American Fly Fishing

By Trout Unlimited

Part of a 2014 public lands bill that passed Congress, the Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act permanently protects high-quality habitat for fish and game, helps recover threatened native Lahontan cutthroat trout, and protects recreational access and sporting opportunities in one of Nevada’s most unique wild places.
   The Pine Forest Range is a complex of largely undeveloped public lands in northwestern Nevada. The act, shaped locally by sports enthusiasts, county officials, and other stakeholders, designates 26,000 acres of two wilderness study areas as the Pine Forest Range Wilderness, releases other lands from consideration as wilderness, relocates several roads to protect sensitive habitat better, and provides for acquisition of valuable habitat through a land exchange.
   “There is no sporting opportunity without quality habitat,” says Jim Jeffress, Nevada backcountry coordinator for Trout Unlimited, which worked tirelessly to ensure that the act would pass Congress and become law. “This bill guarantees access for anglers and hunters, and ensures that the excellent fishing and hunting values of this special place will be permanently protected. At the same time, it protects the interests of ranchers, water users, other recreational user groups, and environmental organizations.”
   Jeffress says outdoor enthusiasts were the driving force behind the Pine Forest Range conservation initiative. Tiger trout and brown trout, as well as chukar, sage grouse, mule deer, and California bighorn sheep are popular targets for anglers and hunters in the range, which rises monolithically above the basin-and-range country of northern Nevada, not far from the tiny town of Denio. He notes further that access to trout-producing Onion Valley and Knott Creek Reservoirs is not impeded by the new act, and says, “In fact, more areas are now cleared from wilderness study area status to general use to allow for more camp sites. Access to the Blue Lakes trailhead is open to vehicles.”
   Jeffress adds, “We thought the hard part was done when we reached agreement among the stakeholders in Humboldt County, but getting the bill through Congress turned out to be a years-long adventure. We thank Representative Mark Amodei and Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller for their leadership and commitment to shepherding this bipartisan bill through the legislative process.” 
   The Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act was developed through a stakeholder-driven process initiated by members of the Humboldt County Commission. Jeffress explains that local elected officials, business owners, ranchers, sportsmen, off-highway vehicle enthusiasts, and wilderness advocates got together and “went over maps and the country itself, going stream by stream, ridge by ridge, and road by road to identify and protect the multiple-use values of the area.”
   The outcome was legislation endorsed by a wide variety of interest groups and community leaders as well as the Nevada Association of Counties, Governor Brian Sandoval, and Nevada’s entire congressional delegation. “The Pine Forest bill is a model of how public land designations should be handled,” says Heller, a Nevada Republican. “This was done in an open and transparent manner that brought local communities and stakeholders to the table.”
   The Nevada lands package also will permanently protect important habitat for mule deer, sage grouse, and other game species in Lyon County, Nevada, as part of the 47,449-acre
Wovoka Wilderness.


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