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

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

Keeping ’em wet

As a fishing guide, a journalist and advocate being on the water, especially fishing, is one of the most rewarding parts of the gig.  Many times that means getting a photo of a happy angler with a fish.

Here’s the rub. The grip and grin, hero shot is great for the angler, but even when it is done right is not great for the fish and when done wrong can be deadly.  I’ve done it and it bothers me, a lot. Sure, I am careful when I set up those shots but I’ve always worried about it. Of course I want the client to have a memento but not at the sacrifice of my business partner the fish.

Enter Keepemwet Fishing. Bryan Huskey and the team are promoting responsible handling, photographing, and releasing fish in the future. And they are doing it the right way.

This is from the website:


Thanks to advances in science, we now have a better understanding of the impacts that handling can have on the long-term health of fish. We believe that anglers have the responsibility to apply this knowledge to their fish handling practices and should strive to minimize the impacts on the fish they release.

Keepemwet Fishing doesn’t believe in casting stones. Instead, we believe in mindfulness and positive progress. We know that we have all been guilty of mishandling fish in the past and recognize that we will likely err in the future, despite our best intentions. Rather than tearing down others for their missteps, we hope to promote this awareness so anglers are better equipped to properly handle, photograph, and release fish in the future.

We encourage our supporters to share this approach, to lead by example, and to serve as positive influences for other anglers.

The website has principles and tips that help anglers do a better job of fish handling. Take a few minutes to read them over.

There is also a link to Andy Danylchuk’s piece The Release – Fundamentals of fish and the path to responsible angling in Patagonia’s blog The Cleanest Line. Andy is a good friend and his experience and research on this subject is excellent. Again, give it a read.

If you are a recreational angler you should care about the resource. Spending a few minutes learning how to be a good steward is part of the program.


Joining the Marine Fish Conservation Network

Only where love and need are one, And the work is play for mortal stakes, Is the deed ever really done, For Heaven and the future’s sakes. -Robert Frost

For those who have been following along with my recent move from running the Outdoor Writers Association of America to joining the Marine Fish Conservation Network the Network’s official announcement is posted below. To be paired with Mark Bauman in an announcement is a special honor. Mark as you will see below has an impressive background and I am excited to be working with him.

I have had the opportunity to work with the Network over the years and thrilled to now be part of the team. The way the Network goes about its policy work is important to me. The coalition building, the science-based policy development and the desire to see healthy oceans, productive fisheries and working waterfronts thrive has been the hallmark of the Network advocacy and education. The Network presents a measured and balanced approach. It is that approach the attracted me.

The economic impact of healthy oceans, productive fisheries and working waterfronts is an important component of our nation’s economy. The small businesses that depend on the sea and the people who live, work and play there are an important part of my life.

My mother’s side of the family came from Rhode Island and I still spend time there. I am fishing guide and board member of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. Those parts of my life have helped me form a deep and abiding interest in seeing our marine resources well cared for now, and into the future.

The ocean, its resources and the people that live, work and play there deserves a strong voice and advocate when it comes to public policy. The Network is that voice.

Marine Fish Conservation Network Welcomes Tom Sadler, New Deputy Director, and Mark Bauman, Board of Directors Member

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 12, 2016
Contact: Jo Knight, jo@conservefish.org

ARLINGTON, VA – The Marine Fish Conservation Network announced today the addition of two new members to its leadership team. Tom Sadler, outgoing executive director of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA), will join the Network as the organization’s deputy director. Mark Bauman, senior vice president of Smithsonian Media, has become the newest member of the Network’s Board of Directors.

“The Network is excited to have Tom Sadler and Mark Bauman become part of the leadership team that helps steer our organization toward achieving healthier oceans and productive fisheries,” said Robert C. Vandermark, executive director of the Network.

Sadler has an extensive history of promoting fisheries conservation through advocacy and communication. In 2008, he started The Middle River Group to provide strategic and tactical public and government relations assistance on conservation issues, especially those related to fish, wildlife and natural resources. He has also served as conservation director for the Izaak Walton League of America and director of program development for the Trust for Public Land. Sadler most recently lead OWAA, the oldest and largest association of professional outdoor communicators in the United States.

“I’m excited to be getting back to my organizing and advocacy roots to push for greater conservation of our marine fisheries,” said Sadler. “I look forward to working with commercial and recreational fishermen, conservationists, and everyone who wants to ensure our fisheries are thriving well into the future.”

“Tom brings exceptional conservation experience, as well as an invaluable perspective, having worked closely with the conservation and outdoors community for most of his career,” Vandermark said. “He truly understands the needs of those who rely on our natural resources.”

Bauman is an award-winning entertainment executive with strong expertise in strategic communications across multiple platforms. In his current role, he oversees the commercial media of the Smithsonian Institution, including Smithsonian Magazine, Air and Space Magazine, Smithsonian Books and Smithsonian.com. Bauman has partnered with numerous conservation nonprofits on messaging for public environmental campaigns. He worked with Ban Ki-moon and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to produce the short film that convened the second round of Kyoto Climate Change talks. As part of the executive teams of both Smithsonian and National Geographic, Bauman has had a distinguish and successful career broadening audience reach and expanding organizational presence through digital, print and broadcast. He has earned numerous awards, including an Emmy, Cine Golden Eagles, and several film festival awards. Prior to his time at National Geographic, Bauman worked in television journalism for ABC covering news stories that spanned the globe.

“Marine conservation and the sustainable management of global fish stocks are critically important to the future of our planet,” said Bauman. “It is an honor to join this distinguished board.”

“Mark is an outstanding addition to our Board of Directors, and we are lucky to have his expertise in strategically and creatively communicating to diverse audiences throughout the country,” said Gerry Leape, chair of the Network’s Board of Directors. “We couldn’t be happier that he is joining our team.”

Link below:

Marine Fish Conservation Network Welcomes Tom Sadler, New Deputy Director, and Mark Bauman, Board of Directors Member

A Sea Change

“We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak, and to defend the causes that were for the moment unpopular.” -Edward R. Morrow

This week I let the members and supporters of the Outdoor Writers Association of America know I was leaving my position as Executive Director and going to work for the Marine Fish Conservation Network. It was a difficult decision and one I did not make hastily or lightly, but in the end my heart and Morrow’s words won out.

I need no more reason why than this…

Truth be told the future of our marine resources for my grandchildren and their grandchildren weighed on me. I didn’t want to look back on my life and think I could have done more.

Jim Range and Jean Ince (courtesy of John Ince)

Memories of an old friend, Jim Range, reminded me; “Tommy we have to protect the wild things. If we don’t do it, it won’t get done.

I still have some fight left in me and want to get back in the game more directly.

Here is what I told the OWAA members and supporters:

It has been my pleasure and honor to serve as OWAA’s executive director for almost four years, but the time has come for me to move on. On Jan. 1, 2017, I will return to the advocacy world and join the Marine Fish Conservation Network as deputy director.

I assure you my leaving OWAA has nothing to do with the organization or anyone associated with it, but is solely motivated by my desire to “get back into the fight” and use my advocacy and organizing experience to protect our marine resources and the people that depend on them.

OWAA’s mission has never been more important, but my heart lies elsewhere. I know the organization is stable, has good leaders and will continue quite well without me. With Colleen Miniuk-Sperry taking over my duties, I know the day-to-day operations will continue seamlessly and the membership will be well served. I look forward to seeing and being part of OWAA’s continued success just in a different role as a member and a supporter.

During my time at OWAA I learned that we are a tribe, a guild, the keepers of the flame and take the work as chroniclers seriously. We are, in fact, the Voice of the Outdoors. OWAA is serious about our work as journalists and will vigorously defend the First Amendment. Our Circle of Chiefs are our conservation conscience and continue to remind us of important issues facing the future of the outdoors. And our conference is the best opportunity for liked-minded journalists to gather, learn and share.

Today, more than ever in OWAA’s 90-year history, the work we do as outdoor journalists is critically important, and we need to do it as well as we possibly can. To quote Edward R. Morrow, “We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak, and to defend the causes that were for the moment unpopular.”

I hope to see many of you in Duluth, Minnesota, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, or at future conferences.