Channelization Could Make Sandy’s Impact Worse

Last fall Tropical Storm Irene and Lee did a number on the Hudson and Adirondack watershed in NY, but then the following Spring, the fishing was absolutely spectacular in rivers left to their own devices to heal. At that time, in a blatant act of dumb reaction and vote-mongering, Gov. Andrew Cuomo suspended heavy machinery permitting and gave upstate counties in NY carte blanche to channelize (read: flatten and straigten) the local creeks and streambeds doing even more damage than the storm. Vermont had a similar problem. TU and other conservation organizations had to sue to get them to even acknowledge the problem. Channelizing the rivers doesn’t dissipate flooding, it actually makes it worse.

From the PA TU Council describes channelization: Stream channelization may reduce or prevent localized flood damage; however, it has negative impacts on the stream environment. The spilling of streams onto their floodplains is a natural event. Stream channelization creates a false confidence and leads to increased pressure for development in flood-prone areas. To the extent that channelization is successful in keeping water out of the floodplain in a localized area, flood damage is almost certain to be increased downstream. The increased volume and velocity of water downstream exacerbates flooding and erosion; threatening homes, businesses, bridges and roads

With 100-year storms turning out to be once-a-year storms, God help the folk downstream of channelized rivers and streams… Hopefully the same mistakes won’t be repeated in VA, MD, PA, VT, NJ, NY and the other states affected by Sandy.

Meanwhile, might as well organize the flybox.

Causes I Can Get Behind

Fish On! The first is a documentary film being made by Boise-area fly fisher and filmmaker Travis Swartz. Swartz wants to film A Reel Recovery Retreat, three men who will come together as Cancer survivors and anglers, to celebrate life, support each other and recover their mind, body and soul on quiet waters. Swartz’s kickstarter campaign was inspired by his friendship with fellow angler Reese Ferguson and his own ongoing quest to understand why fly fishing can soothe men’s souls. The filmmaker himself suffers from anxiety and professes his time on the water helps him deal with what is a daily issue.

My own mother passed away from Cancer and I myself worry sometimes about the disease attacking me or my family members. Its good to know that for the men who suffer and survive and beat Cancer, that there is a program out there that will help them recover. Be Well and Fish On! You can learn more and support the campaign here or also on the Facebook page for the film. And I encourage you to support A Reel Recovery too.

 

 

A little lighter in tone is Trout Unlimited’s Spring/Summer membership drive. I’m seriously considering becoming a life-time member this year. In the meantime, even if you’re not ready to become a member, you can help support TU by participating in the Odell Unbottled Facebook drive by Boulder, Co-based brewery. Upload a photo or video about how you get “unbottled” and Odell will donate a $1 to the charity of your choice–TU is one of them! A great way to share your fishing pics for a great cause. And when you’re in Colorado, be sure to try Odell’s craft brews. Hmm, seeing how I’m stuck in Brooklyn this summer, maybe they’ll send me a case or let me know where I can get sum!

 

 

Ravenous in Yellowstone

Two fish swam lazily on the leeward seam of a boulder just on the edge of the outlet of Tower Creek in Yellowstone Lake. One was very large, fat but stout, olive green with white spots, clearly he was a Mackinaw, the lake trout. His maw was full of sharp teeth and clearly he had just eaten because he didn’t seem to mind the trout holding next to him in the current. The trout was smaller and leaner, but had broad shoulders, and in the right light, he gleamed gold with an olive green back and black spots. He had great red slashes below his mouth, the mark of a cutthroat trout. The two fish eyed each other with caution, finally, the lake trout felt compelled to speak to the smaller trout and turned slightly to speak.

“Look at me brother and despair. In the waters of my ancestors, I was a great King. No herring could escape my hunger or my deadly attack from the deepest darkest depths.  My people are at war in our homewaters with the Salmon. But my people have been transplanted again and again and every where I invade, my instincts become a scourge. Here I dwell now, in my new kingdom, the mighty Yellowstone Lake. I have conquered you and now you are my subject. “

The cutthroat did not seem impressed, and he swam a couple of circles around the lake trout. He smiled politely before speaking.

“Yes, it is true, you have made your mark, you’ve taken many of my brothers and sisters, you have reduced us to mere food. We once roamed this lake and its tributaries in the millions. When the sun turned its great orb on Yellowstone, it often blushed with envy at the golden light we produced, and now we are diminished. We run and hide, far up the creeks to escape your armies.”

The great lake trout practically swooned in his power.

“Then why are you not hiding from me now my morsel? Is it because I’ve just eaten and you can see I have no more room for you?”

The cutthroat replied, “No, we no longer need to hide, for we’ve found new allies and I’m here to deliver a message. Your own ravenous hunger will be your downfall.”

The large lake trout was troubled by the message, but only momentarily, for his hunger had returned and so he turned and snapped-up the cutthroat trout. Suddenly he felt satisfied, even pleased that he had once again let his instincts guide him. In his reverie, he turned and headed back for the deep, but found that he couldn’t move. There was something around his neck that grasped at his gills. In a panic he gave a shove but was held fast. He tried to breath and found he could not. He tried to swim down to the depths but the turn only made it worse. He began to see spots and blackness, his vision was fading. It dawned on him then, the other trout’s prophetic warning had come true. His last thoughts were, “Perhaps if I had spared my brother, I would not be stuck fast in this net, but then, I rule here, do I not?”

———–

America’s first park is under siege, not by armies, but by a fish, a non-native from the char family, the Mackinaw, commonly known as the lake trout. Since its illegal introduction in the mid-90s, Lakers have devastated the once millions-strong native population of cutthroat trout. Voracious predators, lakers kill the fry and adult cutthroat and crowd out every other species of fish, removing a vital step in the ecosystem that supports more than forty other species in Yellowstone Park, including otters, bears, wolves, foxes and various raptors. Unlike cuthroat, lakers dwell deep and avoid predation. Today, the National Park Service, local chapters of Trout Unlimited and other partners are joined in a battle to restore balance to the lake and its tributaries, with an aggressive lake trout reduction plan, involving tagging and gill netting. Because of their size, lake trout can be netted, allowing younger smaller cutthroat to escape.

In my growth as a fly fisher, I have rekindled a deep and passionate commitment to our environment and its protection. Here in NY, the laker is a prized fish pursued by trolling, seldom taken on the fly. However, the “Mack” has no place out west, not when we have the science and knowledge to protect our native species. However, this battle is about more than science. Reducing the lake trout population and restoring cutthroats in Yellowstone is symbolic. In an era when every pristine habitat is under threat from mining, development or climate change, the seemingly immovable forces of business and man, the challenge of restoring balance is under our control. Individuals can make a difference. By entering the 2012 Outdoor Blogger Tour contest I hope to be able to witness first hand the efforts of the National Park Service in protecting Yellowstone and returning to NY to think, write and talk about it with my local TU chapter. Though I know conservation begins at home, the protection of Yellowstone’s native species stands as a special effort that can inspire us all.

This is my submission for the Trout Unlimited, Simms, the Yellowstone Park Foundation and the Outdoor Blogger Network – Blogger Tour 2012 contest.

deadbait Cabin Fever Contest

OK, so today I spent the entire day inside waiting for the cable guy and on conference calls. Cabin fever strikes again. So I have realized a couple of solutions to deal with being stuck inside and unable to fish. I’m definitely going to at least go hiking…there’s nothing stopping that and I have the right gear, even for the cold weather. I’m also going to start studying for the coming 2012 hunting season. I’ve signed up for my NY Hunter Safety and Bow Hunter courses next month in the Bronx. If you’re interested in such a course, go here, they’re free. Oddly enough, the classes I’m taking are being taught at the MLK Jr. Center for Chemical Dependence Outpatient Services. Weird right?

But here’s my BIG IDEA! Why not ask you, my reader? To that end I want to announce deadbait’s first reader poll. Here’s the deal–if you’re an angler or hunter or general outdoors-oriented person, share with me your BEST solution for fighting winter cabin fever right in the comments section of this blog post. I will publish the top 10 solutions (I will pick them) in a later blog post and the top 3 will win one of the prizes below.

  • Red Gold DVD of the hit conservation and angling film that documents the devastating effect mining could have on Bristol Bay, something I’ve written about in-depth before. Its still in the shrink wrap (I’ve seen the film before).

  • 3-pack of hand-tied Grey Wulff flies tied by the reknowned outfitter and fly-tier Bob Jacklin. I won a bunch of flies during a NYC TU raffle and want to share the love. You’ll get a #10, #12, and #14 grey wulff I SWEAR by the provenance of these. Jacklin’s Fly Shop in West Yellowstone, MT is well-known. Don’t worry I’ve got 7 more in each pattern for my OWN collection. I plan on mounting three and fishing the rest. Afterall, what is a fly that hasn’t been fished? Useless that’s what.
picture is not the actual fly, its much purdier

  • Rogue’s Gallery Anchor keychain by designer  Alex Carlton, founder of Rogue’s Gallery in Portland, Maine and also the designer of the L.L. Bean Signature line. These are pretty hard to find. I bought this for myself but then my girl got me a Makr keychain I prefer. If you figure it out, its also a handy bottle-opener.

 

There will be 3 prize winners. First prize winner gets first pick out of the following three prizes, second prize winner gets second pick. This is an informal “poll” so no monkey business. Deadline is Feb. 15th, midnight and I will only ship in the US. One submission please only. When you post, please “follow” this blog so I can contact you later. Yes, people might see your idea and try to top it–that’s the point, but if you’ve read my blog or my tumblr blog before you know a little about what makes me tick. I just want to know what YOU do break out of your cabin fever.

So…

1) tell me your best solution to cabin fever and post it in the comments of this blog post

2) “follow” the blog so I can contact you if you win

3) and share this blog post

 

TU Bristol Bay Campaign Reveals Pebble Mine Struggle

I recently attended the Celebrate Bristol Bay event in NYC sponsored by TU, Tiffany & Co and the Bristol Seafood Development Association  and many other conservation-minded donors.  The food, donated sockeye salmon, was served six ways to Sunday by the talented chefs of many great area restaurants, including Oceana, Back Forty, The Mermaid Inn, The Dressing Room restaurant, and Bar on Fifth (at the Setai Hotel). TU CEO Chris Wood was there, as well as writers and naturalists, folk like Paul Greenberg, author of Four Fish, who spoke. Steve Rinella, outdoor rockstar, was in the audience. The acclaimed photographer Michael Melford was in attendance and his beautiful photographs of Bristol Bay scrolled behind the guest speakers. If one was on the fence about Pebble Mine, the speeches wouldn’t have necessarily persuaded you to jump over. At this event, TU was preaching to the choir. I was concerned we weren’t “occupying” the right minds.

Yet, it was a quiet, reserved, young man in the back of the room, manning reception, that caught my attention and whose struggle would surely sway you. At the end of the speeches, TU volunteer Ben Blakely appeared to be soaking it in. Something in his look said–don’t worry, we can win this thing. This was the final stop of TU’s Save Bristol Bay tour and Ben had been with these guys from the beginning, two weeks ago in Portland to Denver all the way to New York City. By looking at him, you wouldn’t think he possessed a maturity beyond his years, that this young man captained a commercial fishing vessel in Bristol Bay, that he was part of a family of fishermen who catch and process part of the 40 million wild salmon that are part of the Bristol Bay fishery. When you looked at him, with his hopeful smile and shy demeanor, you wouldn’t guess that his way of life and his home was so…threatened.

Ben Blakely and Melanie Brown, TU Bristol Bay Campaign Volunteers
Steven Rinella, writer, and Scott Hed of Sportsmans Alliance for Alaska

“Coming on this trip, I realized just how many people eat Bristol Bay salmon.” This year, Ben volunteered to join TU’s campaign and left behind his ship, the N20 (not an “exciting” name he says as he pointing it out in a National Geographic article in the Dec 2010 issue) to travel across the country and bring word of the impending disaster that is Pebble Mine. The proposed open pit mine that would devastate the land, eradicate wildlife and violate the Bristol Bay and its surrounds in search for gold, copper and molybdenum.

Ben told me that sometimes he feels, “just a bit selfish,” because he sees that people are coming out in droves to TU’s events to protest Pebble Mine, and support his way of life, his family’s livelihood (his father runs a processing plant and his siblings work in the business in some way).  Ben has come to learn what every man eventually learns, that there are in fact, “greedy individuals” out there (as Paul Greenberg calls them), who in their pursuit of profits, are willing to take from others.

Four Fish author Paul Greenberg speaks at Save Bristol Bay event in NYC

What makes Bristol Bay so special of course, is that it is indeed “the  last wild food” according to Greenberg. Something like 30-40% of Alaskan salmon are hatchery-supported, but Bristol bay produces forty million WILD salmon.  Maybe it should be a “strategic food reserve” as Greenberg suggested. Perhaps the Blakely family are not just fishermen, but soldiers, protecting a vital resource that nature has saw fit to make available and sustainable…if only we would leave it alone and just protect it.

Anglo American, with that oh so very ironic name, is the world’s largest diversified mining company, has spent hundreds of thousands, even millions on permits to mine the Bristol Bay watershed, and yet, like the “great white hunter” are eager to convince the natives that it would be great for the local economy while they rape the land. They don’t seem to realize that the 600 million dollar fishery provides 40% of the salmon we consume. As Greenberg says, its all very confusing how we love to eat salmon and yet, “we hate salmon, the way we treat  it.”

“We have a very strong chance we will stop the mine,” says Ben, with an optimistic twinkle in his eye. He’s counting, it seems, not just on the beautiful images of the bay, the bucket-list dreams of anglers around the world, the deep pockets of New York’s elite conservationists, but also the fact that we will remember that there are people on the other side of this thing.

Red Gold (about Bristol Bay salmon) is not just a poster child of one family. It’s many families.” When asked about Anglo American’s counter-marketing campaign, Ben remarks, “The marketing efforts have little science on their side, its purely emotional and it confuses the issue at hand.”

Still it seems this debate over Pebble Mine IS deeply emotional.  “We have blocked the chi of the world (with dams),” says Greenberg, but Ben and his family seem to act only out of love. They donated salmon to the chefs for this event. Mike Kowalski, CEO of Tiffany & Co, said, “the truth is, we believe we’re acting on our shareholders desires…There are certain values that exceed the value of gold.”

Tiffany & Co are signatories to the Bristol Bay Protection Pledge. Earlier Kowalski candidly admitted to me he was disappointed that even more jewelry companies hadn’t stepped-up and made a commitment (more than a dozen have so far, but De Beers is notably absent), but he expressed hope. He reiterated, he himself as CEO, wasn’t being “bold” by signing the pledge, but rather, research showed the vast majority of Tiffany consumers shared his view. Still, it seemed he was taking it very personal.

Chef Michael Nishan preps house-cured citrus bristol on salmon bay biscuits

So, I reiterate, this thing is indeed, emotional, for families, for shareholders and CEOs, for chefs and writers. It’s an emotion that is hard to pin-down but neatly surmised by chef Rick Moonen of rm seafood, a sustainable restaurant, “I don’t believe we should participate in any process that leads to the extinction of a species.”

We know now how it feels, and it sucks. Somehow, after all the lessons of history, after BP, after Exxon Valdez, after mountain-top removal and the extinction of Atlantic salmon, we feel…like we can’t be complicit by our silence anymore. We feel like trusting in our human capacity to love and protect the land, we feel like doing the right thing, as Ben is doing.

Saying no to Pebble Mine is a greater battle than for metal or flesh. It turns out, this is a battle for our values. Ben’s quiet determination and confidence to say no to Pebble Mine, to take a stand against greedy people who would make extinct the values that drive his entire family, indeed a community of fishermen to make a sustainable living from the land, is a call-to-action to preserve our humanity. Ben makes it clear, “when I’m not fishing, I couldn’t think of a better use of my time.”