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"Rowboat diplomacy" with Chris Wood

Trout Unlimited's Chris Wood with Jael Holzman

Wood and Jael show off a catch. Photo: Nick Sobczyk/Axios

Trout Unlimited CEO Chris Wood is pushing to get the Good Samaritan mining bill to ride on the NDAA.

Why it matters: Conservationists have been trying for decades to pass versions of this legislation. This year might just be their best chance, but they need a legislative vehicle.

  • The bill would create a pilot program to waive liability rules for outside groups to restore abandoned mines. Legal fears have held up cleanup efforts, advocates say.

In what's becoming an annual tradition, we fished the shad run on the Potomac with Wood. Here's what we learned about Good Sam and more …

Defense nexus: Wood told us TU is chatting up members of the Armed Services committees about the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act to convince them it fits in the NDAA.

  • "There are thousands of abandoned mines on DoD lands.… Nobody's really aware of it, but they're a big player in this," he said.
  • It got a House companion last month and has huge bipartisan support, but it's been the subject of a long-running fight between environmental and conservation groups.

Lobbying on the water: Wood told us how he secured a big win on Good Sam through what he calls "rowboat diplomacy" — taking lawmakers fishing.

  • His favorite example occurred last year, when he brought Jim Risch to the same fishing hole and asked if he'd cosponsor after the senator hooked an American shad.
  • "He agreed on the spot," Wood said. "And he's a good guy to fish with. He's fun."

The grand bargain: Also on Wood's mind: a coalition for changing the 1872 mining law, despite a current lack of bipartisan support.

  • It would start, he said, with mining companies and advocates uniting to protect sacred sites and creating a hardrock mining royalty in exchange for "a little more of an expedited NEPA review" for projects with so-called critical minerals.
  • "If there was ever a time when we could go to the industry and say 'Let's have a come-let-us-reason-together moment,'" Wood said, it should be now.
  • But those parties are far from agreement. The National Mining Association supports a net royalty on mining production, while environmentalists like Earthworks prefer a gross royalty rate.

Wood thinks that shouldn't be a hurdle: "We've agreed that there should be a royalty.… I just think there haven't been enough conversations."

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