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

The Jim Range National Casting Call

On Monday I was in Washington, D.C. to participate in the Jim Range National Casting Call. I also had the privilege that evening to be the Master of Ceremonies at the event celebrating the life and conservation legacy of Jim Range, my dear friend who tragically died in January from cancer.

This was the ninth year that the American Fly Fishing Trade Association had gathered on the banks of the Potomac river to celebrate fly-fishing and an aquatic habitat success story, the return of prolific runs of American and Hickory shad to the Potomac river.

This was a special year for those of us who, under Range’s leadership, started the Casting Call. AFFTA’s board of directors, after conferring with the Range family and his friends, decided to rename the event in Range’s honor.

Jim Range was a widely recognized conservation visionary who represented AFFTA in Washington. He was a hero to many in the hunting, fishing and conservation community.

I wrote in this column at the time of his death that 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. I still feel that way today and know many more who do as well.

Range saw the Casting Call and its venue, Fletcher’s boathouse on the Potomac, as the perfect opportunity for the fly-fishing industry to educate members of congress and administration officials on the important nexus between conservation and economic activity.

He knew as well that the partnership efforts that had gone into restoring shad to the Potomac were a model that could be replicated across the nation.

“The Jim Range National Casting Call gives us a chance to get government decision-makers on the Potomac to see and experience the aquatic resource we all cherish,” said Alan Gnann, Chairman of the Board of AFFTA. “It was our friend Jim who showed us that this was the best way to communicate the importance of aquatic habitat and fisheries and we will continue this tradition in his name and his honor.”

Around the time of the first casting call, the federally chartered Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council, of which Range was a member, recommended that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service develop a partnership effort similar to the successful North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

This effort, endorsed by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and supported by numerous conservation organization and federal agencies became the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.

The Action Plan is a science-based voluntary effort to address the challenges facing aquatic habitat and our nation’s fisheries. There are six regional partnerships, including the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture that works here in the Valley.

Range saw the newly created National Fish Habitat Action Plan as an exceptional example of how partnerships like the one that had helped the shad could be replicated across the country. He saw the National Casting Call as a great opportunity to showcase success.

“The National Fish Habitat Action Plan’s approach – teaming federal, state and local partners – is helping to bring fishable waters back to life in a faster more strategic way. We can see real progress in treating the causes of fish habitat decline, not just the symptoms,” said Kelly Hepler, Chairman, National Fish Habitat Action Plan. “The Jim Range National Casting Call gives NFHAP the opportunity to spotlight 10 specific projects that display on the ground work that can be held high as a vision of what quality habitat should be.”

The Action Plan’s 10 “Waters to Watch” was started in 2007. It highlights examples of aquatic habitat conservation efforts of the National Fish Habitat Partnerships. In addition the NFHAP board presents two group awards and two individual awards including newly renamed Jim Range Conservation Vision Award, given this year to world- renowned conservationist Yvon Chouinard, the founder of outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia Inc.

Jim Range was deeply missed at this year’s Casting Call, but his name and legacy live on in tribute to his memory.

You can read more of my columns at News Virginian.com

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