Randall Williams

April 26, 2019

In the Arena: Nikki Plum

TRCP’s “In the Arena” series highlights the individual voices of hunters and anglers who, as Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, strive valiantly in the worthy cause of conservation

Nikki Plum

Hometown:  Airville, Pa.
Occupation: Registered nurse
Conservation credentials: Boots-on-the-ground volunteer work and mentoring

Sportsmen and women like Nikki Plum are the beating heart of conservation in this country. A nurse by training, this 28 year old is a jack-of-all-trades volunteer, working to ensure the future of our outdoor traditions. From stocking fish to assisting with banding waterfowl and building nesting structures, she knows that a single afternoon of work can make a difference. That’s why she also works to share her experiences with others, empowering the next generation of women hunters as a field staffer with the Sisterhood of the Outdoors.

Here is her story.

When I was growing up, you couldn’t keep me out of the creek—so I would say I have been into fishing as long as I can remember. It wasn’t until I was a teenager, however, that I got into the outdoors on another level.

My uncle took me out for my first deer hunt on opening day of rifle season in Pennsylvania. We split up after a slow morning, and moments later I heard shots ring out from his direction. I thought I’d missed my chance. Suddenly, I heard something approaching in the woods and turned to see a six-point buck headed my way. I was too excited to make my first shot, but a well-aimed second downed the deer in his tracks.

I was hooked.

I spent most of the ensuing years trying to grow as a deer hunter. Then I started pursuing small game, turkeys, and waterfowl. My skills and interests evolved as I transitioned from rifle hunting to archery and from spinning tackle to a fly rod.

Looking ahead, I hope to hunt and fish in Alaska someday. Harlequin ducks, moose, grizzlies, and multiple species of salmon are all at the top of my list.

Clean water is what makes my outdoor activities possible, from fishing and waterfowl hunting to boating, swimming, kayaking, and camping. Maintaining healthy watersheds is important to sustaining our freshwater fisheries and wetlands habitat.

Every day it seems like urbanization encroaches on these resources, bringing the potential for degradation. It’s harder to get away from noise and light pollution, and contaminants of all kinds make their way into our air and water.

Without the commitment of sportsmen and women, our outdoor resources would be subject to overuse and abuse by an ever-growing human population. I do what I do because conservation helps maintain a natural way of life for hunters, anglers, and the game we love to chase. I hope others are inspired to do what they can, too.

 

Do you know someone “In the Arena” who should be featured here? Email info@trcp.org for a questionnaire.

3 Responses to “In the Arena: Nikki Plum”

  1. Eric Horton

    Nikki an so proud of you and what you do keep the traditions alive and thank you for share with my kiddos like I did with you. love you

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Kristyn Brady

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April 16, 2019

In the Arena: William Kosmer

TRCP’s “In the Arena” series highlights the individual voices of hunters and anglers who, as Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, strive valiantly in the worthy cause of conservation

William Kosmer

Home waters: North-central Pennsylvania
Occupation: Outdoor photographer, flyfishing guide, and full-time hydrogeologist
Conservation credentials: Has spent 15 years volunteering to restore streams and advocate for wild trout

We’re betting that William Kosmer’s waders are practically never dry. Between his day job, his guiding business, and his volunteer work to help restore some of Pennsylvania’s best wild trout waters, Kosmer still finds time to teach kids about fishing and the hidden world of creepy crawlies that support the riparian ecosystem. But he says he’s not alone: There is a vibrant community of flyfishermen, outdoor recreation businesses, and educators invested in cleaner water for the next generation of anglers.

Here’s his story.

I would have to say my love of fishing started with my father. He introduced me to the outdoors and photography from an early age, and I really haven’t looked back since.

But it’s concerning to see the decline in license sales—kids just aren’t getting introduced to the outdoors like I did. Through Trout Unlimited, I volunteer to guide veterans, teach kids to tie flies, and get people interested in fishing, generally. When kids start turning over rocks and finding bugs, they can’t believe all that has been down there the whole time—it’s always a big crowd pleaser. We also bring trout into the classroom, where kids can raise brook trout eggs and fry into full-grown fish and eventually release them into the stream.

I believe that conservation is not just about protecting the resources we currently have, it’s also about striving to improve them for future generations. And clean water is the key element that powers all our outdoor lives. Without it, nothing worth anything exists.

I fish all over the state of Pennsylvania, but southern Chile is my second home and the site of my most memorable outdoor adventures. It has some of the most incredible scenery and fishing I have ever had the opportunity experience and, not coincidentally, some of the cleanest water on the planet. It’s almost untouched by humans and there are a lot of wetlands to filter out pollutants and keep it that way.

Meanwhile, water use and pollution are two of the biggest conservation challenges where I live most of the year. Especially down in the Harrisburg area and in farming communities, trees were clear cut years ago and uncontrolled runoff has put a lot of sediment in the streams. That really impacts the macro-invertebrates that fish eat. So, as volunteers, we’ll do riparian buffer plantings with grasses and trees that hold the sediment back. We also install some in-stream structures to mobilize the water, create more current, and move that sediment along.

Trout prefer a cooler temperature, so when you remove all those trees, you also allow the sun to heat the water as the sediment slows the water down. You end up with a wider, warmer shallow stream, which isn’t as beneficial for trout as a deeper, cooler stream. We actually classify temperature as a pollutant.

This work that we do to curb sediment in Pa. has far-reaching benefits: It helps the fishing up here, but it also keeps a lot of that sediment from reaching the Chesapeake Bay, where many of my friends guide and fish. So, I’m used to thinking about the impact of my actions on what happens downstream. Not everybody does.

We’re so lucky to have a lot of clean water and streams that have made a comeback. And there are many volunteers and businesses who are generous with their time and money. (I’m pretty sure TCO Fly Shop, for example, supports every TU chapter around the state!)

But the east coast population and industries are extremely taxing on our waterways. There is a long history of abusing our water resources, especially in Pa. We can allow for economic growth and still utilize what we have in a responsible manner.

And we need to keep sharing our love of fishing with others. I’m 40 and I’m usually the young guy in the room—that’s not good. Because as much as any of us would like to have the water to ourselves, if no one is using these resources then no one will care about them.

Follow William Kosmer’s adventures on his blog. Do you know someone “In the Arena” who should be featured here? Email info@trcp.org for a questionnaire.

Kristyn Brady

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April 9, 2019

In the Arena: Tyler Ross

TRCP’s “In the Arena” series highlights the individual voices of hunters and anglers who, as Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, strive valiantly in the worthy cause of conservation

Tyler Ross

Hometown: Leicester, North Carolina
Occupation: Soil and water conservation district director
Conservation credentials: Helps landowners use Farm Bill conservation programs to improve soil health, water quality, and wildlife habitat

When you’ve idolized legends like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone since childhood, chasing adventure through our public lands might be enough of a goal. Tyler Ross takes dedication to the outdoors one step further. His day job helps bring Farm Bill conservation programs off the pages of the Federal Register and onto the working lands of his home state so that fish and wildlife resources are just as legendary for the next generation. 

Here is his story.

 

I did a lot of reading when I was younger, and all my heroes from books either hunted, fished, or farmed. I wanted to be with Davy Crockett on a bear hunt or walking next to Daniel Boone as he stalked a deer in Kentucky. So, naturally, I started getting outside and chasing whatever I could.

These days, that’s still my idea of a good time. Even though I know it isn’t possible, I would love to bowhunt red stag in Scotland or Ireland—even better if it was with a recurve. I bet it would feel like I was part of Robin Hood’s Merry Men in Sherwood Forest, chasing that beast in its native habitat.

This past year, I went with my four best friends on our very first DIY elk hunt out West. I called in two different bulls for my buddies, and one ended in a successful harvest. That time with them, in that area, enjoying our Creator’s bounty, is something that I know will be unmatched for the rest of my life.

In my area, Farm Bill conservation programs benefit sportsmen and women in many ways. On the public land side, the recent expansion and utilization of Good Neighbor Authority helps keep public lands in public hands and gives land managers the tools to conserve these places for those who come after us.

On the private lands side, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program is really helpful for increasing wildlife habitat and pollinators. We don’t have many Conservation Reserve Program acres in North Carolina, so EQIP and the Conservation Stewardship Program provide many of the habitat benefits here.

We had some big wins in the latest Farm Bill, particularly with EQIP. Lawmakers increased the portion of the program that must be used for practices that benefit wildlife from 5 percent of funds to 10 percent. That’s huge!

It was also awesome to see soil health practices embraced in multiple programs. And the expansion and re-authorization of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program on U.S. Forest Service lands is something that I hope continues in future farm bills.

During implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill, I would love to see an emphasis on Working Lands for Wildlife, the USDA’s effort to improve agricultural and forest productivity while enhancing wildlife habitat on working landscapes.

It would also be great if the Forest Service and NRCS would work alongside state agencies to focus on species cited in the state’s Wildlife Action Plan. I think this would be a great place for multiple stakeholders to come in and work together to put strategic conservation on the ground.

 

Do you know someone “In the Arena” who should be featured here? Email info@trcp.org for a questionnaire.

Randall Williams

March 28, 2019

In the Arena: Karl Findling

TRCP’s “In the Arena” series highlights the individual voices of hunters and anglers who, as Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, strive valiantly in the worthy cause of conservation

Karl J. Findling

Hometown: Bend, Ore.
Occupation: Owner of Oregon Pack Works
Conservation credentials: Conservation Director, Oregon Hunters Association

Born and raised in eastern Oregon, Karl is a retired paramedic and worked as a professional firefighter for more than 37 years. In 2010, he co-founded Oregon Pack Works, a manufacturer of hunting-specific backpacks and binocular harnesses designed to offer the type of versatility required for backcountry experiences. Karl currently serves as conservation director for the Oregon Hunters Association, a 10,000+ member non-profit organization dedicated to “protecting Oregon’s wildlife, habitat and hunting heritage.”

Here is his story.

I grew up the son of an outdoorsman in far eastern Oregon. My father was a gunsmith and boat-builder.

My hometown was perfectly situated at a confluence of four rivers, between the mountains and the high desert, where outdoor adventures were found at every direction of the compass.

Since the age of nine, I followed many relatives afield to fish, camp, and hunt, or to gather berries and mushrooms, often on scouting trips. These experiences were all made possible by the vast public lands and many waterways just out my backdoor. It was the perfect place to grow up.

In the 50 years since, those opportunities have declined in my home state of Oregon. I’ve witnessed the loss of large tracts of habitat for upland birds, mule deer, and the greater sage grouse, as well as a collection of tributaries that were once great trout fisheries. Time is running out for many of our waterways and landscapes, and for the flora and fauna that we love. Human impacts from population growth, urbanization, the overuse and abuse of our public lands, and a huge number of other threats mean that our hunting heritage could disappear.

When I was young, I used to think that conservation was for someone else to handle. I learned in my mid-20s, however, that there weren’t enough of us doing conservation work. Hunters and anglers must do more than purchase licenses, fly rods, and ammunition to fund our state fish and game agencies. We each must give back to the land—whether with our money, our time, or both—to restore the things lost in the places we love.

In 2002, I was lucky enough to experience a DIY caribou hunting float trip down a major river on Alaska’s North Slope, just adjacent to the National Petroleum Reserve. It was a cherished experience with friends both new and old, full of fabulous wildlife encounters, and I will remember it for the rest of my life.

These two weeks opened my eyes to the immensity of true wilderness, and also to the fragility of this incredible ecosystem, which is changing quickly. There are very few places like that left on earth, and the wildlife, landscape, and pristine waterways there should be protected.

The biggest challenge facing us as conservationists is educating people about the realities of climate change. It threatens to alter or eliminate the things that bring us joy as hunters and anglers. We cannot afford to take what we have today for granted.

Opening people’s eyes to their impacts on our natural resources, no matter how small, requires constant effort. Whether that means explaining how travel management plans and seasonal road closures benefit our fish and wildlife or teaching the “Leave No Trace” philosophy, spreading this message is critical if we hope to leave what we love better than we found it.

Instilling this conservation mindset is what fuels my work. I hope that by sharing these ethics we can restore what has been lost, protect our landscapes and waterways, and pass along our sporting and hunting heritage to the next generation.

 

Do you know someone “In the Arena” who should be featured here? Email info@trcp.org for a questionnaire.

Kristyn Brady

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March 21, 2019

In the Arena: Thomas Baltz

TRCP’s “In the Arena” series highlights the individual voices of hunters and anglers who, as Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, strive valiantly in the worthy cause of conservation

Thomas E. Baltz

Home waters: South-central Pennsylvania
Occupation: Flyfishing guide
Conservation credentials: Board member of the Cumberland Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited for 20 years

Thomas Baltz would need a time machine to fish the absolute best trout waters he’s ever seen, and that’s part of the reason why he feels compelled to give back to the natural resources that power his business. Here he shares the story of his first fish, his beloved old fishing dog, and a few special flies he takes everywhere.


My father introduced me to trout fishing at a very early age in New Mexico, and from then on, I was hooked. Our family used to spend a week or so during the summer months at a cabin on the Gallinas River in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains near Las Vegas. When my father went fishing, I tagged along, and he often let me play and land the trout he had hooked. But even as a little kid I realized that the real skill was in getting them hooked in the first place! I spent years trying to do it on my own.

Dad worked for the U.S. Geological Survey and was an expert on the geology of New Mexico and southern/southwestern Colorado. On days when he went tramping the mountains above Evergreen Valley, I roamed the Gallinas at will, with some kind of fishing rod in hand. Finally, one early-October afternoon in 1963, I landed my very first trout solo, and it remains one of the most memorable events of my life.

I had my old fishing dog Penelope (Penny, for short) with me, and together we snuck up on a likely spot, where I lowered a worm over the bushes and into the creek. There, a bite! Of course, I missed it. Never discouraged, I again lowered fresh bait exactly as I had before. The hook wasn’t even fully set, but it was too late for that trout—a couple of tugs and it was mine! Penny seemed just as excited as I was.

(Now, as a full-time flyfishing guide, I still carry some nymphs in my fly box made from Penny’s fur. They are, of course, retired, but they live in my Richardson Chest Fly Box.)

There have certainly been many other great outdoor moments in my life. Deer hunting, some awesome November days chasing pheasants, fishing trips to Montana, and learning the limestone streams of the Cumberland Valley.

In fact, if I could fish anywhere in the world it would be Falling Springs in Chambersburg, Pa., in 1972. It was the epitome of true limestone-spring creek match-the-hatch type of fishing, even better than out West, with awesome rainbow and brown trout that freely rose to incredible hatches.

Unfortunately, it is gone now. So I’d settle for the Missouri River in Montana. There is good hunting in that area as well. The decline in hunting opportunities is one thing I worry about here in south-central Pennsylvania.

Locally and regionally, our biggest conservation challenges are rampant development, poorly planned stormwater runoff, and agricultural issues, such as nutrient management and erosion. Climate change also offers immense challenges. One result of our changing climate is the big swing between dry and wet periods. Torrential rain events in combination with some of the aforementioned issues cause severe bank erosion in streams, contributing heavy silt loads to the Chesapeake Bay system and ruining stream habitat for all of the creatures that live there.

Trout, especially wild trout, depend upon clean water to survive and prosper, and therefore so does my business. Clean water is the backbone of our outdoor recreation economy, and that’s why we must protect it. Clean and well-functioning watersheds aren’t just an aesthetic attraction, they are the basis for all fishing. I make my living from the natural resource, and that’s why I give back to help preserve it.

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.

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