Sunday, February 19, 2017

Science, Alternative Facts, and Fly Fishing

If you've perused either print or TV news for even a few minutes in the last half-a-year, you know that we've entered an era that has been dubbed "post-factual."  It would be easy to simply shrug one's shoulders and laugh off the absurdity of such an assertion, but doing so would in effect turn a blind-eye to the implications this has for hunting, fishing, and conservation.

Whether as a sportsmen you involve yourself in conservation or not, science underpins your opportunity to partake in either angling or hunting.  It has become fashionable in our politics to simply make up statements that fit our world-view regardless of their grounding in facts or reality.  This sets dangerous precedent as it lays the foundation to unravel the hard-fought gains hunters and anglers have made in conserving species and protecting and restoring habitat.  

There is a moral imperative that we reject this "post-factual" paradigm.  Political persuasion is irrelevant in this environment.  Failing to reject "post-factualism" deprives sportsmen and women the ability to hold public officials accountable for the decisions they make.  It opens the door for politicians to reject, out of hand, the science on which conservation of species and habitats takes place and we, as voters, enable that type of unhinged decision-making if we, even tacitly, accept the "post-factual" paradigm.

Jane Lubchenco, former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), penned an excellent editorial speaking directly to the scientists whose work is undermined in this "post-factual" environment.  When science is undermined for political expediency, sportsmen lose, as decision-making grounded in science is no longer the gold-standard for species and habitat conservation.

I finish today's post by calling on you, as an angler, hunter, hiker, nature lover, but above all as a voter, to 1) reject the entire concept of "post-factualism" 2) recognize "fake news" for what it is and hold politicians accountable for labeling fact-based journalism as fake news, and 3) above all, remember that its an honor for a politician to receive your vote- make them earn it!

Cheers & Tight Lines,
Twitter- @ConserveTrout

Monday, February 6, 2017

Yes, Climate Change is Impacting the Sport of Fly Fishing

In my last post I dipped my toes in the water of the connections between angling and climate change. Today, we're going to continue down that road just a little farther and talk about how climate change may impact the waters you love most.

One of the most difficult things to wrap our heads around is how climate is different from weather and then, how changes in climate, rather than weather, might impact us directly.  Well, lets take a look at what climate change might mean for trout fishing.

If you live in the Mountain West, like I do, there are a variety of ways climate change is already impacting trout streams and rivers.  First, cold winter days are getting warmer and their are fewer of them.  This means that the snow-melt that feeds my favorite streams melts off earlier in the year and more quickly.  In turn, this increasingly stresses trout (and all other aquatic biota from invertebrates on up the foodweb) during late season low flows.   The outright dewatering of stream reaches all together is likely to sharply increase as this trend continues.

The hottest days can, and in many areas across the country have been, getting hotter.  This sends the likelihood of drought skyrocketing, which has numerous impacts not only for the waters we love to fish, but also the forests, grasslands, sagebrush steppe, etc., through which our favorite waters flow. In short, a continually warming climate undermines the resilience of both our fishing haunts and the the uplands through which they flow.

Bison in Yellowstone National Park

Opposite of drought, but related to a warming climate, is an interesting event I first encountered while conducting research for my doctoral dissertation in northern Montana.  Warmer winters have led to an increase in rain-on-snow events where, when the air is warm enough during the winter, precipitation falls as rain rather than snow.  This creates a huge potential for flooding when rain falls on previously fallen snow, melting said snow, and all the water that would normally slowly melt during the spring and summer comes barreling off the mountains at one time.  This produces two detrimental impacts to our streams.  First, the floods scour waterways and their floodplains during the winter when the ecosystems are least prepared to absorb the impacts of flooding.  Second, the water that is released in a massive winter pulse is water that is lost for slow release throughout the remainder of the year.  The first time I saw this was when I was visiting the town of Choteau, Montana in the winter of 2010 and discovered the town park under water after having recently seen a recent rain-on-snow event.

As you can see, the way in which climate change impacts manifest themselves is as varied as the locations in which we live.  In turn, there are multiple pathways in which climate change can impact our favorite waters and the sport of fly fishing.  But, sadly, we've barely scratched the surface of how climate change is reshaping our favorite fishing spots and the sport of fly fishing.

Bison in Yellowstone National Park
Contrary to popular belief combating climate change is not a Sisyphean task. From the grassroots to the international community there are efforts underway to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.  Likewise, efforts to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere span all levels of civil society.  All of this, in conjunction with the conservation activities that we undertake in support of our favorite waters, forests, parks, sports, and species provide the foundation for the successful preservation of the places we love most in the world.

I'll close today's post with this thought- climate change and its impacts on the sport of fly fishing is a potentially huge topic.  I'm debating whether or not to circle back around to the topic again soon.  I would appreciate any thoughts you have  on whether or not this is something you'd like to see additional posts on in the near future.  Finally, directly below are a couple of links to primers on climate change.  They are both good introductions to the topic.

Online Climate Change Resources

Until next time,
Cheers & Tight Lines,

Twitter- @ConserveTrout