I was surfing the web today after my flight was cancelled due to a dust storm. I was hitting my regular sites, which includes www.wayneswords.com
, a great site if you would like to know what’s going one at Lake Powell AZ. In my mind, I began having the debate familiar at my house, between my wife (the one with a Masters in Biology/Small Stream Ecology) and me (the one who thinks he deserves a Masters in all that stuff without actually knowing anything, but almost has a degree in Business).
The debate revolves around what true “Conservation” is. I have been practicing “catch & release” since I was old enough to realize I really don’t need to keep a fish to enjoy fishing. I have also been an advocate of restoration projects and clean ups and help in those efforts when I can find the time. Now this debate ensued because of a much publicized effort from the Sierra Club to either drastically change the way the Colorado River is managed, or to have Lake Powell totally drained, and restore the middle Colorado to pre-settlement conditions. This argument of theirs is based largely on the impact of dams and invasive species of fish, on native species that once were prolific in the Colorado Basin.
Now let me say this: my wife neither supports nor is completely against Sierra Clubs position, but debate is a way of life in my family. Her position is this: like it or not, we have made a choice between fish we like to catch and fish we don’t, and that position has ethical repercussions. My position is this: I know that she is exactly correct and she won the argument. Man! That is really hard to write let alone say!
Ok, Lees Ferry is arguably one of the great trout tail water fisheries in the nation. The water from beneath Glenn Canyon Dam flows out at a consistent 42 degrees F, making it almost a perfect habitat for big, cold water loving Rainbow Trout. But the same dam that created this cold running, crystal clear river, is killing endangered fish that adapted to a river that once was warm, muddy, and sometimes violent. We have decided that trout should be the dominant species throughout the Grand Canyon. Now, we can make all the arguments economically, and recreationally we want, but we have made a choice. In fact not just here but in thousands of incidences concerning both hunting and fishing. We sportsmen (that includes the females too) have been responsible for the replacement of one species for another, because we prefer to hunt of fish for them.
We, in Arizona, recently went through a HUGE debate over the reintroduction of Mexican Gray Wolves. I understood the ranchers coming out against it, “they eat our cows”, but then the sportsmen groups did too, “they eat our elk”. Now wait just a doggone minute here! The crux of the hunting community’s position was “We as predators don’t like having to compete with other predators.” We are not in favor of saving, reintroducing, or eliminating threats to, animals that we don’t use to entertain us. We will, however, go to great lengths to save or conserve animals that we do use.
Let’s be perfectly clear, I did not wrap myself in a Greenpeace banner and go to sleep last night, and when I get home I will put in for every hunt that my State offers, and spend as much time on the water as I can. That said, I am concerned that we as a community have missed something important. We are asking for the introduction of fish we like to catch, (Brown Trout from Europe) and animals we like to hunt (the Pheasant from China) to the detriment of native species. Ask any fishery biologist about the impact of non-native species on the Cutthroat and Brook Trout populations in this country.
So I ask you all this question: “What is the position we as a group should take when it comes to ‘conservation’”