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Thanksgiving: We are a Privileged People

It’s been a fun few weeks for me. For one, I’m off the water, out of the weather, working on fish conservation for my favorite organization, The Association of Northwest Steelheaders. This incredible organization has been a leader on fish issues for the last 57 years, with about 50 of those as an all-volunteer organization. How cool is it that I get to build on their historic successes, as they continue to pour over 30,000 volunteer hours into our fisheries each and every year. Thank you for allowing me to lead such an incredible organization! Won’t you join us?

We pulled off a great 30th annual Hall of Fame banquet on Veteran’s Day. We were so honored to have the color guard there, and our members in uniform that served in the military. Our keynote speaker was an incredible person, Brett Miller, who’s done amazing work to get Veteran’s involved in outdoor recreation. We’re so thankful for our Veteran’s. Check out our River Ambassador Program!

How cool is it that I got to venture into the almost exact middle of the great state of Oregon, in search of a Rocky Mountain Elk for food and sport in the wild lands of the Maury Mountains with long-time friends and fellow sportsmen. I harvested an impressive 5-point bull there 17 years ago, yet never saw an elk there for a hard 5-day attempt. Even though our historically productive happy hunting grounds were bare of any elk, we saw a lot of deer, some antelope and a large flock of wild turkeys. Bear and cougar tracks abound as well. It’s just such an incredible privilege to have the opportunity to do this, with the vast amounts of public lands we have here in Oregon, and the management practices our Department of Fish and Wildlife put forth to provide our fish and game. It’s also a reality check as to how dead we’d be as humans, without grocery stores! Civilized man stands no chance.

The Maury Mountains: It’s nice to go terrestrial sometimes!

I was in Seattle just last week, enjoying fresh oysters near Safeco field, with some of my colleagues also very interested in protecting the strong provisions of the Magnuson Stevens Act. Admittedly, I was a bit out of my element as a large commercial fishing expo was underway at the convention center, a rather different crowd than my friends in the sportfishing industry. I was so privileged however, to be amongst another incredible group of stakeholders that need viable populations of ocean seafood to make their businesses work. It’s a bit different from my industry. A fishing guide can sell hope and entertain with stories and jokes, our commercial fishing fleet has to put product on the market to feed his or her family. That’s the stark difference between our industries.

I used to be better connected with the commercial fleet, when I was an observer in the Bering Sea WAY back in the early 1990’s. There are concerned and conservation minded individuals everywhere, these folks have been through the thick and thin and remain staunch advocates for our ocean’s health. I was grateful to get to know more of them the other week.

I’m thankful that we just finished up our last vacuum packed sea bass, in the form of fish tacos. It was a great bottomfishing year, but when will the seas calm again, let alone be open for harvest after a robust season that saw much pressure due to a poor salmon and tuna year. We must be thankful that this resource is managed intensively enough to know that we’ll have ample numbers of quality fish waiting for our baits and lures when the timing is right again soon.

I have a family that is tolerant and supportive of my passion to fish, and protect fish, and a mother, father, and two brothers that supported my drive for this sport, and a community of people that look out for each other and help make each other successful in our endeavors.

And how about Dr. Henry Hughes, an incredibly accomplished writer and Professor of English at Western Oregon University complimenting me on this column, but more importantly, an appreciation for the conservation ethic so many of us have adopted for the future of our natural resources. Dr. Hughes, I’m not worthy, but thank you!

But here’s the real bottom line. How privileged are we, that we get to fish, hunt and crab for an incredible resource that’s just outside our doorstep? I only spend an all too brief of a moment, when I write a check for a mere $35.00 to the Portland Rescue Mission every Thanksgiving, giving me a false sense of satisfaction that I’m making a real difference for some of the homeless on Portland’s streets, that they too get to eat a hot turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. And they have it good. So many other countries don’t have fresh water, don’t have enough food to eat and a warm place to sleep.

We, as American’s CAN afford to conserve our resources for future generations of sport and commercial fishers, and our seafood consuming communities. Sometimes, we just need the political will to do so, and sometimes, even that is not enough.

We are a privileged people, let’s continue to act that way. Happy Thanksgiving!

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