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

Fish Water

Imagine fishing without beer. That would almost be as bad as fishing without fish…

If you take your beer as seriously as your fishing then this post, “10 Brewing Companies That Protect Our Fish” from the boys at Gink & Gasoline is worth the read.

They take a look at brewers who give back to the resource and the list may surprise you.

Next time I tip one back I’ll be thinking about who is helping make the fishing just a little bit better.

And brewers, if you are doing something for the water resources in your area, let me know. Happy to post an addendum to the Gink and Gasoline list.


Our Public Lands (Part 3.1) – Sportsmen in Virginia.

Beth at the 2nd ford

In Our Public Lands (Part 3) I wrote about how important our public lands are for the local economy, specifically in Virginia. Thanks to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation we can see what hunters and anglers in Virginia mean to the economy.

According to the CSF, in 2011 in Virginia, hunters and anglers accounted for:

  • $2.38 billion in direct consumer spending,
  • $1.17 billion in salaries and wages,
  • $242 million in state and local taxes and
  • 39, 164 jobs.

Hunting and fishing are deep-seated traditions in the Commonwealth. Our elected officials love to talk about how they support those traditions and want to see them continue. But what are they doing to protect our public lands, the very venues that allow hunting and fishing to take place? If they don’t have a good answer then it is time to remind them that hunting and fishing are more than traditions, they are economic drivers in the state and to jeopardize those public land venues is to put that economic activity and the jobs at risk.

You can see what outdoor recreation means to your state’s economy and download the report on the CSF Reports page.

I said it before; the outdoor recreation economy is an economic powerhouse, now it needs to be a political powerhouse!

Streamside Tenkara Seminar

Mossy Creek Fly Shop owner Colby Trow with a nice ‘bow using a Tenkara USA Ito

Are you interested in tenkara fishing on spring creeks? Then join us for the Mossy Creek Fly Fishing Streamside Tenkara Seminars. The first one is this Friday, July 27th, from 6:00 – 8:00 PM. We will have another one on Wednesday, August 22nd, from 6:00-8:00PM. Colby, Brian and I will be giving presentations and demonstrations on using a tenkara outfit for fishing on spring creeks.

As a guide for Mossy Creek Fly Fishing I know that experience and knowledge is as important to our customers as the products we sell. It is as much a reason for our success as the high quality gear and accessories we offer. We are always looking for fun and innovative ways to share that knowledge with our customers both new and old. This year, tenkara has exploded in our region. Tenkara outfits are the hottest selling items in the store. Not a day goes by when we don’t get asked about it.

During the summer our local spring creeks are a spectacular fishing option. On the water we manage, big bugs and big fish are the rule. Using a tenkara outfit has proven to be an exciting and highly effective way to catch big browns and ‘bows.

This “hands-on” seminar will give you a chance to:

* Cast the full range of Tenkara USA rods and learn which rod is best for different fishing conditions.

* Learn about the different types and lengths of line and which one is best to use for various fishing conditions.

* Learn about setting up your tenkara outfit for spring creeks.

* Learn the “go-to” flies for the various summer spring creek hatches.

* Learn tips, tactics and techniques for successfully fishing spring creeks.

To sign up, call the store at 540-434-2444. The cost is $35 person at time of sign up with Visa or Mastercard, first come – first served.

Space is limited to 15 participants so register early!



EPA’s Draft Watershed Assessment for Bristol Bay

Hard work pays off.

The folks at TU’s Save Bristol Bay campaign and Sportsmen’s Alliance for Alaska deserve some serious congratulations. Because of their efforts the a critical milestone in the efforts to protect Bristol Bay has been reached. On May 18, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency put out a draft scientific study of the Bristol Bay watershedand its natural resources. The study is open for public comment through July 23, 2012. Scott Hed and Shoren Brown (below) in particular have been tireless in their efforts to get us to this point and have earned a round of applause at the very least and a round of drinks next time you see them.

These guys have reason to smile

Forewarned is Forearmed

EPA has taken an important step and deserves credit for being pro-active in doing this forward-looking assessment. Knowing what the potential challenges of a project this size could be and the ecological and economic impacts it could have, allows EPA and those who have an interest in Bristol Bay to be much better informed when it comes to siting mining or other extraction projects in the region.

 Sportsmen in particular have written, spoken out and shown their concerns about the impact a large-scale mining operation could have on the Bristol Bay watershed.

What the DRAFT Watershed Assessment says

Here is what EPA wrote in their press release:

“The report assesses the watershed’s natural resources and the economic benefits associated with those resources, including the largest undisturbed wild sockeye salmon run in the world. EPA’s draft study does not provide an in-depth assessment of any specific mining project, but instead assesses the potential environmental impacts associated with mining activities at a scale and with the characteristics that are realistically anticipated, given the nature of mineral deposits in the watershed, the requirements for successful mining development, and publicly available information about potential mining activity. The report concludes that there is potential for certain activities associated with large-scale mining to have adverse impacts on the productivity and sustainability of the salmon fishery in the watershed. Potential impacts could include loss of habitat used for salmon spawning and rearing. The assessment, when finalized following the important public comment and independent peer review, could help inform future decisions on any large-scale mining in Bristol Bay by both federal and non-federal decision-makers.
The draft assessment focused on the Nushagak and Kvichak watersheds, which produce up to half of all Bristol Bay salmon and are open to mining development under Alaska law.

Key findings in EPA’s draft assessment include:

  • All five species of North American Pacific salmon are found in Bristol Bay. The Bristol Bay watershed supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world. The Kvichak River produces more sockeye salmon than any other river in the world. The Nushagak River is the fourth largest producer of Chinook salmon in North America.
  • Bristol Bay’s wild salmon fishery and other ecological resources provide at least 14,000 full and part-time jobs and is valued at about $480 million annually.
  • The average annual run of sockeye salmon is about 37.5 million fish.
  • Bristol Bay provides habitat for numerous animal species, including 35 fish species, more than 190 bird species and 40 animal species.

EPA also examined the importance of Bristol Bay salmon in sustaining the traditional subsistence lifestyle of Alaska Native Villages in the watershed. The assessment includes detailed reports on Bristol Bay indigenous culture, wildlife and economics, as well as salmon and other fish.

TU’s Save Bristol Bay campaign website adds this:

“Even at its minimum size, mining the Pebble deposit would eliminate or block 55 to 87 miles of salmon streams and at least 2500 acres of wetlands – key habitat for sockeye and other fishes. EPA evaluated four types of large-scale mine failures, and found that even though precise estimates of failure probabilities cannot be made, evidence from other large mines suggest that “at least one or more accidents of failures could occur, potentially resulting in immediate, severe impacts on salmon and detrimental, long-term impacts on salmon habitat.”

What it means for Bristol Bay

This DRAFT assessment is a good first step. There is still a lot of work to be done however. EPA’s assessment is scientific and technical. It is not final, takes no regulatory action and “no way prejudges future consideration of proposed mining activities.”

Unless significant changes to the assessment are justified during the public comment and peer review period, EPA should take the next step and initiate a process under the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay’s waters.

Please add your voice in support of protections for Bristol Bay; Click here to take action.

For information on public meetings and how to submit comments, visit EPA’s website:http://www.epa.gov/region10/bristolbay/.

For more information on EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment and to read the assessment, visit:http://www.epa.gov/region10/bristolbay/

The Value of Public Land

Two articles, each very different in their approach, recently tackled the subject of public lands. They caught my attention not only for the subject matter, but because of the important messages they contained.

Public lands are good for the soul

Hal Herring wrote a terrific piece in Field & Stream, How Public Land Has Shaped and Defined My Entire Life. He paints a written landscape of his lifelong experience hunting, fishing and wandering this nation’s unique and varied public lands. Well worth the read and perhaps, if the opportunity presents itself, you can assist Herring in his challenge to those folks running for public office to join us on and fighting for our public lands.

“Join us, and see what free people do on the lands that visionaries set aside for us all, long ago, so that we would never lose the basic frontiersman’s edge that made this country different from all the others, so that our children would grow up strong under heaven’s blue eye and learn the ways of wildlife and wild places, and learn what it is that we fight for, when we have to fight.

Join us. We’ll show you something that you’ll want to fight for, too.”

Who cares about public lands

The second article offers a look at the strengths and weaknesses of public land supporters, defenders and exploiters. Check out Public Lands Cage Fight on Truchacabra.

This is a no-holds-barred critique that will boil the blood of some folks. Of course there will be a bunch of bitching and moaning and trying to defend one group or another. That will just prove the author’s point. The critiques are spot on and those of us who fit in to the categories are well-advised to learn from these observations.

When all is said and done, if you enjoy the outdoors then you damn well need to set a good example or as the author notes in response to a comment, “It seems ideology is more important than anything these days. Anything can spin off the right track, and there are vultures waiting whenever it happens.”

So next time you feel like the other guy doesn’t care as much as you do, think again, then share the bounty, trail or river. If not, the vultures will waste no time in taking it away from us.

The Economy and Conservation Nexus From People Who Know

A survey released last week validates a common refrain here at the Dispatch; healthy habitat creates recreational opportunity which drives economic activity.

The 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll found that western voters who identify as sportsmen view America’s public lands as critical to their state’s economy and quality of life, and support upholding protections for clean air, clean water, natural areas and wildlife.

The survey, completed in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming by Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm), found that 92 percent of sportsmen  – the majority of whom identify as politically conservative or moderate  — believe that national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife areas are an “essential part” of the economies of these states.

There were press releases for each state highlighting key points from the survey in that particular state. What were especially interesting to me were the quotes. These people articulated the economic importance far better than I can.

See if you don’t agree.

In Arizona:

“It doesn’t matter which part of the political spectrum you are on, one thing we all agree on is that Arizona wouldn’t be Arizona if we didn’t have our public lands and waterways. And certainly my business  — and most businesses in Flagstaff  — depend on those special places like the Grand Canyon being protected,” said Alexandra Thevenin, General Manager of Flagstaff-based Arizona Raft Adventures & Grand Canyon Discovery. Her business employs 110 people during the peak season.

“Spending by Arizona hunters and anglers directly supports 21,000 jobs and generates $124-million in state and local taxes. This especially benefits rural communities like those surrounding the Grand Canyon.  Why wouldn’t we take steps to protect our parks, national forests, and wildlife habitat?” asked Tom Mackin, president of the Arizona Wildlife Federation and long-time resident of northern Arizona.

“Arizonans understand that their quality of life and their state’s competitive economic advantage is tied to a healthy environment,” noted John Shepard, Senior Adviser to the Sonoran Institute. “Moreover, they see the economic opportunities tied to transitioning to a clean-energy economy. State and federal leaders should take stock in the poll’s consistent findings in this regard to advocate for strong conservation, environmental and renewable energy policies.”

In Colorado:

“We know that visitors come to Durango because of all of the outdoor opportunities they can experience in our backyard. For our business, protecting land and the Colorado River is part of our business model,” said Kirk Komich, owner of the Leeland House and Rochester Hotel in Durango.

“Coloradans love this state because of the outdoor recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, and wildlife-watching,” said Suzanne O’Neill, director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “Protecting our land, clean air, and streams requires balancing energy development on public lands with  safeguards  for  important wildlife habitat and open space for all of us to access and enjoy.”

“Sportsmen put their money where their mouth is when it comes to funding conservation,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “We were pleased to see that overwhelming majorities of Colorado voters recognize the importance of funding protection of our land, water and wildlife even in the face of state budget problems. In particular, Coloradans remain deeply committed to using lottery funds to support our state’s natural areas.”

In Montana:

“From gear manufacturers to outfitters and guides in the field, there are hundreds of businesses in Montana that depend on clean air and clean waters in our majestic wild places. Montanans understand that a healthy environment is not only fundamental to our quality of life, it is the bedrock of businesses like Simms,” said KC Walsh, President of Simms Fishing Products, based in Bozeman.

Ben Lamb with the Montana Wildlife Federation was not surprised by the poll. “These results confirm what Montana’s hunters and anglers have known for years: political party doesn’t matter when it comes to protecting our outdoor heritage and our way of life. What matters is that everyone works together to ensure that future generations can enjoy the resources we have today.”

In New Mexico:

“Healthy public lands make it possible for thousands of New Mexican families to hunt and fish, and to pass on their love of the outdoors to their kids. In turn, that strong hunting and fishing tradition creates jobs and opportunity for small businesses,” said Joel Gay, a spokesman for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “Everyone in New Mexico benefits from protected public lands.”

“Both Republican and Democratic Presidents have designated national monuments on public lands in New Mexico. Thanks to their leadership, places like White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, Bandelier and Chaco Canyon have remained among the most beloved treasures of our state. It’s no surprise New Mexicans are supportive of new national monuments,” said Mary Lee Ortega, President of Organizers in the Land of Enchantment (OLÉ).

In Utah:

“Clean air and water, as well as protected lands, have significant economic impacts for Utah, in terms of tourism and our quality of life,” said Jay Banta, Utah Board Member of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “But the value these lands provide in the way of wildlife habitat and solitude, for hunters and anglers, goes far beyond what an economist or pollster can quantify.”

“Voters and public officials across Utah support renewable energy and energy efficiency for numerous reasons and want to see barriers to their adoption eliminated,” said Sarah Wright, Director of Utah Clean Energy. “These poll results confirm what we hear from residents, businesses and local governments every day: public and private sectors and elected officials can work together to create a robust economy and healthy communities powered by clean energy.”

In Wyoming:

“I think we’ve understood this here in Wyoming for a long time,” said Ken Cramer, owner of Cross Country Connections, an outdoor store in Laramie. “It doesn’t matter what your political party is. People live here because we care about the outdoors. People want to hunt, fish, have the outdoor experience – otherwise we’d leave.”

“Tourism and outdoor recreation is the second-biggest industry in the state. We have three out of the top 10 destinations in the U.S. for snowmobiling. Skiing, camping, rock climbing, hunting – it’s all huge here. We’ve got to have places to recreate and we’ve got to take care of them. Clean air, clean water and snow are vital to our activities and, of course, for our lives.”

“We are very humbled by the results of the poll. It is a direct reflection of the partnerships we have been able to forge with more than 70 organizations in every county of Wyoming. Those of us on the board are continually amazed at the conservation work that happens in Wyoming, and are thankful for the support the citizens of Wyoming have shown,” said Delaine Roberts, Chairman of the Board of the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust.

From Sportsmen:

“Investments in conservation of our public lands and water are not only critical to providing quality hunting and fishing opportunities, but also a critical component of the $192 billions sportsmen contribute to our national economy annually,” said Gaspar Perricone, co-director of the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Sportsmen and women continue to value a stubborn stewardship of our natural places and the recreational opportunities those places provide.”

“Conservation efforts amount to only about 1 percent of federal spending but in return sustain fish and wildlife and their habitats, enable out outdoor traditions and safeguard the nearly 6million jobs supported by outdoor recreation,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.  “The general public, including sportsmen, supports our continued investment in conservation, and we will  continue to work with our leaders in Washington, D.C., to uphold these critical policies that facilitate the responsible use and enjoyment of our public lands.”

You can find the full survey and individual state surveys on the Colorado College website.