With the ever increasing popularity of fly fishing comes an inevitable dilemma...our trout streams and lakes are becoming more and more crowded as anglers flock to a seemingly dwindling supply of quality fisheries. Unfortunately, we canít create any more rivers, and the ones we have are constantly under siege from factors ranging from pollution to development. It doesnít appear that the situation will improve any time soon.
Thatís not to say that the increasing numbers of anglers is necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the opposite may be true. Our cold water resources need all the help they can get, whether it be in the form of financial support or, perhaps more importantly, political lobbying by anglers on behalf of their finned friends. I still firmly believe that without the interest and support of fishermen, our fisheries would be in even more dire straits than they are now, and subject to many more unchecked threats in the future as well.
Without the interest of fly fishers, who would be the ones to care that the caddis or mayfly population of a river was declining due to the nearby spraying of malathion for mosquito control, a common practice throughout the country, including seemingly pristine Jackson Hole. What would be the be the eventual outcome were such spraying left unchecked and itís early consequences left unnoticed? Contaminated groundwater? Increases in neurological disorders? A break in the riverís food chain?
Who is to say, but all of the above are possibilities. Yet, by recognizing the early stages of environmental degradation and caring enough to do something about it, perhaps the angler can help us all avoid the much nastier potential aftermath. The more anglers get bummed out due to declining hatch activity, the more questionable policies such as spraying malathion for mosquito control will come under close scrutiny and the sooner such self-destructive practices will come to an end. There are suitable alternatives to controlling mosquito populations, but none are so convenient or inexpensive. The politically active angler wonít care if a given alternative is less convenient or more expensive, he or she is much more concerned about the bottom line. When it comes to anglers who are politically active and willing to send a few bucks to their favorite conservation organization, or better yet, willing to take the time to write their congressman in an effort to shape public policy, I only have one thing to say...the more the better.
But before you jump on the bandwagon, take the time to educate yourself. The Web, with itís incredibly vast array of information, is the perfect tool for the job. And if you are reading this column, it is highly likely that you have access to this amazing and empowering resource. As I researched this column I learned that while malathion is a generally considered a safe pesticide (whatever that is), even itís proponents admit that it is toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates and should not be allowed to enter waterways (see http://www.ftld.ufl.edu/ malathio.htm)! This is particularly discouraging to those of us in Jackson Hole who have witnessed crop dusters loaded with malathion flying in the Snake River Basin.
Iím frequently disappointed by the apathy which, at times, rears itís ugly head when environmental issues are at stake. Itís as though people think there is nothing they can do, or their efforts will be in vain. This is sometimes the case...get over it! But, for God sakes, donít just give up. Everyone who had ever lived has, at one time or another, known what it is like to feel powerless, but the only solution I know of is to empower yourself by getting involved. We live in a great country which allows itís citizens to have a vast influence over governmental and public policies. Along with this freedom to shape public policy comes a responsibility and duty to act. While our government often views us from their high horse as clueless citizens they must, at the same time, respond to overwhelming public sentiment, whatever the issue may be. If your town, county, state, or country is not responding to what, in your mind, is a pressing environmental concern, it is perhaps because they have not yet been overwhelmed by public sentiment. The pressure has not been applied. Once it is, and bureaucratic careers or political office are on the line, they will and do respond.
So get involved. With the millions of fishermen in this country, our collective voices can mold public policy more to our own liking. We need only make it happen. We must make it happen. Do not let the powerful and the greedy inherit the earth.
Here are some Web links to help you get started:
The above list is just a small and random sampling of the many organizations and sources of information to be found on the Web. Find an organization in your area which addresses issues of concern to you. And then take the first step toward becoming a politically active angler. Your children will thank you, and so will the fish.