Squirreled away in my personal “discretionary” checking account is a few hundred dollars. That money was earmarked for fishing gear—maybe some new line, a reel, I dunno. It’s not like I need anything, but who among us really needs as much as wants some new piece of fishy-ness? The shiny new reels and shrink-wrapped corks on $1000 rods at your local fly shop attests to our interest in the new and sexy, and not the practical.
That money is no longer going toward fishing gear. It is going toward what I both want and need: a goddamn place to fish.
If you are reading this blog you likely have at least some progressive-leaning proclivities, i.e. you have an invested interest in conservation/environmental issues that affect your ability (nay, right) to go fishing. That I why I implore you to consider eschewing that next big gear purchase and invest back into the resource, instead.
We’ve already witnessed the erosion of conservation protections here in Wisconsin. The Department of Natural Resources has been systematically gutted, limiting its ability to conduct sound science to inform policy—even to enforce policy, as we have seen with high-capacity wells. This year we saw a pair of groundwater bills surface (no pun intended) in the legislature that, had they passed, would have shifted the balance of control of our water supply away from public interests and into private hands. We avoided the Fish Farm Bill that would have had disastrous implications for trout streams. Just next door we’ve watched as the Back Forty Mine continues to move forward, threatening the world-class smallmouth fishery on the Menominee River.
A win for President-elect Donald Trump means additional conservation challenges are on the horizon. Trump is on record saying that he wants to dismantle or eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump is on record saying he doesn’t believe climate change is a problem, if it exists at all. The morning after Trump’s election night victory, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was estactic about the possibilities of a Republican-controlled White House and legislature, and he vaguely referenced helping farmers deal with EPA and water regulations.
What our trout streams and bass rivers and musky lakes don’t need right now is you buying a brand new Sage X or Hydros SL reel or Rio Outbound line. What they are going to need is the support of the people who care about the future of fishing and wildlife and wild lands in America. If you are thinking of buying a fancy new piece of gear soon—this holiday season, next Spring, next year—consider putting it to even better use by sending it to an organization fighting for our right to access and enjoy healthy fisheries. Trout Unlimited, Muskies Inc., Smallmouth Alliance, Badger Fly Fishers, River Alliance of Wisconsin, the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Prairie Enthusiasts, Wisconsin Ornithological Society, the Aldo Leopold Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council. The list goes on.
These groups are going to need our support to keep the conservation legacy we’ve built over the past half century moving forward, even when it appears that political policy is moving in the opposite direction. Donate, become a member, volunteer—volunteer, volunteer, VOLUNTEER—so we can keep fishing.
The fish doesn’t care what rod and reel you use, how much it costs. What we stand to lose is worth so much more. Consider it the next time you get the gear bug.