Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On Our Side - Trout Unlimited

"If you’re fishing for trout anywhere in the U.S. and you are not a Trout Unlimited member, you seriously need to ask yourself why not."

Chris Hunt - Communications Director for the Sportsmen's Conservation Project

This is a No Politics Allowed! blog. Because of this, you won't hear me rant about my profound disappointment in the impending extinction of elected officials who are able to think independently rather than as party lemmings, who are unafraid to at least listen to the ideas from across the aisle, who understand that compromise is not a sign of weakness, and who are capable of hearing the quiet voices of the majority of their constituents above the din created by the political fringes, twenty-four hour news bobble heads, and perpetual re-election campaigns.

Such things have no place on Mike’s Gone Fishin’.

But this is also a fishing blog and the absence of such individuals - and the resulting ain’t-gettin’-shit-done game of chicken that is our current political process - is having profound and damaging effects on the future of our natural heritage. Someone needs to stand up, step into the ring, and do what they can to pull the intractable extremes together so that we, and our children, and our children’s children, may continue to enjoy an unsullied great outdoors. While in Montana I learned that Trout Unlimited is doing everything it can to be that arbiter.

Yes, I am a Trout Unlimited member, but must admit that, until recently, an unenthusiastic one. My issues with TU related to my living near warm waters, not cold, and my frustration with the leadership that visited occasionally to urge us to drive west to spend our time and our money in the mountains while we were fighting our own access and water quality issues at home. Forget about the gill netting and striper kills off the North Carolina coastline. Save them precious little trout.

I also grew weary of receiving my monthly mailing urging me to become a lifetime member. Dudes, my “lifetime” is shorter now than the last ten times you asked. The deal keeps getting worse. Enough already.

But my hosts in Montana made me realize that saving cold water habitat, saving headwaters, trickles down. Pardon the pun. And while they agree that conservation issues exist everywhere, they rightly pointed out the need to pick their battles and focus their resources, hoping that other organizations follow TU’s lead into the other problem areas, perhaps even following TU models of engagement. And many of the battles most in need of picking are, perhaps, out west where the issue of pervasive federal ownership and subsequent leasing muddies the waters - especially in the current political climate.

Sportsmen with the objective of responsible management are needed – not more NO men. It’s hard for me to say it, but some exploration and development is warranted – the country has some serious energy issues - but these intrusions into the natural order must be well thought out, minimally impactful, and approached with an acknowledgement that there are some places that they simply do not belong.

Oil and gas exploration. OHVs. Stream access. Development setbacks. Cyanide heap leaching. Backcountry protection. Solving these issues responsibly requires open minds and willingness to work and compromise. It requires a sportsman conservationist’s mindset. To my way of thinking, right now it requires the kind of gentlemen that I shared waterways with in Montana.

The Trout Unlimited representatives I met were passionate sportsmen and passionate conservationists. It makes no sense to be the former without also being the later. They understood the issues and the challenges being faced throughout the west and are working hard to protect our sporting lives. It was no accident that Montana was our base for it is a great example of the successes TU has made – establishing perhaps the most generous stream access laws in the nation. Here, TU has been effective and they can be in other areas as well... with our help.

Listen to Chris. If you fish for trout, join TU. Follow them at their website and on facebook. Speak up when they ask for your voice. They are on our side.

That is, the side in the middle. The side that desperately wants to start getting things done.

About your comments: Seriously, this really is a No Politics Allowed! blog. I have reluctantly strayed only to clearly portray the magnitude of the problems we face. Understanding the fertile waters I have created for debate, I ask that your comments contribute constructively to the issue - not perpetuate the climate that has stalemated us for far too long. We all need to work together on this or we fail.

P.S. That lifetime membership Winston GVX is starting to look a good bit better now. There is, after all, more than just my lifetime to be thinking about here.


schnitzerPHOTO said...

Really appreciate this thoughtful and well-articulated post, Mike. TU is nothing without its people - members and staff. Coldwater resource conservation needs more folks like you.

Cope Mahagan said...

Well said Sep! Thank you

Steve Zakur said...

Great post, Mike. Individual action is at the heart of TU being effective. Joining is the first step. Becoming active, whether ist rolling rocks, writing letters when you're asked or becoming the treasurer of your chapter is the key to more success.

Sanders said...

As always, a really nice post. TU is in a tough spot finding its way through the "middle"...and you're right, the folks that make up the organization are what makes it tick...

A no politics zone...I like it :-)

Chris said...

F***in A, Mike.

It's impossible NOT to be political these days when it comes to fishin'.

The world's fisheries are in such a state due to plain commercial greed and public / government apathy.

cofisher said...

Nice post Mike. I hope people are paying attention.

Feather Chucker said...

Great post Mike, TU should put this on their website.

rwachtler said...

I love well written work. Nice... As I travel around, I see what an effective organization TU has been over the years. It makes it easy to support them.

Jay said...

Very well stated. I couldn't agree more. Conservation isn't a political issue; it is a moral one. Regardless of your politics, you should be able to recognize that we don't own the Earth. We are borrowing it from future generations, and it's not ethical to leave a mess for them to clean up.
Great post.

Travis said...

Well said Mike, very well said. But what's that stain on your hat?

Mike Sepelak said...

Travis, You know darn well what that stain is. French dressing. Didn't have the heart to clean it up before taking the picture. Reminded me too much of a great evening. At least I think I remember it was a great evening...

Thanks for the good laugh!