrounding a waterway to help stabilize the banks, shade the water to keep it cool, and filter the soil, to put it briefly. The park may as well be three parks in one, actually. The eastern part is right on the Rio Grande and has a lush riparian zone as well as natural hot springs and a slot canyon. The central area is the Chisos Basin and Chisos Mountains – where you may encounter bears while hiking the mountainside or javelina at your campsite. The mountains are beautiful and have trails leading along the ridge of the canyon, where you can see the Rio Grande below. I met a kind artist from Austin and camped with her in the Chisos, photographing her painting process and chatting all evening long. To the western side is Santa Elena Canyon and a few desert hikes. I saw several kayakers here as well, and I believe you can even float the river from that area. Beyond that is a dirt road that it seems not too many drive down, which is a shame. The views are spectacular and it is rich with historical sites as well. While exploring the west side I met an older gentleman named Terry who has lived out of his little sedan for a few years and camps at National Parks every night. He was delightful to talk to and I cannot wait to get ahold of him again for a feature in my project. I can only hope my retirement is half as adventure filled as his. I also befriended a family with a few daughters who was finishing up a spring break road trip. The parents were amped to meet a woman traveling solo and enjoying the outdoors, as they have intentionally raised their daughters in the outdoors and taught them to be daring and self sufficient. I thought that was so neat, and I am so excited for those girls to grow up and keep up their passion for nature.

After the southwest, I traveled up the Pacific coast to meet up with some folks in Olympic National Park. They’re a young couple living full time in an RV in the city, working in the city, and getting out of town every weekend they can to go camping. They even had an RV cat that they put on a leash and let wander around the campsite! How funny is that! Oh my gosh though – Olympic National Park is gorgeous. The lush rainforest (I didn’t realize we had a rainforest in the US until I visited up there), the rivers, the lakes, the mountains, and the seashore – all amazing. We only spent two nights together, so I definitely am due back for further exploration – but one night we camped in the Hoh Rainforest and the other at Kalaloch Beach campground. The Hoh is filled with towering trees, greens of every shade blanket the landscape, and the Hoh River cuts right through it. I hear it’s a great spot to fly fish, and that if you’re there at the right time of year you can see and hear the Roosevelt Elk bugling to each other. Over at the beach was also nice, however completely different. There’s a big cliff with a few trails leading down to a beach that seems to go on forever along the coast, and the tide goes out pretty far so it is wide too. The friends I met in Olympic used to be campsite hosts at the Hoh Campground, and currently are ambassadors for a trail clean up program. They have such a deep connection to the park after living there for a season and looking after the rainforest. Told you I’ve been meeting and collecting stories from the most interesting people!

Navajo Nation, Arizona

Navajo Nation, Arizona

Our country has so much to offer, so many beautiful places, so many hidden gems.

It’s been about a year, and I can promise you I am nowhere near done with this project. Our country has so much to offer, so many beautiful places, so many hidden gems. It’s almost a catch-22: the less human traffic in these places the more wild, serene, and awe-striking they tend to be, however, that also means the less people who have an understanding of the land and why it needs to be protected – which often leads to lands being leased, sold, developed, mined, fracked, etc. and the majority of our country being none-the-wiser. I am working at a conservation district in eastern Washington for now, learning and doing all I can to restore the land. I’ll be continuing my #standforpublicland project as a weekend warrior, visiting and learning all about new places to share with others, sharing stories of those I meet out enjoying the great outdoors, and helping to spread responsible practices for interacting with Mother Nature. To celebrate National Public Lands day (September 22, 2018) I’ll be hiking through Palouse Falls State Park and some other areas in the Palouse region, getting to know my new home better and see all of its beauty! I hope to hear you’re out doing whatever it is you love to do most in the outdoors! Just please always remember to practice leave no trace ethics, welcome others into the outdoors, and leave each place better than you found it. I’d love for you to join my quest for public lands conservation, and please feel free to get in touch so I can share your stories to help inspire others!

Snake River, Idaho

Snake River, Idaho


A note from CTU:

Learn more about National Public Lands Day here.

See who else is celebrating and find an event near you!

The fourth Saturday of each September marks National Public Lands Day. This September 22, 2018 we are reminded what makes our public lands great and because of that, all National Parks are free on that day. We want to thank Catherine for sharing her story and perspective on public lands and invite you to celebrate these beautiful places. Currently, we are trying to urge Congress to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund which has been key in establishing, conserving, and protecting some of your favorite places in Colorado such as the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Mesa Verde, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The fund is expiring soon, but you can speak up!

Funding for Outdoor Recreation in Colorado at Risk

See the full article from CBS 4 Denver featuring Trout Unlimited's Scott Willoughby.

Outdoor recreation is widely recognized as being one of the largest industries in Colorado, providing over 200,000 jobs, $9.7 billion in wages and salaries, and $28 billion in consumer spending. In fact, 71% of the state's residents participate in outdoor recreation alone. (Stats from the Outdoor Industry Association)

Most outdoor recreation occurs on the state's public lands and parks which are funded through various avenues. One of those funding sources comes from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which has set aside and protected special places in Colorado and nationwide for more than 50 years. This fund is not fueled by tax dollars but rather the royalties from offshore oil and gas developments. Unfortunately, the continuation of this fund is set to expire September 30, 2018 unless Congress steps up.

So far, Senators Bennet and Gardner have both been leaders in supporting LWCF – but we need Colorado’s House delegation to also step up so that this successful program isn't lost to Congressional gridlock.

I am proud to support the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The funding will help states protect their natural treasures and wildlife for generations to come. This bill not only has an important environmental impact, but it is also important to Colorado’s economy in promoting outdoor recreation.
— Representative Mike Coffman
CTU and Colorado Wildlife Federation leaders meeting with Representative Mike Coffman.

CTU and Colorado Wildlife Federation leaders meeting with Representative Mike Coffman.

On August 20, 2018 the Colorado Wildlife Federation and Colorado Trout Unlimited thanked Representative Mike Coffman for supporting the reauthorization of the LWCF at the trailhead of the West Toll Gate Creek Trail in Aurora, a key segment in its trail system that has received substantial support from a federal grant from the LWCF. 

"From trails and parks along the Front Range, to expanding angling and hunting access on the west slope, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested millions of dollars into Colorado's great outdoors," said Colorado Trout Unlimited Executive Director David Nickum. "We thank Representative Mike Coffman for supporting reauthorization of LWCF, and urge the rest of our Congressional delegation to join him to ensure that this successful program doesn't expire after September." 

You can read the full press release from the Colorado Wildlife Federation here. 

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