WASHINGTON — Representatives Ron Kind (D-Wisc.) and Walter Jones (R-NC) introduced legislation today aimed at sustaining healthy populations of fish, wildlife and plants on federal public lands – setting off a round of applause from sportsmen’s organizations, conservation groups and outdoor enthusiasts across the country.
“The America’s Wildlife Heritage Act is a commonsense bill that will bring the management of our federal public lands into the 21st century,” said Michael Francis, the national forest program director at The Wilderness Society. “For too long, our national forests and public lands have been managed without adequately considering the health of the fish, wildlife and plants found on those lands or the people whose livelihoods and traditions depend on them.”
The America’s Wildlife Heritage Act, supported by the Your Lands, Your Wildlife campaign, provides the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), with clear objectives and science-based tools to sustain and monitor healthy populations of fish and wildlife and their habitat on national forests, grasslands and BLM lands.
“It’s encouraging to see Congressmen Kind and Jones take a balanced approach to sustaining wildlife on our public lands,” said Dr. Bruce Stein, associate director of Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming at the National Wildlife Federation. “Their proposal is a good reminder that these lands can be used for multiple purposes without jeopardizing fish and wildlife habitat.”
America’s Wildlife Heritage Act will give the Forest Service and BLM new directives to protect the fish and wildlife found on these lands, which are threatened by increasing pressure for resource development, energy production and global warming. The act also enhances coordination between federal and state agencies to achieve their objectives, effectively manage natural resources, and account for fish and wildlife populations that cross agency boundaries.
“As stewards of the people’s lands, one of the most important responsibilities of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management is to ensure that America’s fish and wildlife continue to thrive,” said Peter Nelson, Defenders of Wildlife’s federal lands program director. “America’s Wildlife Heritage Act gives land managers the tools they need to accomplish this fundamental stewardship mission.”
Forest Service and BLM lands hold some of the last remaining intact wildlife corridors for big game species, provide habitat for countless other species, both imperiled and common, and protect some 3,400 public water supplies. But they are also under increasing pressure from rapid, poorly planned development and the dramatic environmental changes associated with global warming.
“It’s time to restore science and public trust to the management of our Forest Service and BLM lands,” said Athan Manuel, the Sierra Club’s director of lands protection. “Currently, federal law mandates that the land be managed for multiple uses. It is time that we recognized that we can only achieve this if the land is healthy and managed to produce sustainable populations of fish, wildlife and plants.”
“As federal land managers are faced with the unprecedented challenge of rapidly changing habitats brought on by global warming, America’s Wildlife Heritage Act will provide them with vital information on the health and distribution of fish and wildlife populations treasured by all Americans,” said Marty Hayden, vice president for policy and legislation at Earthjustice.
This is a release by The Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife, EarthJustice, National Wildlife Federation, and Sierra Club.