Protecting the east side of the Sierra Nevada
California protects its pristine lands
The East Side of the Sierra Nevada range provide some of the finest trout streams in the U.S., among them the Owens River, Hot Creek and the east and west forks of the Walker River. Californians have always loved their high dry desert mountains which were captured early on by the pioneer writer Mary Austin in her 1903 lyrical classic Land of Little Rain. Austin wrote of trout in desert streams and the scent of the desert after a gentle rain. Californians’ affection for these places has never abated. Beginning in 2006, Trout Unlimited staff began organizing anglers and hunters in California and Nevada to support a campaign to better protect the headwaters eastern Sierra flank streams by designating them with wilderness or other federal protections. This effort included a media tour on horseback of the West Walker River headwaters, and ultimately helped deliver the introduction of legislation by Rep. Buck McKeon (R), the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act. Numerous sportsmen’s organizations supported this bill, which ultimately became law in 2009 as part of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act. Trout Unlimited organized and communicated the “hunter and angler voice” to Congress, media and other stakeholders for more than three years to help realize this outcome, which designated 40,000 acres of the West Walker River headwaters as wilderness and permanently protected the upper Owens River and its tributaries with Wild and Scenic Rivers designation.
This early success was paralleled with an effort by California to petition United States Forest Service to permanently protect all 4.4 million acres of inventoried roadless areas in the state. Trout Unlimited staff helped shepherd that effort all the way through the process. Later, in 2009, when the aforementioned Omnibus Public Lands Management Act was signed into law it designated 700,000 new acres of wilderness in California, including nearly half a million acres along the Eastern Sierra permanently protecting the headwaters of the Owens and West Walker rivers. It also designated 50 miles of important California trout streams as Wild and Scenic: 19 miles of the Owens River and its tributaries; 22 miles of Cottonwood Creek, a native Paiute cutthroat recovery stream; and 7 miles of Piru Creek. The bill also authorized the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, which aims to restore the river’s spring run of Chinook salmon and in which Trout Unlimited has played a key role. Trout Unlimited led the hunting and angling community in supporting this legislation.
Finally, in 2014, 2015 and 2017, President Obama designated three new national monuments in California that better protect trout streams and their headwaters. San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (including the east and west forks of the San Gabriel River); Berryessa-Snow Mountain National Monument (including Cache Creek, one of the few coldwater streams in the region, and the headwaters of the Eel River); and Sand to Snow National Monument (including the headwaters of the Whitewater River, a rare desert trout stream). Trout Unlimited led the hunting and angling community in California all the way to these conservation wins.
- Innovation and conservation
- Playing the long game
- Off Road Vehicle and Sportsmen Ride Right
- Oregon and Arizona Mineral Withdrawals
- Overcoming congressional gridlock with public lands planning
- Working in state legislatures when Washington, DC, is broken
- The importance of national monuments
- Fight against selling state land
- Alaska Tongass National Forest
- Alaska Pebble Mine
- Utah Roadless
- Washington Steelhead fishing regulation changes
- Land and Water Conservation Fund