Monday, April 20, 2015

Trout Unlimited: The Champion of Coldwater Conservation

It occurred to me this weekend as I was drawing together ideas for this week's post that I have never taken the time to discuss the gold standard in coldwater conservation, Trout Unlimited.

Established in Grayling, Michigan in 1959, sixteen prescient anglers had a vision of trout streams filled with wild trout rather than hatchery produced clones dumped from the back of trucks.  Since its establishment the nonprofit organization has grown into the nation's largest coldwater conservation organization with a focus on those things most important to anglers- healthy habitat and wild trout.

I've been a member of Trout Unlimited in different capacities for nearly a decade. I've been a dues paying volunteer member in my home state of Wyoming as well as Montana and New Hampshire.  While attending graduate school in New Hampshire I had the great fortune to serve as a Conservation Director for the local Trout Unlimited chapter.

As conservation organizations go Trout Unlimited is a soft-spoken organization.  It allows its accomplishments to speak for it rather than lawsuits or hyperbole filled press releases.  Whether its restoring locally nominated favorite waters through its "Embrace a Stream" program or engaging school children with the "Trout in the Classroom" curriculum, Trout Unlimited is at the forefront of protecting the resources we love most.

I encourage you to take a look at all the work Trout Unlimited has accomplished, the tremendous number conservation and science programs they oversee, and see if there is a local chapter near you.
Swift River, New Hampshire

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Has the Wild and Scenic River Act failed?

Yesterday the Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks announced that it is likely again safe to eat fish in the Yellowstone River following the recent oil spill following a break in a pipeline that stretches beneath the river. The announcement has given me cause to again revisit the injustice at how few miles of our cherished waters in the U.S. are designated as either Wild or Scenic.

I discussed Wild and Scenic Rivers in an earlier post and today again revisit the Yellowstone River to examine why the designation is so important.  The Yellowstone River is the last remaining great undammed river in the lower 48 States.  That only 20.5 miles of the great river, all of which is contained in the Clark's Fork, are designated Wild & Scenic is a conservation travesty.  The recent, and I should mention reoccurring, oil spills that have plagued the Yellowstone provide more than enough incentive to push for much more of the river to be designated as either Wild or Scenic by Congress.  If all we can protect of the great and mighty Yellowstone River is a paltry 20.5 miles then we have failed to take advantage of the opportunities and protections offered our cherished waters under the Wild &Scenic Rivers Act.

I reflect on this as we yet again clean-up another oil spill along a cherished river and wonder if the Wild & Scenic River Act has failed or if we've failed to capitalize on the spirit of the Act?

Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone River
I recently posted a set of picture to my Facebook page  from my hike along the Wild and Scenic Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone River in Wyoming on the first day of Spring.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Rivers, Oil Spills, and Clean Water

A recent local newspaper article examined the impacts of development within river corridors through the lens of recent oil spills resulting from breaches of the oil pipeline that runs under the Yellowstone River near Billings, Montana.

Gushing oil in the Yellowstone River, the longest undammed river remaining in America, unfortunately illustrates only one of many cumulative impacts to our cherished rivers.  Toxic chemicals, nutrient pollution, dams, dredging, riparian development up to the edge of rivers, the loss of floodplains- all of these threats cumulatively impact the waters we love and that we love to fish. If you were to put your drift boat in at the mountain headwaters of your favorite river and float to its terminus at the ocean it spills to, you would encounter greater and greater damage as you moved downstream.

This is not to say that development, technology, or society are incompatible with health rivers and clean water.  Instead, many of our cherished waters are approaching or have already reached a tipping point.  In many cases the tipping point may be water that is undrinkable, may not be safely allow for swimming, or the fish successfully pulled from the waters eaten, in short falling far short of the goals of the Clean Water Act.  We have reached a point in our societal path where we need to examine with open eyes and open minds the trade-offs that exist between continued development of our waters and conservation of such a limited resource, an examination that hopefully is informed by our love of the sport of fly fishing.

The Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone River near Clark, Wyoming