Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

Microfiber Pollution

As I find other interesting articles and videos on this subject I will put links at the bottom of this post.

As a part-time fishing guide, water is an essential element of my life. What happens to and in the water has a direct impact on the quality of the experience for my clients. As a board member of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA), I have a keen interest in how the industry looks at and addresses water issues, whether they are access or quality. As the deputy director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network where my focus is on marine issues, so I am tuned into the challenges we face with our oceans.

One subject that gets my attention in all three areas of my professional life is the issue of plastic pollution. The shop I guide for, Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, found an innovative solution to the use of disposable plastic containers for fishing flies. AFFTA quickly embraced this solution and now promotes it as an industry best practice. Packaging is the biggest part of the plastic pollution problem but not the only one. It was the small stuff that recently caught my attention.

One company that is at the forefront of environmental issues is Patagonia. They have been educating people about plastic pollution in our oceans for years. In June 2016, they turned their attention to microplastics in the waste stream. According to the post, What Do We Know About Tiny Plastic Fibers in the Ocean? in Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles, the microfibers in synthetic clothes like fleece are shed during washing and are not captured by filter systems in treatment plants. The microfibers wind up in the ocean, on beaches, and in rivers and lakes. According to Patagonia:

“We know a single synthetic garment can shed thousands of synthetic microfibers in a single wash. We also know synthetic microfibers, as opposed to microplastic beads, have an irregular shape that can pose a threat to smaller organisms—and may enter the food chain and work their way up to humans. We also know we sell a lot of fleece; what we produce, combined with all the polyester and nylon products made and sold by other outdoor and apparel brands (and other industries), may constitute a significant problem.”

While knowing there is a problem is a key first step, the important question is what each of us can do about it. Somedays the challenges we face seem daunting especially when seen through the twin lens of policy and politics. Daunting they may be, but there are things we as individuals can do to make a difference.

Last month in a follow-up post, An Update on Microfiber Pollution, Patagonia
shared what they have learned and where they are headed. “Over the past two years, the shedding of microfibers from Patagonia’s synthetic garments has taken on heightened urgency in how we consider our priorities moving forward. We’ve been working on several fronts…”

Here are the steps Patagonia suggests individuals can take.

  • Keep Using It: Keeping our gear in use longer is something we can all do to reduce our personal impact on the planet. Buy only what you need, buy high quality and make it last. In Patagonia’s recent study with researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a low-quality, generic-brand fleece shed significantly more over its life span than Patagonia’s high-quality products (brenmicroplastics.weebly.com).
  • Wash Less Often & Invest in a Front-load Washer: Microfibers shed in the wash—so wash your gear only when it’s absolutely necessary (you’ll conserve water in the process). Even your most-used outerwear should only need a full wash occasionally. If it’s caked with dirt (and we hope it will be), consider using a rag or sponge to spot clean rather than putting it through a machine cycle. And consider your washing machine: Studies show synthetic jackets laundered in top-load washing machines shed more than five times as many microfibers as the same jacket in front-load washers.
  • Fiber Filters Help: Putting your synthetic clothing into a filter bag before washing by hand or machine can significantly reduce the flow of microfibers into your drain. Starting in the coming weeks, you can buy (at cost) the easy-to-use Guppy Friend (guppyfriend.com) at Patagonia.com throughout the United States and Europe. Or install a permanent washing machine filter (requires some plumbing expertise), like Wexco’s Filtrol 160 (septicsafe.com/washing-machine-filter).

I admire the leadership Patagonia shows with their corporate ethic and willingness to recognize the impacts their products have, do the research on that impact and look for solutions not only in their manufacturing process but providing ways the end users can mitigate that impact. The least we can do as consumers is educate ourselves and act responsibly. The oceans and their inhabitants will thank us.

Author’s note: this post originally appeared in On the Waterfront the Marine Fish Conservation Network‘s blog.

Articles of interest:

CBS News: How microfibers in clothes are polluting our oceans

BBC: Video captures moment plastic enters food chain

We can clean the ocean: Rachael Miller at TEDxLowell


Nature Bats Last

One of the best Op/Ed pieces I have read in a long time ran this week in the LA Times.

It is an important lesson about the history of our nation when we ignore the facts and let the charlatans run loose akin to Hunter Thompson’s view of the TV business: “as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.”

We may live in a post-truth era, but nature does not” was written by Cynthia Barnett; an environmental journalist at the University of Florida’s and the author of  “Rain: A Natural and Cultural History.”

Regardless of alternative facts, fake news or scientific censorship, nature tells the truth. That truth will flood in torrential rains. It will sear in extended droughts. It will sweep into coastal homes, especially where it has been suppressed;

Our history, aptly chronicled by Professor Barnett, shows the folly of betting against Mother Nature.

nature’s truths are bluntest in times when the nation has ignored its best scientists, quashed reports to benefit industries and been awash in fake news. And those times have been frequent.

She points to the Great Plains of 1870’s and the then touted theory that “rain follows the plow.”  It did not as we know and the dust bowl was the punishment for those over hyped but unsubstantiated lies of the day (“alternative facts” in today’s gasthly phraseology.)

“The farmers helpless, with no weapon against this terrible and inscrutable wrath of nature, were spectators at the strangling of their hopes, their ambitions, all that they could look to from their labor,” wrote a young reporter named Stephen Crane at the Lincoln State Journal.“The farmers helpless, with no weapon against this terrible and inscrutable wrath of nature, were spectators at the strangling of their hopes, their ambitions, all that they could look to from their labor,” wrote a young reporter named Stephen Crane at the Lincoln State Journal.

There are many who will opt for the political over the scientific, the short term gain over the long term interest of their fellow man. They will find comfort in those post-truth theories that fit their narrative, facts be damned. As Barnett points out, the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

In the end, the one truth that will always win out; nature bats last.

What’s the deal with these attacks on public land ownership?

My friend Andrew wrote on Facebook:
Tom – you are my trusted outdoorsman issue/policy guy :) What’s your take on this? It sure doesn’t sound good from here.
This being:  How Fishermen, Hunters, Bikers, and Hikers Are About to Lose Their Say on Public Land Use The Bureau of Land Management’s once bipartisan, “common-sense” planning 2.0 rule to give outdoor recreation a voice is now under fire. from MENSJOURNAL.COM

TS: One of a series of moves by House Republicans to thwart public use of public lands. No bueno. The good news is many outdoor groups are calling BS and fighting back. Over time I believe we will prevail until then it is #resist and #persist…

Andrew: ok thank you! Is there someone who is tracking the progress of stupidity like this so that citizens can weigh in with appropriate congresspeople? The outdoor coalition is pretty big and broad :).

TS: No single source at this point. Bookmark: Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Trout Unlimited, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Outdoor Industry Association, American Fly Fishing Trade Association. Watch for press releases, policy updates and action alerts.

VA’s U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and U.S. Senator Mark Warner are usually pretty reliable on this stuff when they hear from folks. The key is they need to hear from folks as they are not on Committees that deal with this stuff. U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Comstock is new and not on relevant committees either. She would benefit from hearing your concerns.

From TRCP: Still Fired Up Over H.R. 621? Here Are Ten Other Threats to Public…

Andrew: One last question for you Tom – the bill that zeroes out the value of public lands, any idea what that is and where it stands? That one seemed a particularly onerous threat. Thanks much for the info friend!

TS:It was not a bill. It was a House Rule. It was agreed to and can and likely will be used to score legislation that includes or allows land disposal or transfer.

From WaPo: House GOP rules change will make it easier to sell off federal land – WASHINGTONPOST.COM BY JULIET EILPERIN

The pertinent language from the rules package reads in part; “requiring or authorizing a conveyance of Federal land to a State, local government, or tribal entity shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending, or increasing outlays.”

It is tied, as you see to budget mechanics, an area to complex to try and discuss here. Suffice it to say it does pretty much what Ms Eilperin says…

And my friend Steve pointed out correctly: Also, the Senate has not passed any such rules change, so land transfer legislation still violates Senate budget rules without and offset.

Andrew: OK – I did see that article a couple weeks back, but I’ve read my quota of WashPo articles already this month – time to subscribe! Now the question I need to go find an answer to – “What is the process for the federal government to sell off public land?” Does the Senate have any say? Secretary of the Interior, or Agriculture for national forest land? No problem if you don’t know those answers, then again, I guess those of us who care about these things better figure it out.

TS: Congress (meaning House and Senate) can legislate the disposal of federal land. If legislation is signed by the President into law (enacted) then it is a done deal. And there are case where the sale or transfer may make sense. The Secretaries of Interior or Agriculture, may make recommendations for sale or transfer but those would need to go thru the legislative process and be enacted into law.

I spent many years looking at this and it is not cut and dry on what is good to transfer and what is not good to transfer. There are a variety of programs that deal with transfer that are beneficial to good public land management.

Andrew: Thanks a ton for that! Hoping I understand correctly :) basically for those of us with an interest in public lands, the merits need to be looked at case by case, but the specific parcels proposed have to go through some kind of approval by full House and Senate, correct? And we’d be lucky if we even find out about it unless its particularly egregious, given how they stuff everything into one giant POS – usually the spending bill that keeps the government open for business – and shove it down our throats these days. Helps to know the process though! And I’d offer a final guess that monument designations like Bears Ears and Katahdin/North Woods, are a whole different process than above since they are designated by Executive branch?

TS: Yes the transfer has to be enacted. Yes, the projects could be enacted in “must pass” bills. I have seen that cut both ways however with good projects being protected. Yes monuments are designated by the President and the authority to do so comes from the Antiquities Act. Which by the way is under attack. Bears Ears has the Utah delegation apoplectic…

Rooting for beer

As organic processors we are really excited about grain to glass.” – Christian Ettinger, Hopworks Urban Brewery

image courtesy of Patagonia Provisions.

If you watch Patagonia Provision’s movie Unbroken Ground you will learn about Kernza, a grain developed by The Land Institute in Kansas.

Kernza is a perennial grain, meaning it does not have to be replanted every year. Perennial grains retain more nutrients, are able to use rain fall better and help trap carbon. That is important because a lot of top-soil gets lost during tilling.

Kernza grows a tap root up to 10 feet long. The root system stays in the soil after the grain is harvested adding carbon rich organic matter. That deep tap root helps prevent erosion by holding soil in place.

Cool stuff in its own right but it gets better, Kernza is being used to make beer.

Patagonia worked with Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland Oregon  to create Long Root Ale.

Beer with a purpose, I’ll drink to that!

Learn more about this collaboration at Patagonia Provisions.



Remembering Jim Range

The following is a tribute I wrote for the News Virginian in 2009. I don’t think I can do any better today and still have tears in my eyes. May his wisdom live on in all of us.

There are some columns one would prefer never to write. This is one of them.

Please indulge me as I reflect on two people who are no longer with us. Not to mourn their loss so much as to celebrate their lives.

Jim Range and Jean Ince (courtesy of John Ince)

On Tuesday morning one of my very closest friends lost his battle with cancer.
He was like a brother to me. The best man in my wedding, a hunting and fishing partner of many years and the voice on the other end of the phone keeping me strong when trouble came. And oh, the whiskey we drank.

Many of you have never heard of James D. Range. But all of you have been touched by his work. He was a conservation hero. Embodying a conservation ethic on the scale of Roosevelt, Leopold, Muir and Pinchot.

One of my most cherished memories, from many years ago, is standing with him in my dining room one night. We got choked up looking out at the fields and woods where I lived.

He told me that not a lot of folks were willing to protect the things he, I and many of you love so much like fish, wildlife and the wild things of this earth. He said, “Tommy we have to protect the wild things. If we don’t do it, it won’t get done.”

Tears streamed down our faces. Big men do cry.

Range was a modern architect of natural resource conservation. A skilled bipartisan policy and political genius with an extraordinary network of friends and contacts.

Range had wonderful oratorical gifts, a way of always speaking from his heart, sometimes in language not fit for a family newspaper. You may not have liked what he said but you surely knew what he thought.

He was the personification of “if they don’t see the light, we can surely make them feel the heat.”

Range’s fingerprints are all over the nation’s conservation laws, including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. His championing of conservation tax incentives earned him a profile in Time magazine.

He ably chaired the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Board of Directors pouring his enormous energy into its resurrection.

He served with distinction and candor on the Board’s of Trout Unlimited, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, the American Sportfishing Association, Ducks Unlimited, the American Bird Conservancy, the Pacific Forest Trust, the Valles Caldera Trust and the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

Range was an original board member of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, helping to chart the outstanding course it is on today. He also held presidential appointments to the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin and the Sportfishing and Boating Partnership Council.

In 2003, Range received the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Great Blue Heron Award, the highest honor given to an individual at the national level by the Department.

He was also awarded the 2003 Outdoor Life Magazine Conservationist of the Year Award and the Norville Prosser Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Sportfishing Association.

Range’s greatest love was the outdoors. He fished and hunted all over the world. I suspect he was happiest however, at his place on the Missouri River near Craig, Mont.

Flyway Ranch was his sanctuary. A sanctuary, which, in typical Range fashion, he shared with friends and colleagues so they too could enjoy a respite from challenges both personal and professional.

Beside his multitude of friends and admirers, Range is survived by his father, Dr. James Range of Johnson City, Tenn., brothers John Neel, Harry and Peter, twin daughters Allison and Kimberly, and loyal bird dogs Plague, Tench and Sky.

Range may be gone but we will be telling stories about him for the rest of our lives.

The Valley lost another friend recently as well. She was one of Range’s favorite people and the mother of his girlfriend Anni.

Jean Marion Gregory Ince, died on Jan. 12 at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville. She and her husband Eugene St. Clair Ince, Jr. and her beloved golden retriever “Meg” were residents of Madison.

Like Range, Jean Ince was a giver. She and Meg, a certified therapy dog, worked with patients at the Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Charlottesville and at the Augusta Medical Center in Fishersville.

Anni told me her mom, like Range, loved the outdoors and animals, particularly horses and dogs. She said that love was passed on to her children and grandchildren as well.

Jean and Bud enjoyed a special relationship. They wrote about it in the December 1978 issue of GOURMET Magazine. An Evening at the Waldorf chronicles the evening of their engagement.

It is a wonderfully engaging story of a young couple, a special hotel, and a time when doing for others was a common practice.

I hope you will take a moment to read it. It is a gift that will make any day a better one.

You can find a copy of An Evening at the Waldorf at http://www.usna.org/family/waldorf.html.

Jim Range and Jean Ince have made our world a better place. Their friends and families miss them but their memories will warm our hearts forever.

Food for thought

Truth be told, we enjoy playing with our food…

“If you want to feed your family healthy food, you have to ask a lot of questions.” -Yvon Chouinard

Hang around our home long enough and you find that MRS and I really enjoy cooking, eating and drinking. If we have a common love of literature it would be cook books, cooking magazines and bartending books. We care a lot about where our food comes from, especially when we are cooking for the “wee ones.” Where we can we support local, sustainable producers.

The more we learn about food the more interested we get in the sources and sustainability.

It will come as no surprise that I am a big fan of Patagonia. When I heard about Chouinard’s latest experiment with sustainability and food I was excited to see where it went. He has shared many of the products from Patagonia Provisions with me,  the salmon and buffalo jerky being my favorites.

Last year, Patagonia Provisions released a film directed by Chris Malloy, that explores the connection between food and the environmental challenges we face. Two of my favorite foods make appearances.

Revolutions start at the bottom

At the bottom are these little small farmers and fisherman and they are committed to the same things we are which is doing something different. People who are willing to break the paradigm.

Agriculture revolution is not going to come through technology. It is going to come through, in a lot of cases, the old ways of doing things. -Yvon Chouinard

Sound familiar tenkara fans?

I was especially delighted to see Dan and Jill OBrien included in the film. I have been a fan of Wild Idea Buffalo ever since I read Dan’s terrific book, Buffalo for the Broken Heart. It is a fabulous true story about their struggles with ranching and the notion of returning buffalo to the native prairie.

In the PNW salmon are their buffalo. The folks from Lummi Island Wild are harvesting based on an old method. They show and talk about reefnet fishing around Lummi Island.

If you care about your food you should take 30 minutes and watch Unbroken Ground.

Watch Unbroken Ground below