Tag Archives: Sen. Maria Cantwell

Huge Federal Public Lands Bill Signed, Applauded By Hunters, Anglers, Others



Public lands sportsmen and women are celebrating a significant victory following the president’s signing a massive package of conservation and access bills into the law of the land.


Permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund; conservation of valuable habitat in Montana, Oregon, Washington and California; and establishment of wilderness areas in New Mexico, along with reauthorization of key federal resources programs, are among the wins in S. 47, renamed the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act in honor of the long-serving member of Congress who died last month.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers members consistently and enthusiastically advocated for S. 47, particularly the permanent reauthorization of LWCF, and BHA President and CEO Land Tawney lauded the bill’s passage into law.

“Together, the public lands grassroots nation rose up to ensure the passage of this historic bill,” said Tawney. “We wrote letters, we made phone calls, we met with our elected officials and we traveled from across the country to Washington, D.C., and together we made our voices heard. Today we can celebrate a victory that has been years in the making.

“Every victory starts with a vision, and it is carried forward by champions whose resolve never wavers, even in the face of tremendous adversity,” Tawney continued. “Our allies in Congress helped assure that this important legislation advanced, and in doing so they heeded the will of a citizenry and a conservation legacy set in motion by our forefathers. President Trump, hopefully, woke up this morning and asked himself, ‘What would Theodore Roosevelt do?’ before signing this momentous package of bills into law. Our thanks go to the president, Congress and the countless individuals who stepped up to make this happen. We the people are just getting started and have the mandate to do more!”

Passage of S. 47 was made possible by a bipartisan group of congressional leaders, including Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), former Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA), House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-UT). S. 47 passed the Senate on Feb. 12 in an overwhelming 92-8 vote and advanced through the House on Feb. 26 in a vote of 363-62.

BHA grassroots members from across the country spoke up in support of S. 47.

“This bill is an important final step in protecting key lands used by generations of hunters and anglers in both southern and northern New Mexico,” said Joel Gay, BHA New Mexico chapter policy coordinator, who lives in Albuquerque. “The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act will provide permanent protection for critical habitat for mule deer, elk and bighorn sheep and for streams that harbor our state fish, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. The New Mexico chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers applauds Congress for its bipartisan effort on behalf of sportsmen and women.”

“Sportsmen and women from across the Northwest have long treasured the Methow Valley for its vast and wild public lands,” said Ryan Los, a Washington BHA chapter board member, who lives in Wenatchee. “I grew up driving over four hours between my dad’s and grandpa’s houses to the Methow and its tributaries every fall. I shot my first deer in one of those drainages. I applaud Senator Cantwell and others in our state for their bipartisan leadership work to permanently protect the headwaters of the Methow and permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”

“Montanans feed our families and our souls thanks to the public lands and waters within our state and therefore support robust conservation funding to bolster our fish and wildlife and outdoor traditions,” said Christian Appel, a member of BHA’s Montana chapter board who lives in Bozeman. “We’re proud that all of our congressional delegates voted the right way on S. 47. In particular, the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act permanently removes more than 30,000 acres of public lands from mineral exploration and extraction. This land, situated just outside of Yellowstone National Park, provides some of the best hunting and fishing opportunities in the state. Montanans everywhere should feel relief that these acres – and the outdoor activities they provide – now are conserved for future generations.”

“We’re thrilled to see some of our most critical Southern California desert habitat gain designation as wilderness with the passage of S. 47,” said Justin Bubenik, co-chair of BHA’s California chapter, from Pasadena. “These newly minted wilderness areas will provide additional protections to critical habitat of our local wildlife – from our state bird, the California quail, to the desert bighorn sheep – and promises to benefit all recreational users. We thank our representatives in the Senate and House and our partner groups for their efforts in passing this critical legislation.”

“The Oregon chapter of BHA is committed to the conservation of North America’s native species,” said Ian Isaacson, co-chair of BHA’s Oregon chapter board and a resident of Bend. “This is why we are excited about the passage of the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary Act. The passage of this bill is a culmination of a multi-year collaborative effort, which will result in the conservation of 100,000 acres of the most critical and pristine wild steelhead habitat in the Pacific Northwest. While we all take this moment to celebrate, know that the Oregon chapter will not stand idle as we continue to identify other opportunities around this state to secure similar victories for fish and game species iconic to the American west.”



Today, U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-WV) attended the White House’s Presidential bill-signing ceremony at which President Trump signed the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act into law. The legislation, which permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, passed the U.S. Senate with a vote of 92-8 on February 12th and passed the U.S. House of Representatives with a vote of 363-62 on February 26th.

“I was proud to join Senator Murkowski and my colleagues at the White House today as President Trump signed the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act into law. This legislation is an important reminder that when we work in a bipartisan way, the American people come out on top. This public lands bill permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, increases access to public lands for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting, and it significantly expands our recreation and conservation areas. West Virginians take great pride in our outdoor heritage and I’m especially proud we were able to finally designate the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area in 18 counties in West Virginia and Maryland as a National Heritage Area,” Senator Manchin said. “Roughly 47 million Americans hunt and fish every year which provides an economic benefit of more than of $201.4 billion per year and supports 1.5 million jobs. For West Virginians, our love of the great outdoors is a part of who we are and we take great pride in sharing that with our friends and neighbors. More than 350,000 hunters explore our woods every year. That sporting contributes almost $270 million to our economy and supports 5,000 jobs. This public lands bill expands our access to the lands we cherish and that is great news for West Virginia.”

LWCF is a conservation tool that ensures states and federal public land management agencies are able to protect and conserve our natural resources without relying on taxpayer dollars. The program puts royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and natural gas in the Outer Continental Shelf into a fund in the U.S. Treasury to be allocated to states and the Federal government for the purpose of protecting, conserving and improving our public spaces. Since 1965, about $19 billion of LWCF funds have been appropriated.  LWCF expired in September 2018 after a brief 3-year extension in 2015.

The John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act also includes significant wins for America’s sportsmen and sportswomen. The legislation will increase access to federal lands for hunting and fishing, and includes a clear Congressional declaration for all federal departments and agencies to facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting, fishing and recreational shooting opportunities on federal lands. The bill establishes a national “open unless closed” standard for hunting and fishing on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands, and it requires land management agencies to listen to local, public input before they can close any lands to hunting or shooting. The legislation authorizes two additional days to the current duck hunting season, specifically for veterans and youth.

The John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act also:

  • Adds over 621 miles of rivers to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System
  • Adds over 2,600 miles of new trails to the National Trails System
  • Designates 700,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas
  • Increases the size of our National Parks by over 42,000 acres
  • Creates four new national monuments
  • Provides direction to all federal departments and agencies to facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting, fishing and recreational shooting opportunities on federal lands



Today, President Donald Trump signed into law a sweeping public lands package that passed the US House and Senate in February. Included in the nation-wide legislation is the Oregon Wildlands Act, the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Designation Act, the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and many other public lands bills. The legislation was the first for Oregon to protect Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers in nearly 10 years.


Representative Peter DeFazio and Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley championed the conservation legislation for years. The passage was lauded by business owners, conservationists and public lands enthusiasts across the country.

“Protected wildlands and waterways in Oregon are good for business, critical for great craft beer, and are part of our identity as Oregonians,” says Jamie Floyd, co-founder of Ninkasi Brewing Company. “That’s why we are ecstatic about the passage of the Oregon Wildlands Act, which will forever safeguard special places like Devil’s Staircase, the Rogue, Elk, and Chetco Rivers and other Oregon treasures.”

Today’s authorization will designate the approximately 30,500-acre Devil’s Staircase Wilderness in the Oregon Coast Range northeast of Reedsport and safeguard 303 miles of rivers, including nearly 256 miles as Wild and Scenic Rivers, including the Molalla and Elk Rivers and tributaries to the lower Rogue River. The bill will also permanently withdraw portions of the salmon-rich Chetco River, the drinking water source for the City of Brookings, from mining claims. The legislation also creates the 100,000-acre Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area on the North Umpqua River, named after two legendary fish and wildlands advocates of the area.

“Oregon’s inventory of protected wildlands and waterways just got a huge boost, and is a testament to the conservation passion of Oregonians,” says Josh Laughlin, Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “These are storybook landscapes that will be forever safeguarded from industrialization and will continue to provide clean water, recreation, carbon storage, and critical salmon and wildlife habitat at a time it is so desperately needed.”

Left out of the legislation during earlier negotiations was the 56,000-acre addition to the Wild Rogue Wilderness in the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon and the creation of the Rogue Canyon and Molalla Recreation Areas. Conservation organizations continue to work with elected officials, business owners and community members to ensure these permanent protections are included in future legislation.

Columbia Sea Lion Bill Passed By US Senate

The U.S. Senate has passed a key bill that would make it easier for state and tribal managers to protect ESA-listed salmon and steelhead in the Lower Columbia from California sea lions.


“What a day!” said an almost-speechless Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association this afternoon. “Maybe we’ll be able to stave off some extinctions.”

S.3119, known as the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Act, does need to be reconciled with a nearly identical version that was passed by the US House and be signed into law before the end of the year by President Trump, but it’s good news for fish and fishermen who’ve watched helplessly as sea lions have chowed down on Chinook, coho, steelhead and other stocks.

It amends the Marine Mammal Protection Act for five years to allow for the lethal removal of California sea lions in the Columbia downstream of Bonneville Dam and upstream to McNary Dam,  as well as in the river’s tributaries with ESA-listed salmonids.

“It’s such an important piece of legislation,” said Hamilton. “So little gets done, especially for fish.”

A Northwest Power and Conservation Council report from late last month said that NOAA researchers found sea lions ate from 11 to 43 percent of spring Chinook that entered the Columbia annually since 2010, with 2014’s run hit particularly hard — an estimated  104,333 ESA-listed Upper Columbia springers “were lost between Astoria and the dam to the unexplained mortality, which the chief researcher, Dr. Michelle Wargo-Rub, said can be attributed to sea lions.”

The states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho have had federal permission to remove specific animals gathered at Bonneville Dam since March 2008. This bill extends that authority to the Yakama, Nez Perce, Umatilla and Warm Springs Tribes and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

Today’s move also follows on federal fishery overseers’ recent move to allow ODFW to remove sea lions at Willamette Falls, where if nothing had been done, the state estimated that at least one run of wild winter steelhead had a 90 percent chance of going extinct.

Earlier this year, NMFS found that California sea lions had reached their habitat’s carrying capacity. Almost all if not all that visit the Northwest to snack on salmonids are males.

Hamilton credited a “a coalition like no other” for the heavy lift.

In Congress, that came from a bipartisan group of Northwest lawmakers — Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Jim Risch (R-ID) to get the bill through the upper chamber after Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-3) and Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-5) sponsored one in the House.

“We greatly appreciate the bipartisan efforts of Senators Cantwell and Risch to secure Senate passage of this critical legislation,” said Gary Loomis, founder of G-Loomis, Edge Rods, and Coastal Conservation Association in the Pacific Northwest, in a press release. “Current law is failing wild and endangered Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead populations, some of which face an imminent risk of extinction if nothing is done to address the unnatural levels of sea lion predation and restore balance to this unique Ecosystem. Every member of the U.S. House of Representatives – Republican and Democrat – from Oregon, Washington, and Idaho voted for similar legislation this summer and the six U.S. Senators from these states came together to pass this critical legislation to protect our salmon.”

According to CCA’s Tyler Comeau, the bill was passed by “unanimous consent,” expediting its passage through the Senate for lack of objections. He said his organization believes it will become law.

Even as Hamilton shed “tears of joy,” she was quick to point out the efforts of staffers at state fish and wildlife agencies — Meagan West at WDFW and Dr. Shaun Clements at ODFW.

“It was the scientists, Dr. Shaun Clements, that kept the conservation front and center,” said Hamilton.

We have reached out to WDFW and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission for comment and will fold those in when they arrive, but for his part, Clements said ODFW was “very relieved to have achieved this major milestone thanks to the support of the Northwest Senate delegation.”

“Passing this legislation to amend the MMPA is critical to ensuring we don’t have another repeat of Ballard Locks, which saw the extirpation of a wild steelhead run as a result of predation by a  handful of sea lions,” Clements said, in reference to Herschel et al’s 1980s’ feeding frenzy on Lake Washington watershed-bound winter-runs.

“Removing sea lions is not something we take lightly,” he added, “but it is unfortunately necessary as we are seeing some salmon, steelhead, and potentially sturgeon populations in the Columbia being pushed to the point of no return. We very much appreciate the efforts of the entire delegation, and particularly Senators Risch and Cantwell for recognizing the urgency and passing a bill that will allow both fish and sea lions to thrive.”

Hamilton also noted the importance of the diversity of the conservation community that came together, members such as the Wild Salmon Center.

“I’m convinced it made a lot of difference,” she said.

Sea lions aren’t nearly the only problem impacting returns of ESA-listed salmon and steelhead, Hamilton acknowledged, but this is good news for the fish that live in or return to the region’s most important river.

But there’s also work to be done elsewhere in the region. WDFW staffers are expected to brief the Fish and Wildlife Commission late next week on the impact sea lions as well as harbor seals are having in other Washington waters. Frustrations are boiling over and Puget Sound where more than 10 sea lions have been illegally shot and killed this fall.

Anglers Urged To Contact US Senators In Support Of Salmon-Sea Lion Bill

Northwest anglers are being urged to contact their U.S. senators to support a bill that would give salmon managers more leverage to deal with problematic pinnipeds.


The Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act, S 3119, is expected to go before the Senate’s Commerce Committee this Wednesday.

With sea lions chewing up ESA-listed Chinook and steelhead, as well as other stocks, in the Columbia and its tribs, the bill would tweak the Marine Mammal Protection Act to allow state and tribal to remove as many as an additional 100 a year.

The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association’s Liz Hamilton is urging people to call their two senators to “ask them to support the bill, and let them know that failure is not an option here. And be sure to thank them!”

The exact same bill, HR 2083, passed the U.S. House late last month with yes votes from every single Idaho, Oregon and Washington representative.

The Senate version is cosponsored by Idaho’s James Risch (R) and Washington’s Maria Cantwell (D) and was introduced in mid-June.

“Pacific salmon are central to our culture, our livelihoods, and our economy in the Pacific Northwest,” Cantwell said. “Taxpayers throughout Washington, Idaho, and Oregon have made significant investments in Pacific salmon restoration, and we must continue to support science-based management methods to ensure future generations have access to wild Pacific Northwest salmon.”

Cantwell’s office can be reached at (202) 224-3441.

Washington’s other U.S. Senator, Patty Murray, can be reached at  (202) 224-2621.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden can be reached at (202) 224-5244 while Senator Jeff Merkley can be reached at (202) 224-3753.

Since 2008, Northwest states have had the authority to move sea lions preying on salmon and steelhead below Bonneville Dam, including to euthanize the worst offenders.

Both bills in Congress would expand that down to the I-205 bridge over the Columbia and in any of its tribs with ESA-listed stocks.

And it would allow for NOAA to not only issue one-year permits to the states but also to a number of tribes including the Nez Perce, Warm Springs, Umatilla, Yakama and Cowlitz, as well as the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

Last year, a CRITFC employee died on the way to perform sea lion counts after the boat he was on capsized due to strong winds.

It’s notable that both the House’s and Senate’s sea lion bills have received bipartisan support from the Northwest’s federal lawmakers.

“I want to thank my colleague Senator Risch for working with me on this bipartisan, science-based solution that will help protect salmon for future generations,” said Cantwell, who is a Democrat of the Idaho Republican.

Congress Moves Closer To OKing States, Tribes To Lethally Remove More Columbia Sea Lions

Efforts to reduce sea lion predation on ESA-listed Columbia River salmon and steelhead got a big boost today with the passage of a bill that would provide state and tribal managers more latitude to deal with the hungry pinnipeds.


HR 2083, introduced by a pair of Lower Columbia Congressmen from either side of the river and political aisle and which would allow sea lions to be culled in parts of the mainstem and its tribs to save fish, sailed out of the U.S. House of Representatives on a 288-116 vote this afternoon.

Cosponsors Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA3) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR5) were joined by every single one of their fellow Washington and Oregon representatives, as well as both of Idaho’s, in voting for the measure.

The move comes just days after similar legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate, making action now suddenly more likely after previous versions of the House bill had stalled.

Herrera Beutler said it was the result of a “team effort” and credited Schrader for getting the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act to a vote, Washington U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D) and Idaho U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R) for introducing one in the upper chamber, and “all the local and tribal agencies and fishermen who have trumpeted the plight of our salmon for years.”


Along with testimony from the Columbia River Inter-Tribe Fish Commission last year, the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association has lent its strong support.

An exultant Liz Hamilton, NSIA’s executive director, called this “truly a good day for salmon, steelhead and sturgeon!”

She said lawmakers’ action offered “huge progress … giving fishery managers another tool to prevent extinction and help with recovery.”

Essentially, the bill would expand the scope of removals by, according to a Coastal Conservation Association of Washington press release, amending a portion of the “Marine Mammal Protection Act to authorize the Secretary of Commerce to provide states and local tribes the tools necessary to humanely manage sea lions on the waters of the Columbia River and its tributaries as long as the sea lions are not classified as an Endangered Species Act listed species.”

Between 2008 and 2016, as predation at Bonneville Dam increased, ODFW and WDFW were allowed by NOAA to remove 161 California sea lions, euthanizing 139 of those and finding zoos and aquariums for another 15.

But they’re smart critters and know where the food is at and readily return to unnatural pinchpoints.

In a joint letter, the heads of CRITFC, IDFG, ODFW and WDFW said passage of HR 2083 was “critical to ensuring we can manage the ever-increasing issue of predation on sturgeon, lamprey, and Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin,” according to a press release.

Back in April, ODFW took the strongest stance, specifically calling on Congress to act, pointing out that male sea lions gathering below Willamette Falls were driving the basin’s steelhead “closer to extinction,” not unlike what Herschel did at the Ballard Locks to Lake Washington’s stocks.

Earlier this year, federal researchers said that California sea lions had reached their “optimal sustainable population,” a triggering point in the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and a high enough level that West Coast states could begin to take over management.

“The California sea lion population has experienced a huge population recovery in recent years; unfortunately, that population has now grown to numbers totally inconsistent with its historic range, posing a very serious threat to the endangered salmon and steelhead throughout the Columbia River system,” Rep. Schrader said in a press release.

Even as passage of HR 2083 put the focus on pinnipeds, that’s not to say that NOAA issuing one-year take permits to CRITFC, IDFG, ODFW, WDFW, and the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Yakama and Cowlitz Tribes to take out up to 100 of the Chinook-, steelhead- and sturgeon-munching marine mammals is a be-all, end-all solution to fish run woes.

“Salmon recovery isn’t about just one issue, and the data is crystal clear that this [sea lion predation] is an important component, just as dam removal must be,” said angler Chase Gunnell, a Wild Steelhead Coalition boardmenber. “We can’t ignore the real short term threats from unnaturally high predation on endangered salmon and steelhead, even if Bonneville and other dams have exacerbated the situation. Pragmatic, strategic conservationists and wild fish and river advocates should celebrate this sensible policy, just as we should continue working to remove the lower Snake River Dams. It’s not either/or.”

But in the short term it is progress.

NSIA’s Hamilton thanked all three states’ Congressional delegations,  especially Herrera Beutler and Schrader, and also urged fellow fishermen to show gratitude to their representatives.