Sportsman’s, Wildlife Groups Applaud Public Lands Protections

Congress has passed a bill that includes protections for about a million acres of some of our country’s most stunning landscapes that are important for fish, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation. The public lands set aside in the National Defense Authorization Act include areas the National Wildlife Federation and its affiliates have been working for years to conserve.

Collin O’Mara, NWF president and CEO, said today:

“It’s the holiday season and Congress has given Americans an early gift – protection for roughly a million acres of watersheds, fish and wildlife habitat and prized recreation areas on public lands. Many of the National Wildlife Federation’s state affiliates have been working for years to conserve these spectacular landscapes, including Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, Colorado’s Hermosa Creek watershed and New Mexico’s Valles Caldera and Columbine-Hondo wilderness. Unfortunately, Congress has included some elements in the package that raise long-term conservation concerns. We appreciate the bipartisan work that has resulted in one of the biggest public-lands bills in five years and hope the new Congress will reconsider provisions that could pose threats to fish and wildlife, fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreation.”

Comments from NWF affiliates:

Garrett VeneKlasen, New Mexico Wildlife Federation executive director:

“This legislation will change the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico’s JemezMountains from a politically appointed board of trustees to the National Park Service, which will ensure the area remains the crown jewel among the state’s public lands. In addition, the Columbine-Hondo will officially become wilderness, protecting 46,000 acres of backcountry and pristine headwater streams home to important populations of Rio Grande cutthroat trout. These are legacies that will live on for generations thanks to the work by our congressional delegation and widespread public support.”

Suzanne O’Neill, Colorado Wildlife Federation executive director:

“We have been very concerned to learn of the rider that will impact work to ensure effective separation of domestic sheep grazing leases from populations of bighorn sheep, Colorado’s state mammal, where there is high risk of contact.”

Dave Chadwick, Montana Wildlife Federation executive director:

“Montanans are excited that this bill includes protection for hundreds of thousands of acres of public land on the Rocky Mountain Front and the North Fork of the Flathead River. We are grateful to our entire congressional delegation for working together to protect wildlife habitat and public access to public lands.”

Tom Mackin, Arizona Wildlife Federation president:

“The Arizona Wildlife Federation is resolute in its position opposing the Resolution mine as proposed as well as opposition to the Grazing Improvement Act as presented originally in 2013. Their inclusion in the bill is highly concerning because neither of these proposals address potential impacts on wildlife, habitat degradation, water use, public involvement and future consequences.”