Those of us who hunt and fish on public lands need to make our voices heard about the continuing loss of hunting and fishing opportunity on these lands. There are two bills pending in Congress that give us that chance.
More than 40 percent of the headwaters of Western watersheds are contaminated by hard rock mine waste. Arizona's public lands are littered with thousands of abandoned mines that degrade water quality in headwater streams and threaten fish, wildlife and human health.
The law governing mining was written in 1872 and it has changed very little since. Legislation has been introduced in Congress, H.R. 2262, to update the law. If H.R. 2262 is passed, the new law will mean that funds will be available to clean up abandoned mines. It will also assist communities impacted by mines and ensure that citizens are part of the decision making process when their local economies, families and natural resources are impacted.
In a related matter, since 1996, more than 24.4 million acres of public land have been leased for oil and gas development. Many of these locations hold some of the nation's best hunting areas and blue-ribbon fishing streams.
It's possible to make oil and gas available and still protect the wild places and wildlife in the West, the quality of our air and water, and the property rights of ranchers and farmers. Yet, in the rush to approve oil and gas development, the government often does not adequately take those concerns into account.
H.R. 2337, the Energy Policy Reform and Revitalization Act of 2007, has been introduced in the U.S. Congress. Of key interest to hunters and anglers is the bill's Global Warming section, which sets up a national plan for assisting wildlife populations impacted by global warming.
The use of public lands for energy development is an important priority. It's not the only priority, however, in managing public lands. Protecting fish and wildlife habitats -- protecting the health and safety of our families and our communities are equally important priorities. They must be considered when deciding whether or not to expand mining and oil and gas development on public lands.
Bradley Powell, Trout Unlimited, Payson