Advocating

Advocate: a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a cause.

Yup, I’ve been doing a lot of that this past several months.  I can’t pinpoint exactly what triggered it for me, but it happened.  Maybe it’s because I’m turning 50 this year.  Maybe it was something I heard at the Wild Steelheaders United kick-off meeting.  Maybe it was Dylan’s first steelhead – a 38″ wild buck from the Little North Santiam.  Most likely, it was a combination of the three that flipped the switch in me.  Whatever it was, it pushed me from lurking in the shadows into the full light of day.  I started reading studies, digging deeper and jumped head first into the world of advocacy.  I became a wild fish advocate.

DSC04780

I learned the story behind so many great things that have happened in the past few years – dams being torn down, reforms in hatchery programs and harvest methods, agriculture and forest practices revisions, etc. etc.  Everyday people have been fighting these battles for years, behind the scenes, to effect change and I’ve been mostly oblivious to it.

I’ve been constructing a soap box and testing it’s stability.  I’ve made some bold statements about hatcheries, hydroelectric power, the logging industry and more.  I’ve attended meetings, spoke at a few, went to film screenings, made donations to specific groups and withdrew my support from others.  I’ve put my money where my mouth is.

In the process I’ve met some interesting people – brilliant, determined, stubborn, eclectic, ignorant, misguided – pick an adjective that you can use with the word “person” and I’ve come across a few of each this past year.  I’ve made many new friends and created enemies out of some old ones.  I’ve converted a few folks and alienated others.

And all the while I’ve been carrying the flag for Mother Nature, what has she been up to?  She greased the ball, went into her wind up and let loose with the nastiest, split finger curve ball ever thrown.  It dipped, it dove, it sunk, it rose and it wiggled right on by us and left us standing at the plate with the bat on our shoulder and our chin in the dirt.  We had it coming though, we ignored the signs.  Heck, we dared her to do it. We logged, mined, dammed, drilled, diverted, polluted, introduced, stocked, and otherwise screwed up her system.

She didn’t send much snow this winter, and very little rain in the spring.  The news started coming in last month and here are just some of the headlines, bylines and quotes:

  • Weather in the Pacific Northwest is killing millions of fish…
  • Fisheries experts are growing increasingly concerned…
  • Current threat is worse than anything they have seen…
  • Some populations “could go extinct”…
  • Biologists are calling this die-off unprecedented…
  • 300,000 adult salmon have died…
  • Finding dead fish – sturgeon, shad and sockeye…
  • Increasingly worried [wild salmon] might disappear…
  • The Columbia has turned into a kill zone where salmon immune systems are weakened and fish die of infections…

If you’ve read any of these articles or watched the TV new reports, you’re only getting part of the story.  The bulk of the stories have been about salmon species.  Pictures showing carcasses usually accompany the words.  Most of the fish that make the news are returning adult salmon, at the tail end of their life-cycle.  They were destined to die in a few months.  Few will complete their journey and spawn (naturally or artificially) and we’ll see the impact 4, 5, or 6 years from now.  That’s bad enough, but by no means is it the whole story.

There are millions of fish in various stages of life that have been or will be impacted by this year’s events.  Eggs deposited in our rivers last fall, winter and this spring may have not hatched due to low water.  One, two and three year old juvenile fish working their way out to the ocean will have likely met their demise due to a compressed environment/warm water.  Millions of fish that have been in the marine portion of the cycle will get slammed with an El Nino ocean this winter. This is about a lot more than just hundreds or thousands of fish dying inland. It’s a combination of events that will cause severe impacts for the next decade and beyond.

It’s enough to cause a fledgling advocate to throw in the towel. Just when it seemed the tide was turning, the seas went dead calm.  It hurts. We have fixed a lot of the things we broke.  We’re working on fixing more of them.  We can’t “fix” a drought.  We can’t “fix” an El Nino.  Those are beyond our abilities.  We simply have to suck it up and live with it.

So what am I going to do?  I’m going to step out of the batters box, dust myself off, adjust my cup and get ready for the next pitch.  I may my go down, but I’ll go down swinging.

Tight lines and keep ’em wet!

Dave

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *