by Chris Wood: Trout Unlimited Chief Operating Officer
As you may have heard, yesterday the House of Representatives passed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (see tu.org for more info), a measure that would protect more than two million acres of wilderness in California, Oregon, West Virginia, Idaho, and elsewhere. It set aside 1.2 million acres of the Wyoming Range from new energy development—an area that provides vital habitat and fishing and hunting opportunities for mule deer, elk, and three of Wyoming’s four native trout. It creates the National Landscape Conservation System, a network of protected public lands managed by the BLM including the Gunnison Gorge, a phenomenal fishery in Colorado. In addition, the bill includes measures to end water disputes along the San Joaquin River in California, and to promote collaborative solutions to other water disputes. Many conservation organizations worked hard to make this day a reality. I’m particularly proud of TU’s role. Once President Obama signs this bill, it will serve as a validation of TU’s approach to conservation. A lot of land and water is protected by the Omnibus but this victory is less about land and water than it is people. People like Rick Murphree, Squeak Smith, Kirk Otey, Loren Albright and Duke Welter, TU Trustees who took the time to recently meet with Members of Congress to advocate for the bill’s passage. It’s about the 5000 TU members who wrote to their Members of Congress in key swing districts and states in recent weeks urging them to support passage of what may be the most important land conservation bill in 25 years. It’s about people like Bruce Elliston, Dan Beck, Dan Heinz, Jerry Becker, Sean McCormick, John Ross, Denis Morra, Mike Wilson, Brooke Gunsallus, Gary Amerine, Agust Gudmundsson, Tom Sadler, Terry Pollard, Walt Gasson, Dennis Schroeder, Bill Perkins, Duane Hyde, Drew Irby, Stan Griffin, Drew Irby, Jerry Becker, Jim Rogers, Robert Bittner, Jr., Randy Kesling, Chris Byrd, Don Garvin, and Larry Harris. These TU volunteers gave up days, in and some cases, weeks of their lives to protect some of the finest coldwater fish habitat and areas to hunt and fish on the planet. They came to Washington to put a face to the charge that sportsmen and women wanted to see this bill become law. And it’s about people like TU staff Tom Reed, Chris Hunt, Mike Beagle, Sara Tucker, Sam Davidson, Steve Moyer, Bryan Moore, Scott Stouder, Steve Kandell, Dave Glenn, Brad Powell, Greg McReynolds, Cathy Purves, Kathy Lynch, Corey Fisher, Laura Ziemer, Melinda Kassen, Chuck Bonham, Kendall Van Dyk, and Elizabeth Maclin. These are the people who in some cases helped to shape language for the bill. They negotiated complicated agreements with competing interests. They helped build support and divine the strategy to bring the bill to a vote. These people are members of the finest conservation staff in the country. But don’t take my word for it. Go fish or hunt in Idaho’s Owyhees, West Virginia’s Wild Mon, the eastern Sierras in California, Oregon’s Copper-Salmon, and form your own opinions about the value of their work. I’m certain I missed people to thank, if so, I apologize. But know this, there are a lot of organizations taking credit for the Omnibus getting through the Congress, and for many of them it is well-deserved. But few who deserve it more than the people mentioned above.