Photo by Cameron Davidson.
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Photo by Cameron Davidson.
Southeast Oregon high desert is rugged and compelling country with over 4 million acres for the public to access. From the breaks of the Owyhee and Malheur Rivers to the rugged mountains of the Oregon Canyon Mountains, the topography is rich with sagebrush and native grass ecosystems supporting abundant wildlife.
Big game such as mule deer, California big horn sheep, Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn, as well as upland birds such as sage grouse, chukar, California quail and native trout are present here.
The redband trout population in the Malheur River is thought to be derived from the Columbia Basin redband trout when a lava flow isolated the basin from the Malheur River drainage 8,000 to 10,000 years ago.
I set out to explore the countryside and fish the rivers for trout. After hours of driving, a dusty stretch of road emerges where there’s no fence line blocking an entry to the river. It’s almost dark, and I set up camp and fall asleep to the sound of the river at my feet.
The call of a western meadowlark wakes me up at 5 a.m., reminding me of my childhood days in church listening to the choir hum Amazing Grace. I rise out of bed, brew some coffee, and change my fly to a subsurface beadhead because the river is moving fast and the visibility is about two feet.
The bank is green with tall native grasses; I analyze the river, determining where a fish might lie. There’s a small pool whirling behind rocks and a soft seam hugging the bank. My first cast is to the grassy cut bank. I make a cast up stream, strip the line fast to stay with the current, take a couple steps up stream and cast again.
To find an aggressive fish, I keep covering the water. My next cast is behind a rock where the current is moving at a considerable pace. The trout explodes; cart wheeling and breaking the surface. She’s strong, pulling, not giving in. After a few minutes I get her to the bank, remove the hook and release her back to the cool waters of the high dessert. This is what I came here for.
Experiences such as this keep me coming back and fuel my enthusiasm to see these special places conserved for future generations. I’m proud to be working to ensure the conservation of these resources through my work with the TRCP.
Mia Sheppard is TRCP’s Oregon field representative. She lives in Brightwood, Ore., with her husband and daughter. In her free time, she fishes for steelhead and trout throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Maps can be a sportsman’s best friend; sportsmen look for those blank areas – devoid of roads – perhaps where two ridges might funnel game. Even land managers love maps, which allow them to plan out land use. They have unit maps with GIS layers ranging from vegetation type to core habitat for threatened and endangered species. Thanks to the TRCP’s Sportsmen Values Mapping Project, sportsmen now have a say in the development of these valuable maps.
The TRCP’s core mission lies in guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish – a mission that compelled us to launch the first of our state-based mapping project in Montana in 2007. Last year, we took our efforts on the road again and kicked off a similar project in Wyoming.
The Sportsmen Values Mapping Project captures hunter and angler input to delineate specific lands and waters important for hunting and fishing. Combined with critical habitat maps already in use by federal and state agencies, this information gives decision-makers an up-to-date look at the places sportsmen value the most.
Neil Thagard, TRCP’s Western outreach director, leads the TRCP’s engagement with sportsmen and mapping activities in Wyoming. Neil spent the past year traveling throughout the Cowboy State and meeting with sportsmen to gather input on the exact areas where they love to hunt and fish – areas they would like to see managed for continued use of hunting and fishing.
The TRCP’s ongoing collaboration and engagement with the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission resulted in the commission offering its support – and last year’s official endorsement – of the project and the TRCP’s efforts to involve Wyoming sportsmen in the mapping effort.
More than 20 meetings and 1,000 sportsmen later, a highly valuable set of maps is available to land managers – both at the state and federal levels – to help guide management decisions regarding resources important to hunting and angling. Neil unveiled the final maps to Wyoming officials, the news media and sportsmen last week. These maps will help accomplish the following:
As anyone who has ever spent time in the backcountry knows, a map is only useful if you know where you want to go. The challenge now is to use the input to ensure the conservation of these key areas.
In coming years, the TRCP intends to expand the mapping project throughout the West.
What areas would you like to see conserved for future hunting and fishing – and where should the TRCP travel next to implement the Sportsmen Values Mapping Project? Leave us a comment.
In a recent article for Field & Stream, writer Hal Herring penned the following about Bristol Bay, Alaska:
“It’s all there in my mind, that land and the fish themselves, blood-red sockeye in cold green water, silvery kings thrashing in the shoals, the perfect dots on the side of an arctic char that look so much like tiny planets glowing in a twilight sky that it surely makes you wonder, really, how this world of ours came to be like this, and what it might mean, that a creature could be so beautiful.”
Herring is just one among many who sees the beauty and unrivaled resources found in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The proposed Pebble Mine represents an unprecedented threat to the area, its clean waters and wildlife habitat. Fed by nine major rivers and a wetland the size of Kentucky, Bristol Bay is home of the world’s largest sockeye salmon runs.
Up to 40 million adult salmon return to spawn in the Bristol Bay watershed each year, and more than 12,000 jobs are tied to the fisheries and natural resources there. The Pebble Mine – which would be 20 times larger than all of the mines in Alaska combined – is the wrong mine in the wrong place and must not be permitted.
The Environmental Protection Agency will be taking public comments on the Pebble Mine Project until July 23. Sportsmen stepped up for Bristol Bay earlier this spring and we need you to take action again to conserve this vital resource. Urge decision makers to protect Bristol Bay now and for future generations.
Here’s a must-watch video that captures the faces and voices of Bristol Bay at the EPA hearings last month.
Everybody loves waterfowl. Those winged and web-footed creatures find their way into the hearts of sportsmen and anyone who spends time near bodies of water.
Waterfowl are so universally revered that the North American Wetlands Conservation Act was passed to fund wetlands and waterfowl conservation efforts in Canada, the United States and Mexico. Learn more on this week’s episode of “TRCP’s Conservation Field Notes.”
Join Steven Rinella of the hit TV show “MeatEater” as he hunts in Mexico and discusses how NAWCA conserves waterfowl, fish and wildlife resources across North America while producing a variety of environmental and economic benefits.
Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.Learn More