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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
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.
14 national groups and 70 local affiliate chapters oppose the proposed weakening of clean water standards that would threaten fish and wildlife habitat
Today, dozens of national, regional, and local hunting and fishing groups submitted final comments on the EPA’s proposed rollback of Clean Water Act protections for 50 percent of wetlands and 18 percent of stream miles in the U.S. Their comments underscore the potential economic consequences for rural communities and outdoor recreation businesses and the species that stand to lose habitat if clean water standards are weakened.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has also mobilized more than 3,500 individual sportsmen and women to submit comments opposing the rollback during the brief comment period.
“At every step of the EPA’s rule replacement process on what waters qualify for Clean Water Act protections, hunters and anglers have been clear about their support for safeguards on headwaters and wetlands,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The science supports protecting these habitats as interconnected to larger water systems, the economics of defending outdoor recreation opportunities and businesses makes sense, and Americans will continue to stand up for clean water to power their outdoor pursuits.”
The groups write that the proposed rule represents a “wholesale gutting of the Clean Water Act’s 47 years of protection for our nation’s waters,” with habitat that supports trout, salmon, pintails, mallards, teal, and snow geese in the crosshairs.
Read the detailed comments here. Fourteen national groups and 70 state and local affiliate chapters signed in support.
Photo by Project Healing Waters via flickr.
Forage Fish Conservation Act would improve recreational fishing opportunities
U.S. Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Brian Mast (R-Fla.) have introduced legislation to promote responsible management of forage fish—the smaller bait fish that larger sportfish rely on for food.
The Forage Fish Conservation Act would address a decline in forage fish populations, strengthen sportfish populations, and support better recreational fishing opportunities. Forage fish populations have been declining due to numerous pressures, including changing ocean conditions, and this legislation takes steps to support a more robust marine food web.
“This legislation uses sound science to preserve our nation’s fishing economy,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Declining populations of forage fish hurt the entire marine ecosystem and sportfishing opportunities. This bill will help prevent overfishing and create sustainable fisheries. We appreciate Representative Dingell working with a broad coalition to advance conservation efforts across the country.”
The Forage Fish Conservation Act ensures that enough forage fish remain in the water by:
The Forage Fish Conservation Act is also co-sponsored by Representatives Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Billy Long (R-Mo.), and Jared Huffman (D-Calif.)
Photo by the Chesapeake Bay Program via flickr.
An organization that provides all-expenses-paid flyfishing trips to combat veterans ensures that participants go home with so much more than campfire stories
With the inspiring success of organizations like Project Healing Waters and Casting for Recovery, many sportsmen and women are aware of the emotional and physical healing power of the outdoors. But when Dan Cook, formerly a financial executive, set out to establish Rivers of Recovery in 2009, he wanted to prove that the act of fly fishing—not to mention the camaraderie of bringing veterans together in remote and beautiful places—actually made a biological impact on returning military service members.
“They analyzed urine and saliva samples from the program participants before, during, and in the 6, 9, and 12 months after a fishing trip,” says Amy Simon, who started out as a Rivers of Recovery volunteer before running the organization with Cook and eventually stepping into the executive director position in charge of all operations and program curriculum. “The tests showed lower cortisol levels after fishing, and the participants reported sleeping better, having lower stress, and, in some cases, going off medications they’d relied on for their mental health. Dan really wanted to go beyond starting an organization and actually prove we were making a difference.”
Thirty veterans took part in their first trip out of Dutch John, Utah, and these days the organization runs programs in eight different states, touching countless lives in the process. Over time, they discovered that building an experience within an existing community of local veterans was very beneficial, compared to flying a group out to Utah. This way, relationships could be built and maintained after the trip, and supportive local businesses, fishing guides, yoga instructors, and other volunteers remained in the participants’ community as resources.
“We found we could leave behind a footprint of support,” says Simon.
She was also instrumental in launching RoR’s first trips exclusively for female veterans, who may be dealing with entirely different issues than men when they return home. In the October 2017 issue of DUN Magazine, U.S. Army veteran Monica Shoneff explained, “A lot of female vets get out of the military and jump back into caring for a family. Self-care becomes a low priority. Where men can focus on themselves, we get lost.”
Now an RoR volunteer, Shoneff estimates that 95 percent of the women combat veterans she’s met have experienced sexual trauma during their military careers, leaving many to deal with anxiety, depression, and high rates of PTSD.
So, how does an all-expenses-paid flyfishing excursion help? “You have to focus on what you’re doing,” she tells DUN. “It takes away from time to ruminate and think about past events or worry about the future.” Simon adds that the activities on the water and in camp start to generate trust, bring vets out of their guarded stance, and open lines of communication. “By the time you leave, you feel like you’re part of a family,” she says.
In many cases, none of this would be possible without public lands, says Simon, so conservation and the healing power of the outdoors go hand in hand. “If those resources were not available, we would not be able to succeed,” she says. “How can you not want to take care of these places that give so much to someone like a wounded veteran?”
Another active volunteer and RoR Board member, Jim Mayol, says he sees public lands issues differently now that he’s witnessed the transformation of program participants. “I see them before the trip, after, and in social settings, and there’s no doubt that the outdoors has had an impact on their healing,” he says. “It’s a no-brainer for me to advocate for these places now, where I may not have given it a lot of thought before.”
To learn more about Rivers of Recovery and how you can get involved, visit riversofrecovery.org.
All photos courtesy of Rivers of Recovery.
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