Monday, November 19, 2007

The Times They are a Changing

At the risk of confrontation on many fronts I pursue a final outing that may lend some perspective to a troubled year. If you fish, I need not explain. With several incredible fall trips under my belt I thought I’d be content to hang it up. I underestimated my self control, which when it comes the potential for a road trip, I often do. This time however, there’s more than just fishing that’s driving me. Not that I wouldn’t mind one last tug, but as the years pass it’s not that simple any more.

For starters that bad taste left in my mouth from my final day of steelheading unfortunately lingers. Its semi ludicrous this offensive gesture would blemish all that transpired on that trip. Had it not been a last day my impressions may have been more tempered. Regrettably such is not the case.

A growing sense of urgency as another year comes to an end also adds to my mood. Not so much related to my advancing age, but driven from an apprehension for the future of our resources. One would have to be appreciably detached to not have concerns for the condition of our western waters; declining wild salmon and steelhead stocks, river closures, relentless drought, climate change, increasing water demands, fires, and invasive species. As of late the list deplorably is growing. After one of the most environmentally taxing years in memory, for the first time I seriously contemplate their future.

In the last two months I’ve flown across the entire country. Much of it at that vantage point resembles an old ball mitt. You may have come across such a relic among your dad’s or grandfathers possessions. One from the 40’s or 50’s in particular; dried, cracked, and dull. I don’t ever recall the landscape brown nor looking so beat down and trodden.

At the height of the season Yellowstone Park initiated a voluntary closure of its waters from noon until 6. Summers persistent heat led to these restrictions becoming mandatory. The Madison below Quake Lake incurred critical water temperatures of 70. At about this same time I was getting my head handed to me on the Henry’s Fork. As summers heat lingered these waters to were faced with similar conditions. On a recent trip through the Bitterroot and Salmon River Valley I was awed by the number of tributaries that ran dry. Not to mention the fires that pilfered the countryside for the second consecutive year.

In the west there’s a perceptions of abundance when it comes to natural resources. Trout waters included. Anglers, all methods, are not immune from this notion. As a whole there seems to be little concern nor knowledge of the knifes edge we walk. Life distractions that bear little significance on our true well being have led to a budding level of indifference and disconnect. I find this trend disturbing given our state of affairs.

Heading out of the river corridor where I spent my final day in BC I wondered if during my lifetime these wild steelhead would face a similar fate as their relatives in the lower 48. Their declining numbers leave little room for optimism. Exiting this wild river corridor I reflected on this and the future of those waters nearer to home. On the ride home as the rains continued I turned on the radio. Although the program was barely audible, the distraction it provided was an improvement over the disheartening realities that ran through my head.

As days and weekends pass my window of opportunity to head north is slipping away. Although, should my year end without another tug I know there will be occasions next year, or will there. For the first time there’s an awareness that our time on the water is in jeopardy. Given the start to winter in much of the west my anxieties continue to be reinforced. For your consideration, praying for snow is no longer an option.


Jeremy Christensen said...

Thanks Steve, another fine entry.

Many of the opportunities we enjoy are incredibly fleeting. I knew that salmon and steelhead were tanking, but it wasn't until the open house at your shop, and reading Dec's book that I realized how much has changed just in my lifetime of 25 years. What a shame to squander such a precious, irreplaceable resource, with full knowledge of having done so. But, I guess we're used to that in Utah as well.

Steve Schmidt said...

With people like you in the hood, there's hope. There are a number of us who have been battling these issues for decades, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of new, especially younger bloods who are cognizant of the issues and if they are, they don't care enough to deal with them. I hope that when I pass on that I leave you resources that are still noteworthy. Thanks for all you do. Keep pounding the drum.

Jeremy Christensen said...

But as important as it is to promote the stewardship and preservation of wildlife and wild places, it is equally important to get out and enjoy these places and experiences while we still can. The better we know these places, and their inhabitants, the more personally invested we become in their long term viability. So thanks to you for getting folks out there.