PROTECT YOUR PUBLIC LANDS FILM

With increasing threats to public lands from extremist militants, influential politicians and powerful special-interest funders like the Koch Brothers, Conservation Northwest and eight other national and regional conservation organizations launched a new short film and coordinated campaign today to protect America’s public lands.

Through a petition and social media tools on the website www.protectpubliclands.com, the campaign calls on the millions of Americans who hike, camp, ski, fish, climb, watch wildlife, or otherwise love their public lands to urge elected leaders to reject all attempts to give away, sell, transfer or otherwise abuse our nation’s public lands heritage

The film, titled “Protect Your Lands,” contrasts the devious threats that national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other public lands face with the tremendous dedication Americans have for these places.

After working on this video and helping to coordinate this campaign on a very short tight timeline over the past two months, it’s great to see it finally going live. A big thanks to all the funders who pitched in, organizations and staffers that provided guidance, input and support, and especially to videographer Trip Jennings and his team at Balance Media for making the magic it happen.

Despite polls consistently showing strong public support for protecting and maintaining national public lands (Colorado College), and data demonstrating the enormous economic value of public lands in the form of $646 billion in consumer spending and 6.1 million direct jobs nationwide (Outdoor Industry Association), 2016 has seen the armed takeover of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and a rise in legislative proposals seeking to dismantle the nation’s iconic public lands system.

The threats to our public lands are real. And they’re much bigger and graver than a few militants and faux-cowboys. We all have a responsibility to preserve and pass on our public lands for future generations. Please join us to protect these priceless pieces of our natural heritage.

PROTECT YOUR PUBLIC LANDS

Olympic National Park fly fishing 2

The places we like to fish, hike, climb, camp, ski, hunt, and enjoy our American outdoor heritage in countless other ways are under threat. Habitat and wildlands vital to fish, birds and wildlife could be lost forever.

Extremist militants, deep-pocketed special interest groups, radical politicians and others want to seize or steal our public lands for expanded natural resource extraction or sale to the ultra-wealthy. So far in 2016 nearly half a dozen bills have been proposed in DC to giveaway America’s public lands or prevent sustainable management of them. After the seizure of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, similar bills are gaining traction in states around the West. We cannot let this happen.

Over the past few months I’ve been among leaders from Western conservation and environmental organizations coordinating a new campaign, film, petition and nationwide events to protect public lands.

Please add your voice to this effort at: www.protectpubliclands.com

You can sign our petition to elected officials, find out about events nationwide during Earth Week in support of America’s public lands (or host your own through our map tool), download memes, signs and photos to show your support on social media using the hashtag #ProtectPublicLands, and most importantly, participate in our Thunderclap to help spread our new Protect Your Lands video that will launch on Tuesday, April 20th.

Several Sage Grouse males display in competition for the right to mate with females.

Sage grouse strut on public lands in Idaho. Places like this that provide vital wildlife habitat and cherished outdoor recreation opportunities are at risk. Download this and other free photos to share on social media using #ProtectPublicLands here.

This effort by Western non-profit organizations is working parallel to the fantastic public lands coalitions and campaigns already organized by folks like the Outdoor Alliance, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and the National Wildlife Federation.

The places you love need your voice. Now is the time for all of us; hunters and anglers, skiers and climbers, birders and wildlife watchers, environmentalists and sportsmen, to stand together in defense of public lands. Please join us in keeping public lands in public hands.

MY OP-ED IN THE SEATTLE TIMES

Published in the April 12, 2016 edition. Reshared below along with a few supporting links added. Thank you to The Seattle Times for allowing me to write and share about this important issue.

Note: Washington state law allows people to take immediate lethal action against wolves “caught in the act” of attacking pets or livestock. I have no objections to this law or to people defending their stock or pets in such circumstances if they are legitimate. Frankly, I’d do the same. Under our state’s legal code, situations such as these would not be considered poaching. Poaching is the illegal killing of fish and wildlife.

Stiffer penalties needed for poaching wolves

http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/stiffer-penalties-needed-for-poaching-wolves

Poaching may be limiting progress toward wolf recovery goals.

By Chase Gunnell
Special to The Times

WOLVES are important native predators and vital pieces of our wildlife heritage. The news [“Four new wolf packs recorded in state,” Local News, March 14] that Washington is now home to at least 90 wolves, 18 packs and eight breeding pairs is exciting.

However, eight years after wolves were first confirmed back in the North Cascades, there are only three wolf packs in that designated recovery area. There remain no confirmed wolf packs in the Cascades south of Interstate 90 or in Western Washington. In order to meet wolf-recovery goals agreed upon under the Washington Wolf Conservation and Management Plan (Wolf Plan), and for the long term viability of the species in our state, it’s important that wolves recolonize the high-quality habitat in the Olympic Peninsula and Washington’s South Cascades.

It’s not unexpected that wolf recovery would take longer in these areas compared to the northeast and southeast corners of our state. But nearly a decade into wolf recovery, and with unoccupied habitat widely available, and deer, elk and other prey populations healthy, my organization, Conservation Northwest, is concerned the illegal killing of wolves is delaying their recovery. We’re advocating for stronger penalties to deter wolf poaching.

Wolves are protected by both state and federal endangered-species laws in Washington. Yet wolf poaching has occurred with tragic frequency in recent years. Several members of the Methow Valley’s Lookout Pack were poached in 2010. A wolf from the Smackout Pack was poached in late 2013. The 2014 poaching of a Kittitas County breeding female wolf is still unprosecuted. In September 2015, shamefully minimal fines were announced for a Whitman County wolf poacher. Also in 2015, investigators announced that a lone wolf killed by a vehicle on I-90 west of Snoqualmie Pass had previously been shot. Numerous other unconfirmed rumors of wolf poaching reach us each year, and some are most certainly true.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a bull elk or a wolf, poaching is never acceptable. It’s an abuse of the shared natural heritage that belongs to all of us. Many stakeholders in Washington are working hard to responsibly coexist with native predators. We know that some are looking forward to the day when wolf-recovery goals are met and more flexible wolf management is allowed. Illegal poaching does nothing but delay that day and cast a shadow on the otherwise responsible hunting and ranching communities.

We applaud efforts by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, livestock producers, hunters, wildlife watchers and other stakeholders to collaborate on decision-making related to wolves. The greater inclusion and genuine listening demonstrated in 2015 by the Wolf Advisory Group (WAG), of which my organization is a member, is leading to a transformation of the conflict that all too often shrouds predator recovery. This is laudable progress that we believe will lead to better outcomes for everyone. And we hope that the benefits of this collaboration will include increased social tolerance for predators and less wolf killing. We’re committed to working with all parties to ensure that Washington can be the state where wolf conservation works in the long run, for people, wolves and all our state’s wildlife.

Responsible Washingtonians are working together and making compromises, including partnering to fund and implement proactive measures to reduce or prevent wolf depredations on livestock. Various stakeholders are supporting research by our state’s universities to monitor the impact of the wolf’s return on deer, elk and other ungulate populations — animals cherished by wildlife watchers and hunters alike, myself included.

Yet indications remain that illegal wolf killing is delaying progress toward recovery objectives agreed upon during the formation of the Wolf Plan. Our state’s elected leaders, justice system and the Department of Fish and Wildlife should implement stiffer penalties and increased enforcement to safeguard the comeback of Washington’s wolves.

IF4 FLY FISHING FILM FESTIVAL APRIL 7 IN SEATTLE

A great event benefiting the Wild Steelhead Coalition and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. Over 200 fly fishing, outdoors, clothing and travel items will be raffled off after the show. Hope to see you there!

IF4 2016 POSTER

Summary from WSC: Join us on April 7th at Tini Bigs and Hula Hula for the International Fly Fishing Film Festival. This year’s event features a great set of films and a huge raffle. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Wild Steelhead Coalition and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance.
The proceeds from the event will be donated to the Wild Steelhead Coalition and Puget Soundkeeper. Doors open at 4:00 PM, and the event gets underway at 7:00 PM. Purchase your tickets today online for $15.

SKAGIT STEELHEAD HABITAT RESTORATION VIDEO

The mighty Skagit River once produced some of the largest returns of wild steelhead in the Lower 48. Not only were the fish plentiful, many were huge, with 20 and even 30 pound wild steelhead not uncommon. Today, the runs are greatly diminished, but those epic genes live on in the fish that still return to the Skagit each year.

With the support of the Orvis Company, the Wild Steelhead Coalition, and the Skagit River System Cooperative, a joint effort providing natural resource management and restoration services for the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, have teamed up to restore historic sidechannel habitats in the Skagit watershed, increasing it’s potential for wild fish and supporting the return of it’s legendary salmon and steelhead runs.

This is monumental work, with exponential benefits for wild fish and for anglers like myself who still cherish our days on this iconic river. I’m proud to support it. If you want to be a part of bringing back the mighty Skagit, make a donation or become a member of the Wild Steelhead Coalition today.

Barnaby Slough Project WSC

Skagit River: Barnaby Slough RestorationWe teamed up with the Skagit River System Cooperative and The Orvis Company to use drone technology to map out and survey a critical habitat restoration project on the Skagit River, which is home to Puget Sound’s largest winter steelhead run. The project is an ambitious undertaking that will transform Barnaby Slough back into a natural fish factory.

Posted by Wild Steelhead Coalition on Thursday, March 24, 2016

DIVIDED WE FALL, AND THEY WIN

An important read from reporter Chris Soloman in Outside Magazine for anyone that cares about outdoor recreation, fishing and hunting, or wildlands and wildlife conservation.

The New Golden Rule of Playing Outside: Place First.

www.outsideonline.com/2059261/big-idea-conservationist-recreationist-wilderness-clash

Rarely a day goes by in my work when I don’t encounter this problem. Should-be allies have divided and conquered themselves; skiers, climbers, and mountain bikers in one corner, hunters and anglers in another, pragmatic wildlife and wildlands conservationists in a third, and Sierra Club-style environmentalists trying to remain both radical and relevant in another.

All the while the Bundys, Koch Brothers and their allies in DC and states and counties across the West circle their wagons, plot to take America’s public lands, and undermine vital conservation tools like the Wilderness, Antiquities, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts. And right now, they’re winning the long game.

CONSERVATION VS. CONVERSATION

My fellow Wild Steelhead Coalition boardmember, very fishy dude and incredibly talented fly tier Josh Mills (the similarities stop after “boardmember”), voice behind the Chucking Line and Chasing Tail blog, turned me on to an interesting discussion today happening on the Washington Fly Fishing Forum.

In short, a question was asked regarding how much time people spend talking about fishing, compared to how much time people spend supporting or working on causes to benefit fish and fishing.

It’s an important question, one that should be considered more and more with each new threat to fish and fisheries. And one that I think has no perfect or preferred answer.

While of course I believe the world would be a better place if more people got involved in or supported conservation causes at local, regional, national and international levels, the responses to this sort of question will always vary. And they should. We all have our own means and commitments, our own work-life balances and varying abilities to give back to our world and our communities. To each their own is fine.

But for the greater “outdoor community”, I believe that doing nothing is unacceptable. Whether you’re a hiker, national parks visitor, birder, hunter, angler or even a public lands rancher or logger, doing something big or small to support the shared natural resources that you benefit from is a ethical requirement.

Here’s my comment on the forum discussion: 

Dig the poll. And Millsy’s great addition to the conservation conversation: http://millsfly.blogspot.com/2016/02/action-vs-talk-in-conservation.html?m=1

I talk about fishing enough that my fiancée started a drinking game for every time I talk about fishing. She’s now considering expanding it to hunting, at least for the summer and fall.

But I’m lucky in that my job is conversing about conservation. Talking about protecting and restoring fish, wildlife, habitat, public lands, outdoor opportunities, etc. pays my bills. Barely. And it means a lot less time actually fishing or doing cool stuff in the field than one might wish for. I’m still lucky to do it. And outside my day job, I volunteer for the group that I consider to be “the soul of wild steelhead conservation”.

I do it because in between bonking and eating salmon or knocking down pheasants and geese, my mentors beat it into me that if you are a hunter or a fisherman, or really an outdoor user of any kind, you are a conservationist. It is not optional.

It doesn’t matter whether you write an occasional check or public comment email, or you try to make a career out of stewarding wild things and wild places. I believe that if one experiences our natural heritage, they are required to do what is in their means to leave it better than when they found it.

Conservation has many faces. And I don’t think it’s appropriate to degrade someone for doing less than anyone else. What’s important is that each of us find our own ways to give back to the land, waters, forests,  fish and wildlife that give us so much.

This is conservation:

Summer and Fall 2015 (5)USFS biologist building a “run pole” remote camera monitoring site for research on wolverine recovery in Washington’s Cascades. Photo: CG
UntitledYours truly speaking up for keeping public lands in public hands. Photo: Les Walsh, National Wildlife Federation 
Gold Creek Planting Party, Oct. 4th near Snoqualmie PassVolunteers removing invasive plants and restoring fish and wildlife habitat near Snoqualmie Pass. This site is near a newly completed wildlife crossing under Interstate 90 as well as an important spawning tributary for bull trout and kokanee salmon. Photo: CG
Colville National Forest Range Riding
A ranching family uses classic cowboy techniques, modern GPS technologies and knowledge of predator behavior to keep both livestock and endangered wolves safe on the range. Photo: CG

And so is this:

North Cascades grizzly bear restoration Scoping Period Seattle open house The next generation submits public comments sharing their support for proposals to restore a healthy grizzly bear population to Washington’s North Cascades. Photo: CG
'Wild Things' Film Screening with NRDC Film screening attendees listen to a panel discussion on methods for coexistence between people, livestock and predators like wolves, coyotes, cougars and grizzly bears. Photo: CG
Untitled
Yours truly giving testimony to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in support of commonsense steelhead angling regulations on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, including an end to sport harvest of wild steelhead. Photo: J. Stumpf
25th anniversary celebration and Hope for a Wild Future auctionDonors show their support protecting, connecting and restoring wildlife and wildlands at a Conservation Northwest auction. Photo: CNW

Conservation can be as easy as clicking a Take Action link or as hard as pouring your life into making a compelling documentary. It can even be as simple as reducing your own negative impact on our environment and it’s wild things in thoughtful ways, and encouraging others to do the same.

But whatever you do, if you’re going to benefit from our shared natural resources, and in fact all of us do, whether it’s as broad as having clean drinking water or as specific as catching a wild steelhead, sitting on the sidelines is unacceptable. Do something.

LOOKING AHEAD TO PROTECT OUR PUBLIC LANDS

The below is a piece I wrote for Conservation Northwest’s website blog on Friday, February 12th. Republished here with a few more photos.

Roosevelt quote banner

Reflections on Malheur, America’s natural heritage, and those who would take it from us

The seizure of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by armed extremists demanding that the government hand over America’s public lands to local or private control has ended. But the struggle to keep our public lands in public hands is far from finished.

As a passionate hunter, angler, hiker and conservationist, at times it feels like the movement to seize our nation’s public lands is an assault on core elements of my identity. My parents and grandparents raised me with public dirt under my fingernails. Some of my earliest memories include fishing for salmon on rivers flowing out of the Cascades, gathering mushrooms in Olympic National Forest, and hunting pheasants on wildlife areas across Eastern Washington.

Wild places provided me with joy and solace during a rocky adolescence. In college and soon after public mountains and forests were the source of adrenaline rushes, powder days and icy summits, and more importantly the strength, confidence and camaraderie that no other classroom can teach. Today, I still find those things and more when I visit the natural heritage that all Americans have been endowed with. And I go there often to feel not apart from the natural world, but a part of it.

What then is someone like me to make of those who have recently seized a piece of our public endowment? And what of the larger movement behind the Oregon Standoff, one that’s well-organized and well-funded with the aim of taking for private benefit the public lands that I and so many others have relied on? Malheur may be empty of militants today, but that extreme and misguided campaign is not over.

Your’s truly speaking at the “Public Lands For All Rally” in Seattle on January 19th, 2016. Photo: Les Walsh, National Wildlife Federation

Law enforcement deserve praise

After a dramatic and sometimes bizarre dialogue that was live-broadcast to over 60,000 listeners, the four remaining holdouts surrendered to law enforcement officials at approximately 11:00 a.m. yesterday. A federal grand jury previously indicted 16 others involved, including the group’s de facto leader Ammon Bundy, an Arizona businessman and son of notorious rancher Cliven Bundy. No one was injured, and no shots were fired Thursday morning. It was the 41st day of the refuge takeover.

The senior Bundy was also arrested on Thursday at Portland International Airport while en route to the wildlife refuge. He faces a list of charges related to the 2014 standoff at his Nevada ranch, including assault on a federal officer, firearms crimes, obstruction of justice, extortion, and conspiracy. Cliven also owes the Bureau of Land Management, and thereby U.S. taxpayers, over $1 million in unpaid public lands grazing fees.

This relatively peaceful end to a prolonged and bitter episode is a testament to the efficacy and patience of federal law enforcement agents and Oregon State Police, as well as that of Harney County Sheriff David Ward. Those involved in bringing this incident to a close and protecting our public lands should be commended.

Sheriff Ward, a native of eastern Oregon and a veteran who served in Somalia and Afghanistan, emerged as a particularly inspiring figure during the standoff. Ward, known around Harney County as “Sheriff Dave,” worked to resolve the conflict without further bloodshed, holding dialogues with militants, local residents and government officials while standing tall as a voice of reason and order among a community in strife.

With emotion in his voice as he spoke to the media after leaders of the refuge takeover were arrested in late January, Sheriff Ward said: “If we have issues with the way things are going in our government, we have a responsibility as citizens to act on them in an appropriate manner. We don’t arm up and rebel. … This can’t happen anymore. This can’t happen in America. And it can’t happen in Harney County.”

I sincerely hope that other would-be militants hear the sheriff’s pleas for dialogue and unity. And that he and other law enforcement officers involved, as well as local residents impacted including the Burns Paiute Tribe, can now find some peace and rest with family and friends. Perhaps even by enjoying the great tranquility found in the area’s extraordinary public lands.

M. Lake North Cascades

Our public lands, including national parks and monuments, wildlife refuges, Bureau of Land Management deserts and grasslands, and national forests, like this fishing spot on the Okanogan-Wenatchee, belong to all Americans. With collaboration, compromise and respectful dialogue, we can manage them in a way that sustainably benefits all users as well as future generations.

Public lands for all

In discussing the formation of the U.S. Forest Service, President Roosevelt famously said: “the rights of the public to the natural resources outweigh private rights, and must be given its first consideration.”

The extremists who took over Malheur used armed intimidation to pursue the “transfer” of public lands for private gain and personal redress. We are pleased that they are being brought to justice and for now are prevented from further efforts to steal from our natural heritage. However, like the “Sagebrush Rebellion” before them, their land grab crusade is far from exhausted.

Backed by groups like the American Lands Council and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and shadowy billionaire donors including the Koch Brothers, the Malheur debacle was just one skirmish in a bigger conflict. Even in Washington state we’ve seen attempts by some elected officials to study the “transfer” of our public lands. The desire of all these groups? To handover America’s forests, deserts, wildlife refuges and other public lands to state or county control. And then when these local entities cannot afford to manage such lands, as numerousstudies show would certainly be the case, have them sold off to private corporations for unrestricted logging, fracking and mining or to be bought up as playgrounds for the very rich.

If they have their way, the tagline of our public lands will shift from “This Land is Your Land” to “No Trespassing.”

Let there be no doubt, there is zero constitutional or legal basis for extremist claims denouncing America’s public lands. There is however a loud sentiment among some that environmental regulations governing grazing and logging are driving the economic woes of rural communities. I, and Conservation Northwest, recognize that some citizens and certain public land users may feel hemmed in by government bureaucracy. Or even by the actions of conservation groups.

While environmental regulations are a fundamental necessity for ensuring that current and future generations can use these lands for both extractive and non-extractive purposes, Conservation Northwest is an organization that engages in open dialogue and genuine listening to find common ground and collaboratively reach solutions to challenging issues. “Us vs. Them” mentalities and “Green vs. Brown” culture wars do no one any good, least of all our wildlife and wildlands. In crafting local solutions, we also think it is crucial to understand the larger economic changes that make it harder for people in rural communities to make a living, such as consolidation of the meat processing industry and regional and global shifts in timber production.

Interestingly, Malheur itself is one such collaborative success story. The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established on August 18, 1908, by President Theodore Roosevelt. Unclaimed government lands in the area were set aside “as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds.” Land was added to the refuge over the years through purchases from willing landowners. With enduring partnerships between refuge staff, state and federal agencies, local farmers and ranchers, and other stakeholders including birders and hunters, Malheur became “known for listening,” a model for successful collaboration on America’s public lands; a point apparently lost on those who seized the refuge to advance their land grab agenda.

High Buck Hunt, Alpine Unit

Your truly smiling after the sun broke out on morning three of a backcountry mule deer hunt on national forest lands. It had snowed heavily the previous two days, and our exit was the steep gully behind me. Hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and outdoor recreation directly contribute to 6.1 million jobs a year and $646 billion in consumer spending nationwide, hugely benefiting local economies and rural communities. These activities depend on protected and accessible public lands.

Keeping public lands in public hands

Public lands managed by the federal government for all Americans not only protect our history, wildlife habitat, and natural beauty, but they draw visitors from across the country and around the world. More than 292 million people visited national parks last year, and even more hiked, camped, fished, watched wildlife, and enjoyed other public lands like national forests and wildlife refuges. These places are vital to millions of small businesses in nearby communities, and an important part of our nation’s economy.

And despite the extremists who spent the last 41 days grabbing headlines, bi-partisan polling has consistently shown broad public support for federal ownership of public lands. What’s more, many ranchers and other commercial users of public lands recognize that their fees for utilizing public lands are a fraction of what they’d likely pay to conduct the same for-profit activity on private property. The ranchers I’ve had the pleasure of working with also recognize that responsible management of public rangelands is key to their industry and their way of life.

Studies have also shown that “rural counties in the West with the most federal lands did better economically than other counties. Those counties saw faster growth in population, employment, personal income, and per capital income growth.” The outdoor recreation industry alone generates “6.1 million jobs a year and $646 billion in consumer spending nationwide.” In Washington state nearly 200,000 jobs are supported directly or indirectly by outdoor recreation, more than our state’s technology or aerospace industries. Extremist propaganda may try to make some residents believe otherwise, but public lands are undeniably good for local communities and economies.

Protected and connected public lands are at the core of Conservation Northwest’s mission. And we firmly believe that public lands are the birthright of all Americans. They’re vital habitat for fish and wildlife, and give all of us, rich or poor, urban or rural, the opportunity to hike, ski, climb, fish, hunt and much more. As conservationist John Muir put it, these are places to find “beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

Public forestlands are also the source of most of America’s drinking water and store vast amounts of carbon to stabilize our climate. And when we share and manage them according to thoughtful stewardship and the rule of law, public lands provide the resources for sustainable forestry, livestock grazing and other commercial uses.

Our national parks, wildlife refuges, forests and other public lands belong to all of us, including school children in Seattle, ranchers in Nevada, birders in Portland, hikers in Omak and lumber mill workers in Colville. When I fish, hike or hunt on public lands, I cherish the fact that this land is truly MY land. And that I get to share it with my fellow Americans. Public lands belong to and benefit all of us. And from petitioning the media and elected leaders to holding rallies and continuing to work with diverse stakeholders inforest collaboratives and on conflict transformation around wildlife management, Conservation Northwest will continue working tirelessly to keep it that way.

That oft-quoted founding father of conservation Teddy Roosevelt said one more thing that’s worth dwelling on today: “Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”

Over 100 years later we still face threats to our country’s natural wonders. But in the face of these new threats let it be known that we have not forgotten Roosevelt’s warning. And to those who would try to steal our sacred heritage for their private gain: we will not let you.

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Steelhead fly fishing in southeast Washington. The left bank is a wildlife area, the right is BLM land. Just downstream are plenty of  ‘No Trespassing’ signs on a private ranch. The American West has more than enough of those signs already.

PUBLIC LANDS FOR ALL RALLY

Armed extremists seizing Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is bad enough, but worse are politicians, from state legislators to Republican presidential candidates, echoing an extreme minority’s call to sell off or seize America’s public lands for the benefit of energy and natural resource companies and the very wealthy.

It's time stand up for OUR public lands. Photo: Oregon Wild

It’s time stand up for OUR public lands. Photo: Oregon Wild

Protected and accessible public lands are “America’s best idea”, and they’re supported by a strong majority of Western voters. Public lands provide opportunities for people of all means and backgrounds to hike, ski, camp, fish, hunt, wildlife watch and much more. Opportunities often available only to the wealthy in other nations. Public lands also provide vast contributions to local economies through tourism, outdoor recreation and sustainable (and often subsidized) forestry, agriculture and livestock grazing. And public lands provide vital habitat for fish and wildlife, from abundant game animals to rare and endangered species.

Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir and other conservation forefathers worked tirelessly to ensure that we would have public lands for all to enjoy and benefit from in a responsible manner. Now we have a responsibility to protect that legacy and preserve OUR public lands and outdoor heritage for future generations.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 1/19 at noon there will be rallies in Seattle, Spokane, Boise, Portland and other towns and cities across the West to stand up for our nation’s parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, BLM deserts and other public lands. Please come on down and show your support for America’s Best Idea. 

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A LEAP FORWARD FOR WILD STEELHEAD

A big leap forward today for Washington’s State Fish. More from the Wild Steelhead Coalition below:

OP_win_web-1024x619

In the world of steelhead conservation, victories can be as elusive as the fish we pursue. Like our success on the water, these conservation wins arehard earned and the result of dedication, perseverance, and countless hours of work. So on days like today when our resolve is rewarded, the victory is as sweet as catching a fresh 20-lb chrome-bright wild winter steelhead.

For the last three years, the Wild Steelhead Coalition (WSC) has been proactively pushing for a suite of prudent, forward thinking changes to Washington’s sportfishing regulations that would protect struggling steelhead populations on the Olympic Peninsula (OP). Thanks to the hard work of concerned anglers and the wisdom of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, today these proposals became a reality.

Modeled in-part after successful wild steelhead conservation regulations from Oregon, British Columbia and other areas, these simple, commonsense changes will help conserve wild steelhead while preserving angling opportunities. These changes will do the following:

  • Prohibit the harvest of all wild steelhead and rainbow trout on select OP rivers such as the Hoh, Bogachiel, and Sol Duc. WSC has championed a zero sportfishing harvest policy for more than ten years, and this adopted proposal is the final piece of a decade-long fight. Harvest by recreational anglers may be limited compared to that of other stakeholders on the OP, but this rule will reduce our impact and set a powerful precedent for others to follow.

  • Implement selective gear rules such as barbless hooks and no bait during winter months on select OP rivers in order to protect juvenile steelhead, salmon, and trout.

  • Implement “boats for transportation only” rule on a select stretch of the upper Hoh River outside Olympic National Park to protect holding and spawning adult steelhead and salmon. Similar rules have proven to be successful at reducing catch and release angler induced mortality while also preserving quality fishing opportunity on popular rivers such as Oregon’s Deschutes.

These shifts were carefully crafted and received the support of the North Coast Steelhead Advisory Group (NCSAG), a diverse ad hoc committee comprised of stakeholders from Forks to Seattle that included several WSC board and committee members. NCSAG used a collaborative, consensus-based approach to advance sportfishing rule proposals that chart the best path forward for both wild steelhead and steelheaders.

The Commission’s decision to implement these rule changes comes at a critical time as wild steelhead populations on Washington’s famed Olympic Peninsula slip toward collapse. The status quo has been failing our wild steelhead for years. However, today’s decision marks a stark change of course and signals a shared desire to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

The cause of steelhead decline on the OP is multifaceted, with tribal over-harvest, hatchery supplementation, and habitat loss, particularly on unprotected spawning tributaries, all playing significant roles. But the fact remains that as anglers, we are a part of the problem and therefore we need to be part of the solution.

The hundreds of comments WDFW received from anglers overwhelmingly supporting these rule proposals sent a loud and clear message that anglers are committed to minimizing our collective negative impact on struggling steelhead stocks. Moreover, it was proof positive of anglers’ desire for the state to take the necessary action to protect wild steelhead on the OP and ensure a future that includes angling opportunities in this legendary corner of the Pacific Northwest.

THANK YOU to everyone who submitted comments, attended meetings, and helped spread the word. This victory is a credit to your efforts and your passion for wild steelhead conservation. And a big thank you to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for adopting these critical rule changes.