In April last year, I drove through a blizzard and below-zero temperatures to fish with some friends and make the first video of the Native Trout Adventures Series for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. The Conservationist covered the story here. That post was about a hoped-for new version of the planning rule that governs the use and management of our National Forest lands, a version that would protect the wildlife and fish habitat, the headwaters of our major watersheds, and give sportsman a clear way to express their concerns over everything from road closures to timber sales, fishing access and hunting and shooting opportunities.

(TRCP’s Native Trout Adventures video. I recommend the whole series, if you have time.)

This year, as April Fool’s day approaches, I’ve just come in from working with my 16-week-old Lab pup. The creek is ice-free. The only snow left is piled on the shady north side of my house, and I left my gloves behind on the kitchen table and didn’t even notice.

I’m grateful that the winter is passing, and I’m grateful that the USDA — the branch of our government that oversees the Forest Service, has approved the planning rule that we discussed in our post one year ago. We are seeing some real balance in federal land management on Forest Service lands, and, at a time when population and resource pressures are building like a summer thunderhead, it’s a welcome turn-of-events. Read about the Planning Rule here, in a press release from the TRCP.

Here’s a summary from the feds.

For some of us, with the land managers trying to balance so many uses, and listen to so many of us who own, love and use the public lands, the new rule will seem like a blueprint for conflict. I do not see it that way. At this point in my life, and in what I think I know of history and where we now stand, conflict is a given, and conflict is a positive energy in land management, in politics, even in daily life. When I think of the absence of conflict, I do not think of harmony and progress and solutions. I think of the silence of North Korea. We don’t have to agree about everything, and we should not. What we do have to do is make our voices heard, find the common ground when we can. The new planning rule is very clear about making sure that can happen.

In other good news, the powerhouse Shimano American Corporation, one of the world’s largest tackle manufacturers (they make the G. Loomis rod, my personal favorite for Louisiana marsh fishing), has signed a letter of support for the Vanishing Paradise campaign to restore the Louisiana marshes and the Mississippi Delta. Shimano joins other giants such as B.A.S.S., Inc., Mercury Motors, Primos, and over 700 other companies, tackle shops and sportsman’s groups in calling for dedicated funding and work on what has been described by many conservationists and geomorphologists (scientists who study landforms and the forces that change them) as the single greatest conservation challenge of our time.

From the press release: “Sustainable recreational use by anglers of our natural resources relies on healthy fisheries and the habitat which supports them,” said Phil Morlock, director of environmental affairs for Shimano’s operations in the both the U.S. and Canada. “We are pleased to be able to support our friends in Louisiana through this effort….”

Vanishing Paradise has spearheaded an effort among sportsmen to pass the RESTORE Act, legislation recently passed by the Senate that directs 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties for the 2010 Gulf oil spill back to the Gulf Coast for ecosystem and economic recovery.

“Having Shimano, a household name in the fishing industry, sign this letter shows how much appreciation and understanding there is in the fishing and hunting community for Louisiana’s vital and productive–but rapidly vanishing–coastal habitats,” said Land Tawney, National Wildlife Federation’s senior manager for sportsmen leadership. “We are making significant strides in helping the federal and local governments advance legislation that will help restore these incredible resources. We couldn’t do that without the help of companies like Shimano and the other great supporters who have signed our letter to Congress. Sportsmen have always been the conservation leaders in this country and now, they are leading the fight to restore the Mississippi River Delta.”

More details here.

And finally, I wanted to call readers’ attention to an interesting story from Prescott, Arizona’s newspaper, the Daily Courier. The short article describes the rapid recovery of a wetland and creek after BLM staffers fenced the area to keep out ATV riders who had been using the place a bit too recklessly. Almost every hunter and fisherman I know either uses an ATV at some point, or recognizes the right of others to do so. Nobody wants to see creeks turned into barren mud pits.

But this is a conflict that seems to have become so polarized that some people seem willing to defend reckless and destructive ATV use, simply because they don’t like the kind of people who oppose it. Others seem to despise the federal land managers so much that they seem unable to imagine that they would have no place at all to ride if not for the public lands — no private landowner would accept the damage shown in the photos here, at least not without charging a hefty access fee. It’s a fascinating situation. Please take a read at the comments that follow the story, for a snapshot of where we are on this issue. And if any readers care to comment here on the story, I’d be very interested in what you think of the Courier story and the comments there.