public lands

Colorado Trout Unlimited Applauds Progress to Save LWCF

Senate passes bill to restore the Land and Water Conservation Fund and protect special places

(Feb. 12, 2019) Denver, CO. – The United States Senate has voted to advance S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act. Importantly, the bipartisan legislation permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which has been expired since September 30. The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives where supporters are urging quick passage.

 

“Even when this hugely successful program was falling victim to Washington’s partisan dysfunction, Senators Bennet and Gardner never stopped working to secure its passage. We deeply appreciate their unflagging commitment to investing in Colorado’s public lands and outdoor recreation,” said David Nickum, Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited.  

 

Gunnison Gorge, CO Picture from: Unsplash.com

Gunnison Gorge, CO Picture from: Unsplash.com

For over half a century, LWCF has used a portion of federal offshore energy revenues — at no cost to taxpayers — to conserve our 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.

 

“We still need to fully fund LWCF and we’ll continue working toward that end, but permanent authorization is an enormous accomplishment for all who have working tirelessly on this issue,” said Scott Willoughby, Colorado Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “In addition to LWCF, there are dozens of bipartisan provisions across the country that will help sustain our public land heritage, including new Wilderness areas, Wild and Scenic River sections and National Conservation Areas. This is one of the most important pieces of public lands legislation in recent memory and we urge the House of Representatives to quickly pass this bill.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

 

Feb. 12, 2019

Contacts: 

David Nickum, Colorado Trout Unlimited 

303-440-2937 x1 dnickum@tu.org

 

Scott Willoughby, Trout Unlimited

970-390-3676 swilloughby@tu.org  


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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!

SOLD: To the highest bidder

Recently Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited, gave a passionate call to reclaim conservation as a true conservative value.  Read the full op-ed below, which has been reposted from the Denver Post.

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Wanted: A conservative conservation agenda

Making public lands available for sale to the highest bidder is not conservative, Chris Wood writes

"A month ago, a fishing buddy in Utah called me in a lather. His senator, Republican Mike Lee, had just used the existence of public lands to compare present-day Utahns to the mistreated subjects of England’s Medieval royal forests. “Their houses were razed and their historic rights trampled!” Lee proclaimed. He promised to introduce legislation to sell, transfer, or otherwise divest of our public lands — our national forests, our national monuments, even, perhaps, our national parks.

My friend couldn’t understand it.

“What is going on with Senator Lee?” he asked. “I have been a Republican my whole life, and there is nothing conservative about transferring public lands from public ownership.”

My friend’s views are by no means uncommon. They aren’t just shared by the overwhelming majority of anglers in my organization, Trout Unlimited, where Republicans and Independents outnumber Democrats by a 2-to-1 margin. They are also shared by a whopping 97 percent of sportsmen and women–including 73 percent of those who voted for President Trump in 2016, according to a recent survey.

The words conservation and conservative share the same Latin root: “conservare,” meaning to keep or hold in a safe state.

Making public lands available for sale to the highest bidder is not conservative. It’s reckless.

It was conservative politicians who largely created the rich fabric of public lands that make America the envy of the world, and that Sen. Lee’s proposals would diminish.

Pictured: President Theodore Roosevelt. Wikipedia Commons.

Pictured: President Theodore Roosevelt. Wikipedia Commons.

In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant named 2 million acres of land in the northwest corner of the Wyoming territory, Yellowstone, the world’s first national park. President Theodore Roosevelt protected 230 million acres of public land and created the U.S. Forest Service to promote the “wise use” of national forests. President Nixon signed into law the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act. President H. W. Bush strengthened the Clean Air Act and helped solve the scourge of acid rain.

All these men were, of course, Republican presidents.

What our nation needs today from true conservatives is reaffirmation of a conservative conservation agenda, a set of commonsense policies (such as protection of public lands and clean water) that all Americans can rally behind. This agenda would be guided by a few key principles that should strike a chord with right-leaning Americans:

Where taxpayer dollars are spent, they should be leveraged and spent efficiently. Spending that encourages private philanthropy and state funding should be a priority. For example, in Pennsylvania over the past decade, my organization received approximately $1 million in Chesapeake Bay Program funding and used that to leverage an additional $4 million in investment from private philanthropists and state programs.

The most durable efforts are local. Government is more effective at a local level. So, too, with conservation. Witness then-Gov. Jim Risch — another Republican, by the way — leading a collaborative process in 2006 to protect nearly 9 million acres of public land in his state of Idaho.

Address issues before they become festering problems. Anticipating opportunities is more effective than cleaning up messes. For example, Congress should act on a bill to treat renewable energy development on public lands as a leasable mineral, just like oil and gas, thereby creating a revenue stream for states and counties, and to support restoration work. Demand for renewable energy on public lands is low today, but it will not be in 20 years.

Public efforts should be in the service of critical social needs. Reconnecting rivers to their floodplains, getting rid of obsolete dams, and repairing culverts is great for the fish we anglers love to catch, but it also protects communities and infrastructure from flooding while providing thousands of family-wage jobs. Proactively addressing these risks is fiscally conservative: Every $1 invested in disaster preparedness saves $6 in disaster recovery costs.

Progress is possible. A prime example: Without a single dissenting vote, the House of Representatives last year passed a bill that would make it easier for local communities, mining companies, and nonprofits to clean up abandoned coal mines. The Senate should follow the leadership of nearly the entire Colorado delegation, and support a bill that extends that idea to apply to the clean-up of the tens of thousands of abandoned gold and silver mines in the West that are polluting many of our headwaters.

Conservation is the single most optimistic and affirmative idea that conservatives gave America. What could be more conservative than taking collective action today to make the world a better place for our kids tomorrow?"

Chris Wood is president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, which is dedicated to protecting, conserving, and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.

Colorado Senators support public lands in bipartisan letter to US Senate

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The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) supports public land access and recreation across the US, including Colorado. Over the past 50 years, Colorado has received $239 million dollars that go to a variety of projects such as: 

  • developing community parks and trails
  • preserving cultural heritage sites
  • conserving family ranches and working timberlands through conservation easements and the forest legacy program
  • preserving iconic landscapes
  • and securing boating and angling access along rivers
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Currently, the funding for this program is set to expire on September 30, 2018. Right now a bi-partisan group of US Senators is working to permanently reauthorize the LWCF and secure its funding. This week, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) collected signatures from their colleagues who also support investing in our public lands. We want to give a special thanks to Colorado's very own, Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) who have signed on to show their  support. Colorado is one of the highest states to support this program (77%) because so much of our economy depends on outdoor recreation and public land access. If you are interested in learning more, check out the links below:

Letter of Support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Press Release from the Office of Senator Cantwell

See how Colorado has benefitted from the LWCF success stories, in the report here: Colorado's Great Outdoors - The Land and Water Conservation Fund in Colorado 

Thompson Divide protections preserved in settlement

The BLM announced some good news for Colorado’s native cutthroat trout and big game populations on June 22 after reaching a settlement in the lawsuit filed by oil and gas company SG Interests over the cancellation of 18 leases to drill in the Thompson Divide area of the White River National Forest near Carbondale, Colorado. The leases covered more than 21,000 acres (about 33 square miles) featuring prime big game habitat and native cutthroat trout streams in watersheds providing source water to the Crystal and Roaring Fork Rivers, as well as local communities.

Thompson Creek in the Thompson Divide.  Photo: Josh Duplechian

Thompson Creek in the Thompson Divide.  Photo: Josh Duplechian

Leases to drill in the Thompson Divide were improperly issued by BLM in 2003. A coalition of county and local governments, ranchers, local businesses, sportsmen and citizen groups – including Trout Unlimited – mobilized and worked for years to protect the Thompson Divide. BLM ultimately recognized that the leases had been issued in violation of the law and cancelled them in 2016. 

In early 2017, SG Interests filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to challenge BLM’s decision. Under the settlement, SG agrees to dismiss its case in exchange for a payment of $1.5 million from the federal government. The settlement compensates SG for investments made toward developing the leases but leaves the 2016 lease cancellations in effect.

“SG’s leases were issued in violation of the law, and these lands never should have been leased in the first place,” said Michael Freeman, a staff attorney at Earthjustice representing Wilderness Workshop and Colorado Trout Unlimited.  “BLM properly cancelled the leases in 2016. We’re glad to see that SG is dropping its challenge to those cancellations.”

The Thompson Divide area stretches across Pitkin, Garfield and Gunnison Counties and encompasses no fewer than nine National Forest roadless areas. The area includes habitat for deer, elk and a variety of sensitive wildlife species, including cold water streams vital to native cutthroat trout. Because it supports recreation, ranching and other local industries, the Thompson Divide produces an estimated 300 jobs and pumps more than $30 million into the local economy.

“From its prime big game habitat to unique native cutthroat trout fisheries, the Thompson Divide is a Colorado treasure for hunters and anglers,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “For years, sportsmen and women have fought to protect these lands — so we’re pleased that BLM and SG have reached an agreement that will keep them intact.”

While the settlement is an important step toward protecting the region, it does not end the threat posed by oil and gas development. Sen. Michael Bennet introduced legislation last year (S.481 - Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act of 2017) to permanently protect the Thompson Divide. With the specter of SG's 2003 leases and lawsuit no longer hanging over the area, Colorado TU hopes that his bill can gain momentum so that this treasured landscape can receive the lasting protection it deserves.

 2013 JUL 31: The Thompson Divide west of Carbondale, CO.