Friday, March 13, 2015

Currently Reading- The Creation: an appeal to save life on earth

Once again world renowned biologist E.O. Wilson leaves his mark on the world, this time through his book The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth.  Through chapters that are structured as letters addressed to a Pastor, Professor Wilson seeks to empower secular and Christian readers to find common ground while he issues a clarion call for humanity to acknowledge and respond to mankind's biosphere-spanning environmental impacts.

Gently, but with clear purpose Professor Wilson addresses head-on the divergent worldviews of Christianity and secularists then utilizes science to its fullest potential.  Dr. Wilson presents, chapter-by-chapter, the cumulative impacts that industrialized society has wreaked on the globe providing numerous examples based on his deep background as an entomologist.  Purposefully, the reader is guided through myriad ecosystems to view with detail the globe-spanning issues and impacts that we must address if we are to have any chance at all of maintaining society at the current standard of living and while also maintaining our fragile environmental security.

Having only completed the first two sections of the book I'm looking forward with both interest and trepidation to the remaining three.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Endangered Species Act & Fly Fishing

More than forty years after its inception the Endangered Species Act has contributed mightily to the protection of the nation's coldwater fisheries.  While oft-times criticized for its economic impacts as a result of curtailing development, there can be no discounting the biological and economic benefits that have flowed as a result of maintaining native species in their historic ranges.  Nevertheless, many challenges remain for native salmonids across the United States.

Our coldwater fisheries have become biologically impoverished as a result of the loss of native trout and salmon that have either been diminished in their native habitat or have blinked out of existence following Euro-American expansion across the country.  Both the Yellowfin cutthroat trout and the Alvord cutthroat trout are today presumed to be extinct.  The Endangered Species Act has been leveraged to ensure that our remaining native trout and salmon fauna do not succumb to the same fate as the Yellowfin and Alvord cutthroat trout.

Seemingly relentless pressures from land development, water development, pollution, and the stocking of non-natives have pushed many native trout species to the brink of extinction.  As a result of these continuing pressures the Endangered Species Act is currently offering protection to a host of trout species that include:
·         Little Kern golden trout (threatened)
·         Apache trout (threatened)
·         Lahontan cutthroat trout (threatened)
·         Paiute cutthroat trout (threatened)
·         Rio Grande cutthroat trout (candidate for listing)
·         Greenback cutthroat trout (threatened)
·         Gila trout (threatened)
·         Bull trout (threatened)

Not to be overlooked are the numerous Pacific salmon runs that have also been designated as threatened or endangered under the ESA.

Yellowfin and Alvord cutthroat trout have both been lost to the world.  They can neither be appreciated by those who simply love the natural world or those of us whose connection to the natural world is strongest when holding a fly rod in our hand.  Forty years after becoming the paragon of conservation legislation the Endangered Species Act working to ensure waters that we love do not become increasingly biologically impoverished.The Endangered Species Act has too often been maligned as a hindrance to progress.  

If the last forty plus years have taught us anything when it comes to the protection of trout and salmon species it is that the protections offered by the Endangered Species Act have been well worth the investment. In ensuring that native species continue to inhabit their native habitats the ESA is also promoting the sport of fly fishing by allowing anglers the unique opportunity to pursue trout and salmon within their native habitats.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Currently reading: Year of the Big Fires: The Story of the Great Fires of 1910

It's been a longtime since I last checked out a book from the public library, but research does occasionally pull me in to the doors of the Park County Library (Cody, WY).  Looking for some specific material, I have since become hooked into Stephen J. Pyne's Year of the Fires (Viking Press).  The tale of the conflagrations that shaped fire policy in the U.S. for nearly a century as well as much of the culture of the Forest Service is an engrossing story.  From the personal stories of those who lived through the inferno to the communities and agencies that sought to respond to the disaster as it unfolded, the story of each is compellingly told.  It is unfortunate that an event such as this has become largely forgotten when the scars and impacts continue to be felt in contemporary natural resource management.

Currently reading: Cutthroat & Campfire Tales

Cutthroat & Campfire Tales: The Fly-fishing Heritage of West by John H. Monnett (University Press of Colorado) is a delightful book on the history of fly fishing from the Rocky Mountain perspective.  Wonderfully easy to read with chapters that are just the right length, John Monnett treats the reader to the colorful antics of western fly fisherman from a variety of vantage points.  Each chapter stands alone and is a joy to read unto itself.  The greatest aspect of the book is the manner in which John seamlessly threads the history of western fly fishing into the broader tapestry of East Coast and European fly fishing history.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Wild and Scenic Rivers

America has been blessed with an abundance of beautiful waters that flow across our landscape from coast-to-coast.  In 1968 in recognition of the development pressures that were quickly stripping many of our waters of their very character, particularly as a result of dam building, the Wild and Scenic River Act was passed by the U.S. Congress.

The Act established the Wild and Scenic Rivers System in order to provide some protection to the nation’s still free flowing waters. Unfortunately the lofty ideals encompassed in the legislation have largely gone unrecognized.  Today less than a quarter of one percent of our free flowing waters have been protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. 
The Wild and Scenic Northfork of the Flathead River looking into Glacier National Park

Free flowing waters within the Wild and Scenic Rivers System fall into one of three categories, which can be found on the National Wild and Scenic River System’s website at
  1. Wild River Areas: Those rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments and generally inaccessible except by trail, with watersheds or shorelines essentially primitive and waters unpolluted. These represent vestiges of primitive America.
  2. Scenic River Areas: Those rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads.
  3. Recreational River Areas: Those rivers or sections of rivers that are readily accessible by road or railroad, that may have some development along their shorelines, and that may have undergone some impoundment or diversion in the past.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers System fairly glows with unrealized potential.  A perfect example is the vaunted Yellowstone River, the largest remaining undammed river in the lower 48 states.  Only a meager 20.5 miles of this still untamed river have been designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act; the entirety of which can be found within the limits of the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone. 

In 1979 all federal agencies overseeing public lands were directed by President Carter to inventory the waters that flow through their lands and determine which waters held the characteristics for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic River System.  While only a quarter of one percent of our nation’s waters are currently protected under the Wild and Scenic River system 3,400 individual segments have been inventoried within the National Rivers Inventory.  Take a moment to see if your favorite fly fishing destination or home waters have already been identified within the inventory.  There may be a tremendous opportunity to see your favorite waters designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, ensuring those waters near and dear to your heart are protected for generations to come.

Take a moment to look at your favorite waters and ask yourself whether they deserve protection and recognition under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.  As is so often the case in conservation, a proposal for designation is most powerful when it is homegrown.  Successfully obtaining a designation under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act ensures that the character of your river and its angling opportunities will be maintained for generations to come.

Monday, February 16, 2015

New Adventures on Familiar Home Waters

One of the wonderful aspects of fly fishing high mountain waters, whether it be headwater streams, alpine ponds, or mountain lakes, is the discovery of previously unknown areas.  Take for instance my journey this last summer to Bear Park in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. Bear Park overlooks many of the waters I've fished since I was a child, but for some inexplicable reason I have never followed the trail that led me up the side of mountain to Bear Park.

Barely legible Forest Service sign announcing Bear Park

Home waters provide us a sense of familiarity, but as I learned this last summer there exists opportunities for new adventures within or near our most familiar home waters.

Bear Park from an adjacent trail
Although I've fished the waters on this side of the Big Horn Mountains for the majority of my life, taking the time to explore new paths lead me to new stretches of water previously unknown to me.
Tensleep Creek from the bridge along the trail to Bear Park

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Currently Reading: River's Edge, A Fly-Fishing Realm

River's Edge: A Fly-Fishing Realm by Walt Franklin is a work of short essays and reflections on the the connection to nature derived from pursuing the sport of fly fishing.  The stories are largely set (at least to this point of my reading) within the eastern U.S. covering waters of Appalachia country.  For readers and anglers who are most familiar with the waters of public lands in the western United States, such as myself, the volume is a great introduction to the qualities that make the waters Walt Franklin describes unique, worth pursing trout upon, and worth conserving.  The waters, the trout, and the flies Franklin describe paint a vivid picture of the natural art that fly fishing provides in the most subtle of moments.