Skip to main content

Reauthorized Act is to Protect Public Land and Sustain Clean Watersheds

Reauthorized Act Creates New Wild & Scenic Rivers, Protects the Yellowstone, and Creates Umpqua Steelhead Sanctuary

Reauthorized Act is to Protect Public Land and Sustain Clean Watersheds
Ken Morrish photo

On March 12, President Donald Trump signed into law a wide-ranging public lands package of considerable interest to fly fishers and all who value clean and sustainable watersheds. The success of the 600-plus-page S. 47—otherwise known as the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act—speaks to the political power of sportsmen and conservationists, as well as Congress’s capacity to work in a bipartisan effort to advance widely shared environmental values. In the U.S. Senate, it passed as part of omnibus legislation that included the permanent reauthorization of the fund in a 92-8 vote. In the House of Representatives it passed by a vote of 363-62.

In addition to permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund—whose fate lay uncertain after expiring in the fall of 2018—S. 47 also contains provisions to list hundreds of new miles under the National Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, create a steelhead sanctuary on a tributary of the North Umpqua, and ban mining near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River.

Wild & Scenic Rivers Gain 620 Miles  

//content.osgnetworks.tv/flyfisherman/content/photos/protecting-public-land-wild-scenic-rivers.jpg
Dylan Rose photo

Originally signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, the National Wild & Scenic Rivers Act affirms America’s belief in the social, environmental, and spiritual significance of America’s waterways by protecting them from development in the form of new dams, channel modifications, floodplain mineral development, and other threats to wildlife habitat and water quality. The first eight rivers to meet the Act’s criteria of possessing “outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values” were the Clearwater, Eleven Point, Feather, Rio Grande, Rogue, St. Croix, Salmon, and Wolf. Since then, over 12,000 miles of river have been granted National Wild & Scenic status in 40 states as well as Puerto Rico. 2018 marked the 50-year anniversary of the act, so it would only make sense to add a considerable new quantum of river miles to federal protection—and that’s just what lawmakers did. In fact, more new river miles were granted Wild & Scenic status than at any time over the last decade. The additions are as follows:

  • 256 miles of new designations for tributaries of the Rogue, Molalla, and Elk rivers in Oregon;
  • 110 miles of the Wood-Pawcatuck rivers in Rhode Island and Connecticut;
  • 76 miles of Amargosa River, Deep Creek, Surprise Canyon, and other desert streams in California;
  • 63 miles of the Green River in Utah;
  • 62 miles of the Farmington River and Salmon Brook in Connecticut;
  • 52.8 miles of the Nashua, Squannacook, and Nissitissit Rivers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Wild Steelhead Sanctuary 

//content.osgnetworks.tv/flyfisherman/content/photos/protecting-public-land-north-umpqua.jpg
Ken Morrish photo

Another area to enjoy new protections is a 100,000-acre swath of federal land enveloping the Steamboat Creek watershed, a critical steelhead spawning tributary of the North Umpqua. The Frank and Jean Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary is named after Frank Moore and his wife, who for decades have advocated for the river’s native wild steelhead, drawing attention to how poor forestry management can negatively impact water quality and thus steelhead survival. During his long life, Frank Moore fought in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, served as commissioner of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and received the National Wildlife Federation’s Conservationist of the Year Award, among other honors. In 2010 he was inducted into the Fresh Water Fly Fishing Hall of Fame.


//content.osgnetworks.tv/flyfisherman/content/photos/protecting-public-land-frank-moore.jpg
Photo courtesy of Unlimited and Wild Steelheaders United

The significance of this management zone cannot be overstated. In addition to providing some of the best steelhead spawning water in the Pacific Northwest, Steamboat Creek also provides habitat for Chinook and coho salmon, rainbow trout, and other native fish species. Black bears, river otters, bald eagles, northern spotted owls, Roosevelt elk, and grouse make up a considerable part of the larger Steamboat Creek ecosystem. And the protected water—comprising over 50 miles of Steamboat Creek and its tributaries—also provides clean drinking water to downstream communities.


Protecting the Yellowstone

//content.osgnetworks.tv/flyfisherman/content/photos/protecting-public-land-yellowstone.jpg
Brian Grossenbacher photo

S. 47 also contained legislation banning mining on 30,00 acres of federal land in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. The ideas behind the Yellowstone Gateway Act, as the ban has come to be known, were originally introduced by Democratic Montana Senator John Tester in April 2017 in response to two gold mines proposed in the headwaters of the Yellowstone. The bill passed with the astonishing margin of 92-8 in the U.S. Senate, and also experienced strong bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.

The movement to save the headwaters of the Yellowstone was not partisan; nor was it fueled by niche and special interests. Over 400 businesses, both local and national, banded together to form the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition. In placing permanent physical protections on the headwaters of the Yellowstone, Congress is also permanently enshrining the mythical headwaters of America’s angling imagination.

Looking Forward

//content.osgnetworks.tv/flyfisherman/content/photos/protecting-public-land-yellowstone-1.jpg
Larry Mayer photo

While there are still many challenges on the horizon, these success stories represent positive momentum for our country’s public lands heritage. The next political hurdle will be for Congress to determine the funding level of the now-permanent LWCF, which on average operates at about 40 percent of its $900 million allotment. If Congress can break its habit of diverting a majority of the offshore drilling royalties that make up the program to other projects, the country could be looking at a second golden age of environmental stewardship. Perhaps it already is.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

RIO Slickcast Fly Lines

RIO Slickcast Fly Lines

Chris Walker, with RIO Products, talks with Editor/Publisher Ross Purnell of Fly Fisherman magazine about the new SlickCast lineup of fly lines for 2020.

Scientific Anglers Amplitude Infinity

Scientific Anglers Amplitude Infinity

Scientific Anglers Amplitude Infinity

SIMMS Flyweight Wader

SIMMS Flyweight Wader

A Hex Grid chest panel allows users to affix other components such as pack vest, nest holster, bottle holster, or bear spray.

Costa Ferg Sunglasses

Costa Ferg Sunglasses

Costa's Todd Barker reveals the features of the new Costa Ferg sunglasses, a best-of-category winner at ICAST 2020.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Everyone wants a definite answer to “How close can you get?”.How to Get Close to Trout Beginners

How to Get Close to Trout

Tom Rosenbauer - August 05, 2020

Everyone wants a definite answer to “How close can you get?”.

Best Panfish Flies Best Panfish Flies Flies

Best Panfish Flies

Skip Morris

Best Panfish Flies

Some of the best scud fishing occurs during higher flows, or periods of extreme variation.Scud Patterns for Trout Beginners

Scud Patterns for Trout

Pat Dorsey

Some of the best scud fishing occurs during higher flows, or periods of extreme variation.

See More Trending Articles

More Conservation

The Native Fish Coalition believes that hatchery fish should never be stocked on top of native fish or even where they might have access to native fish.Why a Native Fish Coalition? Conservation

Why a Native Fish Coalition?

Ted Williams - July 02, 2018

The Native Fish Coalition believes that hatchery fish should never be stocked on top of native...

Pebble Mine won't move forward as it's currently proposed.Pebble Mine Shot Down Conservation

Pebble Mine Shot Down

Fly Fisherman Staff - August 25, 2020

Pebble Mine won't move forward as it's currently proposed.

The Contentious debate over limiting use of Montana's most popular river.Is the Madison River Being Overused? Conservation

Is the Madison River Being Overused?

Michael Wright - August 26, 2019

The Contentious debate over limiting use of Montana's most popular river.

Social media, films, magazines, and online publications tout seldom-fished waters and high fish numbers on prized streams these days.Solving River Conflicts Conservation

Solving River Conflicts

Boots Allen

Social media, films, magazines, and online publications tout seldom-fished waters and high...

See More Conservation

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Fly Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now