Soapbox Update United We Stand by Bob Rees May 6th, 2016

Divided We Stand

It’s getting harder to mix fishing with politics but just like a skunk trip on Tillamook Bay  for spring Chinook, there is still something to learn. Trump just earned the presumed Republican nomination and Hillary and Bernie continue to duke it out, likely for not much longer.

What we’re learning from this election, is that Americans are sick and tired of business as usual. The two extremes, Trump and Bernie, have received the attention they have because the status quo just isn’t working for us anymore. In other words, Americans are feeling like they’re being represented by the officials we’ve elected to office these days (and for the last decade or better).

If there’s one thing Americans can agree on, it’s that Congress is broken. I’m not sure electing a President, no matter who it is, is going to change Congress; no, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to change Congress. Laws are no longer made because they make sense, they’re made because an initiative one party wants, is held hostage until an initiative the other party wants has a chance to pass. Not the ideal way laws should be passed, especially ones that have the support of most Americans.

One would think that common sense laws like the Magnuson Stevens (MSA) reauthorization, or even more telling, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, (LWCF) which you think nearly every American can support. MSA supports conservation of critical commercial and sport species and the forage prey base to keep us anglers fishing on productive stocks of fish. In Oregon waters, lingcod is a perfect example. Not only have I not caught a spring Chinook for my family this season, but I haven’t had fresh lingcod either. I’m clearly writing too much. And how about this, the Land and Water Conservation Fund takes money from offshore oil and gas leases, and puts it into a fund that purchases land for public access and improves fish and wildlife habitat and parks in your neighborhood. Go here to see how much Land and Water Conservation Fund has been spent in your county (in Oregon, but every county in the US has benefitted, I’m pretty sure). What did conservationists trade for partial funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund? I lift on the ban for oil exports. Was it worth it? You’ll have to decide that. What will the conservation community have to trade to get common sense legislation to protect our stocks for future generations? Only time will tell.

What is so ironic, is that initiatives such as MSA and LWCF encompass values that both parties subscribe to. MSA for example, protects fish for Democrats, and allows the sport and commercial fishing industries to flourish for Republicans. The LWCF sets aside more land for fish and wildlife production so hunters and anglers can hunt and fish, spending money on ammunition, rifles, rods and reels for Republicans and sets aside more land for fish and wildlife production so there’s more fish and wildlife for Democrats. Seems like a win-win to me.

So, things aren’t going to change unless we make them change. Of course it’s voting season (hopefully more productive than the spring Chinook season) and I’m glad I don’t have TV. Sorry for you folks that do! At least you get to watch a few minutes of the NBA playoffs before another political ad comes on.

In other news, another victory for Columbia River salmon and steelhead! Judge Simon ruled in court on May 4th, that the Federal Government’s Biological Opinion is not adequate enough to recover listed Snake River stocks of salmon. Really? I’m so surprised after 3 other successful lawsuits that said the same thing!?!? It’s big news for those that love to harvest Columbia River salmon and steelhead.

We owe the conservation community, along with the state of Oregon and the Nez Perce tribe for collectively calling the Federal Government to the mat on a plan that keeps wild salmon headed toward extinction. We won adequate flow and spill for these fish and we’re still seeing the benefits of that.

Even more ironic, I attended the Columbia Basin Partnership meeting in Portland on the same day as the ruling, learning (much of what I already knew) about the factors affecting salmon recovery. Sea lions are a big hit right now but cormorants, pike minnow and now even Northern Pike are becoming a factor. I guess we get to hydrology management in a later session but that’s largely why we won the day in court on the 4th.  But again, like a day on Tillamook Bay, even a blind squirrel can find an acorn once in a while. I’ll be sharing some of the powerful graphics that were presented at the meeting. We’re in for a rough ride ahead and where she lands, nobody knows…..

So, who am I writing in for President?