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Our Oregon field rep hangs up her waders for a high-profile public-speaking opportunity in D.C., where she discovers a spirit of hope for water solutions
Last year, Oregon experienced the worst drought on record, with many adverse effects on our rivers and fish. I saw firsthand the results of drought and dam regulations in my own backyard on the Deschutes River, renowned for its native Redside trout. Water temperatures reached up to 74 degrees as salmon arrived, searching for a cooler refuge from the Columbia River—but the cooler water wasn’t there. The rising water temperatures caused an algae bloom that clung to the banks and rocks. Warm-water macroinvertabrates, such as water skippers, were abundant, but the expected cool-water mayflies and stoneflies were few and far between.
The river I knew was almost unrecognizable.
Access to suitable water resources seems like a human right, but our fish and wildlife have rights to clean, cool water, too. As an angler, I know that salmon, steelhead, and trout need the right water conditions to thrive. While there are some policies in place that begin to help during a drought crisis, we need federal decision-makers to prioritize actions that invest long-term in better water quality for healthy, viable rivers and our outdoor recreation opportunities.
I recently hung up my waders to walk the halls of the Eisenhower building, part of the White House complex, in a navy blue suit. And I felt the energy of change, as people hustled around me.
In celebration of World Water Day, the White House convened a water summit where innovators, policy-makers, advocates, and media were gathered to discuss our country’s water future. I was honored to attend and share my personal connection with water through fishing, especially as one of the only representatives of the sportsmen’s community. I had three minutes to reflect on the importance of considering fish, wildlife, and outdoor opportunities in concert with infrastructure challenges, human consumption, and water use for agriculture and forestry. I talked about the Deschutes and found myself getting choked up as I told the crowd, “When fish lose, we lose.” I guess that was the moment that I really felt the impact of what I’d seen during the drought and dam regulators were drawing the warmer surface water of Lake Billy Chinook
I felt confident and composed, however, when I shared that the TRCP’s petition recognizing serious threats to rivers and streams and calling on federal decision-makers for action has been signed by more than 1,000 sportsmen and women. It was nice to know these kindred spirits were standing with me, in a sense, at the podium.
As the summit came to a close, Pueblo Tribal Councilman Nelson Cordova from Taos, New Mexico, recited a prayer in his native tongue asking for the wisdom, strength, and compassion to deal with our water issues. Compassion, which was the last thing I expected from a D.C. crowd in suits and heels, was certainly what I heard from longtime colleagues, strangers, and local anglers after my speech. I’d shown more emotion than I’d intended, but many people assured me they felt the same way.
If you want to learn more about the changing water conditions on the Deschutes River, click here.
Our government relations director reflects on the value of America’s public lands in a world that seems to grow increasingly dangerous
(Originally published in March 2016.)
Monday morning, when I started to write this blog, it was a straightforward task. I set out to explain that Congressman Don Young of Alaska has introduced legislation that would permit the sale of millions of acres of National Forest System lands to the states. The idea of selling off public lands is something I’ve spent the last 15 months of my professional life vigorously opposing on Capitol Hill, and Young’s bill is the most tangible example of this awful idea we’ve yet seen here in the nation’s capital.
In allowing each state to buy up to two million acres of national forest land to be managed strictly for timber production, this bill goes against everything the TRCP stands for. These lands would no longer retain their current ‘multiple use’ mandate, and as such, the needs of fish and wildlife would factor little into the management of these lands. The bill makes no mention of maintaining public access, nor does it require the states to retain title once they purchase the land, clearing the way for sale to private entities.
It’s a bill so egregious that it’s easy to take umbrage, but then my dander rises easily to the occasion of writing an angry blog.
However, just after lunch, I left the half-written blog open on my computer, put on my suit coat, and took a taxi through peak cherry blossom traffic to the House of Representatives for a meeting with a member of the Natural Resources Committee. We were scheduled to talk about this very bill, this extremely bad idea to commoditize the conservation legacy of a man whose face adorns Mount Rushmore and my business card.
As the meeting was about to start, a shelter-in-place call cackled over the alert radio that hangs, usually in silence, on the wall of every Congressional office. Earlier that day, Capitol Police had taken the opportunity provided by the Congressional recess to run an emergency drill of the alert system, so staff assumed that this was a continuation of those activities. But then the radio lit up again. “This is not a drill” and “shots fired” were words that mixed with the growing volume of sirens outside, heightening the gravity of what started as just another Hill meeting. Later it became clear that a man had pulled a gun on a police officer in the Capitol Visitor Center, where we’d held a meeting of our partners just a few months ago.
Headlines from across the globe continue to grow increasingly worrisome, and terror has become a palpable threat, something we see in some form or another, it seems, almost every day. But it occurred to me, as I saw the very building I was sitting in appear on CNN, that our American identity is the antidote to terrorism—and our public lands represent an important part of that identity.
America’s public lands stand ever-ready to provide a needed dose of freedom to her people. They are places to reconnect the dots of life that have grown increasingly scattered. To lay aside, if only for a short time, our crowded lives, and watch a Llewellin setter named Julep as she works a low draw with unbounded enthusiasm before coming to a rigid stop and a firm point. To watch the poetry of a sharp-tailed grouse exploding from tight cover.
There is freedom from fear in these places, where our souls have long gone to do their healing, if only in knowing that the outdoors is there for us.
If today’s hunters and anglers can succeed in grasping the mantel of leadership handed to us by George Bird Grinnell, Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, Jim Range, and countless others, our public lands legacy of freedom and liberty will long persist. And ideas like Rep. Young’s will be dismissed out of hand for what they are: short-sighted and counterproductive. And by our united voice we will ensure that our public lands, this unique embodiment of independence, will long endure.
UPDATE: The Young bill may have failed, but there are new threats to our public lands and outdoor traditions. Take action today.
The semi-finals of the 2016 Critter Madness tournament have come to a close. Thank you to all those who voted and entered for a chance to win a brand new TRCP-branded YETI cooler!
After the final votes were cast, the elk and the rainbow trout are moving on to the finals in this winner-take-all matchup. Both the elk and the rainbow won in convincing fashion to set up this sportsmen’s favorite heavyweight bout for the finals.
The rainbow trout comes into the finals as the only non-one seed to make it into semi-final play. They beat the salmon “kings” handedly, showing they do in fact have what it takes to match up against any critter in this tournament. The elk, however, have shown their dominance through every round of this tournament, beating all of their opponents by a combined 543 votes! The reigning champ from last year made no mistakes, steamrolling their way back to the finals again this year as they look to repeat.
On paper this is how a lot of sportsmen saw the tournament going. There were a few upsets along the way, a few close calls, and a few crazy battles, but in the end, it all comes down to this. King of the North American game vs. the crown jewel of America’s coldwater game fish.
One lucky winner will start their next hunting season off right with a brand new Mossberg Silver Reserve 12-gauge shotgun, so be sure to vote everyday!
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More