Thursday, November 24, 2011

Give Thanks, and Keep Fighting

It’s Thanksgiving. Montana’s hunters and anglers have so much to be thankful for, even if the harvest is still a little behind schedule. We have the second highest number of elk in the nation, and I’m seeing some absolute bruiser bucks being taken. Right now, it’s 50 degrees with a good wind and the elk are getting pressured hard. I should be sitting in the dark bowels of a roadless area waiting for one last chance to put some elk in the freezer. Instead, I’m at home, making pie and mashed potatoes for later today.

It has been a hell of a season so far. I’ll spend one more day looking for a bull elk, but for the most part, I’m done with the hunting (except for wolves), and there’s only two more deer to butcher. We put four whitetail and two mule deer in the freezer this year. I am thankful for all the reasons that exist, the landowners who extend a warm and welcoming hand in allowing hunters to access their lands, Block Management, public lands and the tireless advocates who helped make this bounty possible.

There is a lot to be thankful for in Montana. We’re doing better than most of the nation in terms of jobs, we have clean air and clean water, and we have the right to enjoy our outdoor heritage as defined by the Montana State Constitution. We have game populations that rival our Western sisters, and we have amazing opportunity to chase those game animals. All of this is by design. There is a strong and active community of hunters and anglers who stand up and fight for their rights and that community is right now spending time with their families as the meat they've donated feeds families they will never meet.

We are able to enjoy this bounty because people had the foresight to look beyond the narrow definition of law and determine what a sound, regulatory climate would look like. As a fly fisherman, I’m particularly thankful for the Clean Water Act. My cutthroat fishing would be significantly different today if the Clean Water Act had not been enacted. Tributaries to the Clark Fork, Blackfoot, Missouri and many other rivers would not be the blue ribbon streams they are today without this regulatory mechanism in place. But those fisheries and the wetlands and prairie potholes that ducks rely on are now in jeopardy due to two Supreme Court rulings, and the Barasso-Heller amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations Act (H.R. 2354).

According to Scott Yaich, of Ducks Unlimited, those two Supreme Court Decisions and the proposed Amendment have had this effect:

“Supreme Court rulings and agency guidance issued over the past decade have jeopardized crucial water resources and wildlife habitat, removing protections for at least 20 million acres of wetlands, particularly prairie potholes and other wetlands essential to waterfowl, Streams that sustain critical fisheries and feed the public drinking water systems for more than 117 million Americans are also at risk.”

So it goes beyond just fish and fowl. These eliminations of protections are affecting you and your family’s drinking water. Your drinking water today is less protected than it was in 2001. Your wildlife habitat is less protected today than it was in 2001, and still attempts to further weaken existing protections moves forward with full steam.

The comparisons to the political climate of 2011 and 1911 continue.. Theodore Roosevelt came back from Africa to fight those who said upon his departure, “We expect every lion to do his duty.” I am thankful that we have the wisdom and grit to continue to speak up, act out, and make good things happen. Without an active, engaged and educated electorate, there is no democracy. As Jim Posewtiz is fond of saying, in reference to Montana’s former U.S. Senator William H. Clark, “We put T.R.’s likeness on Mount Rushmore as a testament to his vision. Nowhere is there a national shrine to Clark.”

That speaks volumes as to what America is all about. We conserve what we love, and we damned sure better get back in the fight once the tryptophan wears off. Happy Thanksgiving to all, and may your holiday season be filled with peace.

Give thanks, and keep fighting.

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