Independence Day…Fact or Fiction?

Photo Credit: Dan Cherry, of the NW Sportfishing Industry Association

Does it take aliens for us to protect our natural resources?

Photo Credit: Dan Cherry, of the NW Sportfishing Industry Association

Independence Day used to be one of my favorite movies, and one of my favorite holidays, too. Now, because of the sequel, and because this holiday’s fireworks festivities in my new neighborhood shook the house until 10:30 PM, I’m having second thoughts.

I can let go of the neighborhood fireworks show, it only happens once a year. The pathetic sequel however, will stick with me for all too long. But the real reason I’m writing about this at all, is my wonderment as to whether there’s really any singular issue that could bring a torrid world to unity to solve such a crisis as an alien invasion. Frankly, I think there are bigger issues than an alien invasion on our horizon. Or the reality may be, maybe we are the aliens.

Has anybody else noticed the parallel theme in these movies? Terrible, killer aliens are invading our planet to rob it from all of its natural resources. Does it sound like anyone else you know? Maybe it’s more palatable to our society because it’s us, or “it’s in the name of progress.” I’m as much to blame as anybody, but is any one of us really prepared to drastically change our lifestyle?

If one stops and thinks about the drastic changes the human footprint has caused in the last 200 years, it’s quite overwhelming. I get a stark reminder every time I leave an airport on either side of the country; our footprint is quite expansive. I just spent the last 3 hours of a 7-hour drive to Eastern Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands, driving through what most would call a “desert.” The amount of green acres I saw in the desert seemed impossible. The amount of water it took to make those green acres green, seemed even more impossible.

And then, we get a stark reality check of how it used to be, prior to the invention of all our daily conveniences. I had no internet, no stove to cook on and no soft bed to sleep on…what was I thinking? And, I’m camping in the damn desert! Now, it’s been a long time since I did my last back-packing trip, and I’ve got the sore knees and Pepsi Cola gut to prove it. Thankfully I had two experienced, half-my-age companions to pick up my slack.

Our main goal was to get down to the river and get after the abundant smallmouth bass and scarce brown trout that inhabited the Owyhee. Being a bit of a salmon and steelhead snob like the bulk of Oregon anglers, a 5-mile hike to land 50 bass in a day admittedly didn’t have me sitting on pins and needles. I still felt compelled to try something different.

Admittedly slow in prepping my pack for the trudge across the sagebrush, nothing was going my way. No flat tires, no unexpected heat wave and even the tanker that spilled who knows how much sulfuric acid on the highway had a feasible detour; looks like I was going on this death march after all!

It ended up being a great experience. Incredible smallmouth bass-fishing with literally 18 bites out of 20 casts, an unforgettable nighttime starscape and no rattlesnakes! We did have to drink Owyhee River water so next week’s blog will either be touting the benefits of using iodine in what was certainly tainted water, or what bathroom tissue is the softest for victims of giardia. The 1500 foot rise over the course of 3/4 mile was not peaches for this 48-year old either. My thigh muscles (that I forgot that I had) are still seizing up.

All I could really think of however was that I wanted my daughter to be able to experience this, just maybe not at 7 years old. I imagine we experience the same thing so many other single-child families experience, how to keep that child entertained enough to stay off the electronic devices and get them out in nature. And maybe more importantly, will these special areas and incredible natural resources still be around for my child and grandchildren?

This is precisely why we have laws like the Magnuson-Stevens Act and why we still designate wilderness areas and monuments: to protect the incredible places and things for future generations of humankind. With population growth still on the rise, why wouldn’t we plan for the future of fish and wildlife just as we plan for the future of the human race?

In both Independence Day movies, a crisis had to happen to bring the world together to solve one monumental problem: how to eradicate an alien species before it eradicated us. I think the question we have to ask ourselves is, will we ever come together as all humanity, neglecting what relatively petty differences we have, to solve the greatest challenges we face as humans before we eradicate ourselves? Do we even know when that tipping point will come? One thing is for sure, the longer we ignore whatever looming crises we have on the horizon, the tougher it will be to rebound from them.

About Bob Rees

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

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