Divided We Stand: Partisan Politics vs. Common Sense

Chinook salmon

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 not 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 Act (MSA) reauthorization, or even more telling, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, (LWCF) which you think nearly every American can support, would easily pass without partisan politics. The Land and Water Conservation Fund for example, finally passed Congress late last year and with appropriations ($450 million) to fund restoration projects for our parks and natural areas. This will benefit hunters and anglers as well as those that recreate outdoors. Great! It passed but the flip side of this was that we had to lift the oil export ban, opening the gateway for fossil fuel exports out of places like the Columbia River, where a world class fishery is conducted. As we all know, oil and water don’t mix. This for that, a bad way to legislate. See how much the 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).

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 of a once depleted species, now recovered offering bountiful opportunities for the catch. 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 spending too much time at the computer.)

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 who 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 who 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, whom am I writing in for President?

Spring Chinook Salmon photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service

About Bob Rees

Bob Rees is a professional fishing guide and executive director of the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association.

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