Soapbox Update: There are Many Wiser Than I by Bob Rees February 15th, 2018

There are Many Wiser Than I

Just like a day on the water, if you pay attention, you can learn something every day, even stuck in a large meeting room full of a diversity of interests and representatives.

I attended the first (hopefully annual), Roadmap to the Outdoors Symposium sponsored by many great companies, agencies and organizations. It’s really dealing with a 21st century crisis, how to get more people invested in Oregon’s outdoors. There were many powerful speakers present, including Governor Brown, and former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, all talking about a way for Oregonians to sustainably enjoy all that we have to offer in the best state of the union. Sure, call me bias as a life-long Oregonian.

Following an evening at the theater (yea, as if I’m cultured…) watching Part 2 of the production Astoria, I think the most profound speaker was Chairwoman Cheryle Kennedy of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. As if the extensive history lesson in the play wasn’t enough on Valentine’s Day, I got another lesson in Native American culture at the symposium the day after. I’ve been at rallies before with members from various tribes, but like lessons learned on the water, it takes more than once to drill some valuable lessons into my pea-brain.

Some take-away’s from the Chairwoman’s talk:

  1. Native Americans don’t think about just their children and grandchildren, they “manage” their natural resource for the next seven generations. On that note,
  2. Native Americans have lived in harmony with the fish and wildlife of the Pacific Northwest and salmon, big game, water, roots and berries have sustained their people for 10,000 years. We’ve managed to plunder these same resources in just 200 years.
  3. I can no longer speak with pride the fact that I’m a sixth generation Oregonian, since Chuck Sams of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla is a 500th generation Oregonian. I off of a sudden don’t have any street credibility.
  4. Tribal folks don’t use PowerPoint presentations or speak from their notes like this paleface. They draw their words from the heart and it comes across more authentic than any words I can put to paper.

It was pretty inspiring day, bringing together a cross-culture of people with one collective goal, creating the next generation of conservationists, so Oregonians from all walks of life have an opportunity to enjoy the natural resource treasures that many of us have experienced in our lifetimes. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve come across that have told me about the fishing they enjoyed in the good ‘ol days. I know you have too.

Most of us realize we may never see the good ‘ol days again, but we’ve learned from our mistakes. As I’ve written about before, we’ve gone through the decline of halibut, salmon, steelhead, bottomfish, trout and crab, but managers manage and have done a good job of rebounding these resources before they reached critically low levels. Will the East Coast ever see a rebound of their historic Atlantic salmon runs? Probably not. We still have something to fight for here on the Pacific Coast, and hopefully learned from the lessons from the east side of the country.

Well, it’s actually happening again. There’s still some bad initiatives navigating Congress that while prioritizing the economics of the resource (read: a more fair sportfishing allocation), compromises the rebuilding of the species, as in red snapper. It’s easy to dismiss this as a Gulf Coast initiative that really doesn’t have a lot to do with us here on the West Coast, but federal law is federal law. Any amendments to the Magnuson Stevens Act must be carefully vetted and well thought out before any amendments can be made, especially since the current version of MSA has brought us back from the brink of perpetual rock-bottom in just 20 years.

The last time, every previous reauthorization of MSA as a matter of fact has been a bi-partisan effort. Although the law is only 40 years old, has politics in our country changes so much that a bi-partisan effort is just no longer an option? It doesn’t matter if your Democrat, Republican or Independent, our coastal communities and sport and commercial fishermen deserve a future, and even seven generations later, they too deserve a future. Do we really want to be known as the generation that pushed us towards the world’s sixth greatest extinction? Count me out.

I look forward to getting out on my next fishing excursion. I’m particularly excited about bottomfishing again when the seas finally lie down. It might be wise for me to lay off my lucky streak for 2018. I’ve had a limit day of lingcod, sea bass and Dungeness crab, and a 4 steelhead day on the Wilson so far. Why risk that good of a start?

Another recruit: Allison Dobscha with her first ever steelhead from the Clackamas River on February 13th. Steelheader Tim Wilson took Allison to the good spot!