SALEM — When it comes to fly-fishing for steelhead, Oregon Sen. Jason Atkinson doesn't care one whit about party politics.

SALEM — When it comes to fly-fishing for steelhead, Oregon Sen. Jason Atkinson doesn't care one whit about party politics.

What the Republican from Central Point does care about is whether the streams he fishes now remain healthy.

"I'm raising a fifth-generation Atkinson on the same river we've always fished," he said of his son, Perry, 5, adding he hopes his favorite fishing area — whose location he won't disclose — will be just as bountiful for his descendants.

"Nobody likes the politics of one side against the other but we have to have sound science," said Atkinson, who supports the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act expected to be voted on in the U.S. Senate this spring.

"The bill provides the opportunity for our agencies to receive tremendous amounts of research dollars," he said. "As a Teddy Roosevelt Republican and a devoted conservationist, I know you have to have the sound research."

Atkinson was among anglers and hunters rallying on the capitol steps Monday afternoon to show support for the bill. He spoke to the Mail Tribune via cell phone after the rally.

Organized by the National Wildlife Federation, the rally unveiled a letter signed by 28 Oregon hunting and fishing groups asking Congress to support the bill.

It also requests that Congress support federal legislation that would cut carbon emissions by 2 percent annually, putting the nation on target for an 80 percent reduction by 2050, the amount scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

Nationwide, more than 670 sportsmen's groups, representing millions of Americans who hunt and fish, have added their names to the letter to Congress.

"Sportsmen are already seeing the impacts of climate change in the places they hunt and fish," said Doug Howell, regional executive director at the National Wildlife Federation's western natural resources center in Seattle, in a prepared statement.

"They know that addressing climate change is not an issue of left or right, it's a matter of right and wrong," he said. "The threat is urgent, the solutions are clear and the time to act is now."

"Oregon sportsmen want America to lead on global warming solutions," added Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association.

In Oregon, some 573,000 people spent more than $478 million on fishing and 236,000 people spent more than $378 million on hunting in 2006, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey.

"Global warming is one of the top issues facing sportsmen today," said Tom Wolf, an avid Rogue River steelhead angler and chairman of the Oregon Council of Trout Unlimited.

"A lot of sportsmen are very concerned that global warming is happening," added the Hillsboro resident, noting he has been a hunter and angler for more than 40 years. "It's something we're all talking about."

The point, he said, is that stream temperatures just a few degrees warmer could be devastating to Oregon's fishery.

"Warmer temperatures means more disease," he said.

A warmer climate would also reduce the habitat for waterfowl as well as for big game such as deer and elk, he said.

"If there is global warming, there will be less habitat for deer and elk and less for them to eat," he said.

Atkinson said he believes Oregon has progressed since the spotted owl debate two decades ago.

"The paradigm has shifted — groups are coming together to try to solve conservation problems," he said.

Atkinson, whose conservation bills have included a fishing line recycling program, said the conservation issue is bigger than any politician on either side of the aisle.

"I'm going to be chasing after steelhead long after I'm no longer a senator," he concluded.

To read the full letter and list of signers, see http://TargetGlobalWarming.org.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.