One of the best reasons to live in northern California is the world class fishing opportunities found between Sacramento and the Oregon border. Unlike some other states — and many other countries — most of these opportunities are on public lands with good access.
Public Lands are essential to my career and my life as an outdoorsman. The great rivers in this part of the state — the Yuba, the Feather, the Truckee — all have their sources in and flow through public lands. Anglers, in turn, are dependent on the access that these public lands provide for these rivers. I would not be able to run my fishing guide service without access to the public lands in the Lassen and Plumas national forests.
For more than a century, American sportsmen and women have played a major role in conserving public lands, water and wildlife. Special taxes on hunting and fishing equipment fund state fish and wildlife agency programs, and sportsmen and women have strongly supported laws and policies that protect habitat.
That’s why the actions of the Trump administration over its first year have been very disappointing. The president and his Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, have eliminated or weakened habitat protections on public lands. These include removing national monument designations from millions of acres of public lands in Utah and a roll back of Clean Water Act protections for smaller, sometimes seasonal streams like those typically found in the headwaters of our major rivers. Such streams comprise more than 60 percent of all stream miles in America — and provide crucial spawning and rearing habitat for native trout, salmon and steelhead.
Trump and Zinke seem intent on stripping special designations from other public lands, too. Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, on the California-Oregon border, remains a target for being downsized. The portion of this monument most likely to be carved out harbors a unique population of native redband trout and the headwaters of tributary streams to the world class salmon and steelhead fisheries of the Klamath and Rogue Rivers.
Equally disappointing is Rep. Doug LaMalfa’s support for these actions. Rep. LaMalfa apparently cares about sportsmen — he has voted in favor of legislation aimed at enhancing sportsmen’s access and fishing and hunting opportunities on public lands — so his positions on public lands conservation, clean water and other priority issues for sportsmen seem inconsistent.
I strongly support managing our public lands better, and creating special designations only on those resources truly deserving of them. But the primary factor — by far — in reduced opportunities for fishing and hunting in this country is loss and degradation of habitat.
We must protect the best of what we have left or quality hunting and fishing will be limited to expensive, private properties. In my view, protecting public lands, the fish habitat that exists on them and the public access they provide is a necessary part of being an angler in California. Those of us who use public lands and love the outdoors have a responsibility to conserve these resources. If we allow our public lands to be treated primarily as an ATM for commodities or energy, with little balance for fish and wildlife habitat, we will lose the ability to share our passions for fishing, hunting, and other kinds of outdoor recreation with our friends, family and future generations.
I invite Rep. LaMalfa to join me and other local sportsmen on a fishing outing in his home waters so he can see for himself why habitat conservation and water quality on our public lands — through special designations, science-based administration and sufficient funding — should remain high priorities.