February 25, 2011
Proposed Conservation Funding Cuts Could Devastate Fly Fishing Resources
By Kirk Deeter
HR1 is a bill in Congress right now that would slash funding for a number of important conservation programs that impact fly fishing from coast to coast. I don't care what your political persuasion is...if you're a fly fisher, this should concern you, because any threat to habitat is a threat to opportunity. And in many cases, once a resource is gone, it's gone.
One amendment to the bill proposes defunding the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation—this is the granting body that provides matching grants to Trout Unlimited and a host of other important organizations to conduct habitat improvement in trout and salmon watersheds. For example, this funding is used to screen irrigation ditches, reconnect spawning tributaries to mainstem rivers and return streams to their natural courses. TU has used that money throughout the West, and considers that funding vital to keep heritage populations of trout and salmon alive and well.
The bill would also prohibit the funding and/or expansion of the National Landscape Conservation System. Why should you care? Well, places like the Gunnison Gorge (arguably one of the five best trout floats in America) and the Steens Mountain region in eastern Oregon are parts of the NLCS. Hopefully, places like the Alpine Triangle in Colorado, which I wrote about as part of Field & Stream's "Best Wild Places" tour, could become part of this high-quality lands system that’s managed by the BLM. Defunding the NLCS would be largely symbolic—it’s not a huge line item.
One other item the bill would cut the completion of the USFS travel management plans. This isn’t a huge drain on the budget, and the outcome of these plans will likely save the government money in the long run. Again, this is a largely symbolic amendment put forth to strike back against land management agencies that are out to actually manage land for the benefit of fish and game. Another area I wrote about for "Best Wild Places," the Gila Country in southwestern New Mexico, could potentially suffer as a result.
We write about "Best Wild Places" because, at least in my opinion, they're worth saving at all costs.
What's most frustrating is that these programs are microscopic portions of the national budget...the "savings" wouldn't even make a blip on the radar. But instead of talking about real issues like Social Security, Medicare, Defense spending, and myriad pork projects where the real money gets spent, some of our representatives jump at opportunities to gut environmental programs and protections under the guise of frugality.
Call their bluff. Ask them to get real. And tell them that our sacred fishing and hunting places matter.