January 14, 2012

Scott Hed

Scott and his wife Nicki on a recent trip to Bristol Bay, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Scott Hed.

In this issue of the Square Dealer, we are highlighting a TRCP friend and fellow sportsman, Scott Hed, director of the Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska. This article originally appeared in “The Drake” magazine and is written by Geoff Mueller.

Severed by North Dakota, the Saskatchewan plains, Alberta tar sands and British Columbia’s snow-covered Coast Mountains, Gaylord, Minn., is far removed from a proposed large-scale Alaskan mining operation and the toll it would take on anadromous fish runs. But it’s in Gaylord that Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska Director Scott Hed had lived a quintessential Midwestern life – playing football and baseball, hunting, fishing and anxiously awaiting annual pilgrimages to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area – before he started down a path to spearheading the 49th state’s highest-profile environmental standoff in recent memory.

Hed attended Minnesota’s St. Olaf College, where the aspiring economics and accounting major crunched, chewed and digested meaty numbers and the intricacies of gain, loss and risk. Money, it was clear to Hed, made the world spin. And while Oliver Stone’s Wall Street was hitting pay dirt in the late ’80s, an aspiring Bud Fox was born.

“When ‘Wall Street’ came out I was going to school, getting my degree in economics, and I’m thinking, ‘this is sweet, this is what I want to do,’” Hed says. After graduation, he landed in Marshall, Minn., working in the finance industry. It wasn’t quite fast cars and fast women, but it was a respectable living that allowed Hed to taste the nine-to-five grind. When his branch expanded to Sioux Falls, S.D., Hed followed. It was a busy few years of work and relocation, ascending the corporate escalator, and dreaming of someplace else: Alaska.

Fantasizing about The Last Frontier is a popular office antidote for desk-bound outdoorsmen the world over. But with Hed, it sparked his imagination. Next to work and family life, Alaska became Hed’s top distraction. He acquainted himself with the state as a wide-eyed tourist, exploring Denali and the Kenai Peninsula, returning again and again.

“I’d always been good at what I did, and I got paid well to do it,” Hed says. “But I wasn’t able to get up in the morning, look in the mirror, and say, ‘I really have a passion for, and care about, what I’m going to do at work today.’”

Hed’s next move came when his Sioux Falls office went bust and handed him a serendipitous10-month severance package. As Bud Fox states, “Life all comes down to a few moments. This is one of them.”

Hed took the cue and headed north to the coast of the Arctic Ocean for a month-long raft trip under a midnight sun. A timely and fortuitous soul cleanse, the trip also opened a door when, upon returning home that summer, a message on the answering machine awaited. It was the Alaska Coalition, with an opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., and speak on behalf of Alaska as a citizen lobbyist.

“It sounded extremely daunting,” Hed says. But he was sold on the message; so much so that one month later he donned a suit and tie, marched up the stairs on Capitol Hill, and let the words pour. D.C. led to more public presentations, touring the upper Midwest for the Coalition and defending the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling and development.

Hed spoke to whomever had an open ear: church groups, bird gazers, garden hosers, and hunting and fishing advocates from all walks of life. He shined in his new capacity, receiving an expanded territory and a full-time paycheck. Life was good, and the gig was rewarding – even easy, considering Alaska’s broad appeal. But black clouds were brewing, with whispers of something massive on the horizon: “This thing called Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay,” Hed says.

The year was 2006, well before the word “Pebble” had become emblematic of a cancer so big it could devour two of the most prolific sockeye-bearing rivers in the world: the Kvichak and Nushagak. Located at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Pebble would be the largest gold and copper mine ever built in North America—a gaping open pit, miles wide and several thousand feet deep. If developed, resulting toxins could threaten not only the area’s salmon runs but also the health of an entire ecosystem. Six years after Hed began tunneling for answers to life’s proverbial questions, he found his calling in the form of a ticking ecological time bomb.

In October, Hed was at the Jet Hotel in Denver’s trendy LoDo district – a hipster receptacle with a full-service bar in the lobby and heavily promoting a Playboy-sponsored “Fantasy Hotel Party.” Dressed in a “Save Bristol Bay” ball cap, muted fleece and jeans, he was quick to explain he was there for the fight, not the party.

The Save Bristol Bay Road Show had just closed curtains in Seattle, Portland, Corvallis, San Francisco and Santa Fe. After Denver, the grassroots outreach and advocacy effort would hold one last private event in New York City, but the drain of a multi-city slog was not evident in Hed’s demeanor. Upbeat, gregarious, and less slickster D.C. lobbyist than one might expect, the cautiously optimistic Midwesterner says we are now entering decision-making time in the Pebble Mine slugfest. In February 2011, the EPA announced the beginning of its watershed assessment for the region, investigating ecological, cultural and economic values related to the Kvichak and Nushagak and the potential risks brought forth by large-scale mineral development there. Essentially, if a project like Pebble is deemed detrimental to (a) municipal water supplies, (b) fisheries, (c) wildlife or (d) recreational interests, the EPA under the Clean Water Act holds the power to tank it.

The good news, according to the anti-mine movement, is that the EPA’s decision, slated for fall 2012, is a relative no-brainer. “In the case of Bristol Bay,” Hed says, “It’s easy to argue that all four criteria would be adversely impacted by Pebble or any large-scale mineral developments.” (There are currently 1,000 square miles of claims in the region, in addition to Pebble’s.)

But the reality is that the EPA taking that level of action under the Clean Water Act would be unprecedented and would undoubtedly lead to lawsuits from deep-pocketed developers as well as the heavily pro-development state of Alaska.

Ultimately, Pebble Mine might go down as one of the greatest fisheries conservation victories of our time, thanks in large part to people like Hed. Or, as the scrappy Midwestern economics major put it: “If the world’s largest wild salmon fishery and one of the planet’s top sport-fishing and hunting destinations could be lost to something like Pebble, then everything is on the table.”

Learn more about the Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska.

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December 14, 2011

Matt Suuck

Matt Suuck displaying the latest in Minox hunting and sporting optics at a recent TRCP event.

Sport Optics Manager

MINOX USA

Twitter: @MinoxUSAHunting

Location: Claremont, N.H.

What is a favorite hunting or fishing memory?
When I was a kid my family rented a cabin for a long weekend in the mountains of western Maryland. My dad and I spent every day fishing out on the lake. We didn’t catch a lot, but those memories will stay with me forever. It was such a peaceful feeling to be out on the water, just my dad and I.

Tell us a little bit about your job at Minox. What are some things you like about the job and the company?
Minox has been around for 75 years and specializes in photography equipment, hunting optics and a wide range of binoculars. The company is not a large corporation and is privately owned; this gives us the ability to make good, solid and quick decisions. We have the ability to be very flexible and creative in adapting to the market. As a privately owned company, we are looking for long-term stability and are not solely focused on next quarter’s profits.

I’m responsible for all aspects of sales and marketing for hunting and outdoors products at Minox as they pertain to hunting and the outdoors. I do everything from managing our sales force and working on promotional items to working with the press.

How did you become passionate about the outdoors?
My parents were always taking me out fishing, hiking, exploring and sight-seeing. The great outdoors have been a part of my life since I was an infant. My parents would put me in the back of the Chevy, hook up the camper, and we would head out for an adventure. From the time I was little we would be out every weekend.

I went to college out West, and being out there shaped my passion for the outdoors immensely. My love and appreciation for the outdoors, hunting and fishing is such a huge part of why I do what I do today.

What role do you see the TRCP and Minox playing in the conservation arena?
Minox has always supported conservation issues both in Europe and the United States. We have an economic incentive to support conservation, but our interest in conservation goes beyond the economic bottom line. If we don’t invest in conservation, sportsmen won’t be able to hunt – they won’t have a place to go or game to harvest. If there are not any hunters, there won’t be a market for many of our products. At Minox, we believe that investments in conservation are not only the right thing to do, but they are of great importance to the overall economic stability in this country.

What do you think are the most important conservation issues facing sportsmen today?
Loss of access and degradation of habitat are two of the most concerning issues facing sportsmen today. When I lived in places like Utah, Wyoming and Montana I could basically walk out my door and go hunting or fishing. It is a lot harder to find these opportunities now. A lot of the hunting lands are tied up, and you can’t hunt on Sundays where I live in Pennsylvania. These factors severely hamper our outdoor traditions. A lot of people see these restrictions and just say, “Why bother anymore?”

This is a major issue because sportsmen fund our core conservation programs here in the United States. Fewer hunters means fewer dollars for conservation – and the economy. On top of that, the government is slashing funding for programs that work to promote access.

Wherever I’ve worked I’ve pushed to get involved in conservation because I really believe in it. Minox has been a great partner in this. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the partnership that we are building with the TRCP and we at Minox are looking forward to continuing that in 2012 and beyond.

November 14, 2011

Hal Herring

Freelancer

Conservation Writer, Field & Stream

How did you become passionate about the outdoors?

I have been fishing and hunting out in the woods since I was a young boy and have been hunting since I was nine. I’ve hunted and fished in some truly beautiful places. The more I’m out there, the more I’ve realized that these places are beautiful because they haven’t been torn up or developed. Since I had that realization I’ve always had a desire to give back to these places.

What led you to a career in conservation writing?

I began writing fiction in my 20s and then started journalism in my early 30s. When you write full time, it’s often hard to find the motivation. I learned that the only way I could keep my energy up was by writing about things that were inspiring to me. Nature and the outdoors have always been fascinating to me, so it’s been a truly natural fit for me.

What role do you see TRCP and particularly Field & Stream playing in the conservation arena?

Field & Stream is a publication for people who care about fish and wildlife, while the TRCP is an organization working to advocate for fish and wildlife. The fit has been a natural one as the TRCP and Field & Stream both bring awareness to similar issues.

In order for both the TRCP and Field & Stream to move forward, there needs to be an irrefutable positive link made between fishing, hunting and conservation. By working together, we can ensure that conservation becomes an integral part of the American mindset.

What do you think are the most important issues facing sportsmen today, and how do you hope your writing will bring awareness to these issues?

Getting more young people involved in conservation and the outdoors is an issue of great concern to me. It is important to draw young people into a deeper connection with nature. And it’s not just children; people in general need to be more connected to the outdoor world. These connections bring a greater awareness of the importance of clean water, habitat and conservation. Our natural world is incredible, and we need to nourish what is left.

October 14, 2011

Bill Klyn

Bill Klyn on left after a day in the field with his trusty dog, Bear, and outdoors writer, Todd Tanner. Christen Duxbury

International Business Development Manager, Patagonia

Jackson, Wyo.

From the time he was a little boy, to his current position with Patagonia, Bill Klyn has demonstrated an unparalleled passion for conservation and the outdoors.

How did you become passionate about the outdoors?

Growing up as a little boy in a small town outside Cleveland, I remember going to Lake Erie and seeing scores of dead fish that continually washed up on the beach. I was seven and even as a little guy, I remember thinking that something was wrong [with this]. I began fishing when I was 12 then began skiing and rock climbing not long after that. I always enjoyed time outdoors but it wasn’t until I took a six-week National Outdoor Leadership School course out in Lander, Wyo., that I realized how much these wild places really meant to me.

What led you to a career in conservation?

I moved out to Wyoming when I was 26 and it was there that I plugged into the conservation community. I was active in the fishing and hunting community through my part ownership of a fishing, hunting and outdoor sporting goods business. It was through this work that I saw how much sportsmen really invested in conservation and were willing to step up to the plate for the resources they cared about; through joining national and local non-profit organizations or rallying to support specific issues with hands-on work, donations and using their sphere of influence.

As a business owner, I saw that threats to our fish and wildlife resources in turn were threats to the sustainability of my business and the local economy. I couldn’t run my business without healthy streams and habitat. Nor could I pursue my personal passion for hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits.

What role do you see the TRCP and Patagonia playing in the conservation arena?

I still believe that educating and inspiring the public about the threats to our natural resources and offering them a call to action is the key. Bringing the concept of economic viability and sustainability to conservation, protection and enhancement will incentivize businesses, elected officials and end-users to become more involved to do the right thing. I think this is something that the TRCP is excelling at right now. The TRCP’s work uniting hunters and anglers with folks in the outdoor industry is a great example, and following these efforts we are seeing a powerful voice emerge around conservation issues.

So many times in the past we’ve seen groups divide and take sides on issues where we should be working together. How many hunters still think the folks at Patagonia are a bunch of tree huggers? We need to get past these notions and unite around the resources we care about. The TRCP has always been able to reach out and partner with a wide array of organizations. Patagonia looks forward to working with the TRCP to continue to bring these walls down.

What do you think are the most important conservation issues facing sportsmen today?

Gaining an awareness of our water usage is critical. People have to realize that by the year 2025, human demand for water will account for 70 percent of all available freshwater. What does that leave for wildlife and habitat? We need to be thinking about this not only when we use water at home, but when we buy things. To make a pair of jeans, it takes 1,450 gallons of water – that’s enough to provide 58 people with water for a day. We need to look at our impact and take stock in what we are using and what is left for wildlife and habitat. Learn more at www.patagonia.com/environment.

Runaway energy extraction with the focus on next FY profits rather than a long term plan that takes into consideration wildlife and local populations is another key issue. There’s no denying we need to develop our domestic energy resources, but this can be done responsibly.

September 14, 2011

Dan Ashe

Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Photo courtesy of Tami Heilemann/DOI.

Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Location: Potomac, Md.

How did you become passionate about the outdoors?

I love to do anything outdoors, from scuba diving to hunting or fishing. My grandfather was a hunter, and my brothers and I would go out with him every winter. All those memories, from the howling beagles to the rabbits we hunted, have become interwoven with who I am.

What led you to a career in conservation?

My dad worked for the Fish and Wildlife Service, and we would follow him around, moving throughout the South. Part of my desire to get involved in conservation was that I wanted to be like my father a bit. I’ve always really liked science, and growing up I wanted to be a marine biologist. I studied biology in college and, after graduating, received a National Sea Grant Congressional Fellowship that allowed me to move to Washington, D.C., and gain experience on Capitol Hill.

What were some valuable lessons you learned on the Hill?

I got to meet lots of people in the conservation community. On Capitol Hill you learn how to make lasting relationships with people because one day you are working with a person and the next day you are working against them. My time there taught me to unite people even when there are many different perspectives and places from which people are approaching an issue. What’s more, I learned that conservation policy is not always about science. There is almost always a political dimension to an issue.

What do you think are the most important conservation issues facing sportsmen today?

Climate change is a huge issue, not only now but into the future. Biologists, sportsmen and outdoor recreationists experience the effects of our changing climate in everything from insect infestations to changing snowpack to variable soil moisture to atypical stream and river runoff. Climate change is one of the most consequential things for people living in our time to come to grips with, and we need to work to understand it better.

The global population and the population of the United States are skyrocketing. This is creating an increase in resource consumption. There are more people using more resources, leaving less space for our fish and wildlife resources. We need to figure out ways to take care of these resources and manage them responsibly.

What are some things you hope to accomplish during your time as director of the Fish and Wildlife Service?

I am excited about building new alliances around issues we are faced with. I hope to unite people around a set of shared objectives. The last time the conservation community all united like that was back in the ’60s, and substantial progress was made. I want to see something like that in this time period.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?

The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

Learn More
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