It is likely a gross understatement to say that 2017 was a transformative year for the American political landscape. The American electorate is divided and political discourse more rancorous and contentious than perhaps ever before. And with the new administration taking a decidedly different approach to managing the health of our air, water and landscapes, the outdoor community is facing an existential crisis—many have decided to take an increasingly activist stance in seeking to defend against threats to our outdoor and sporting heritages. The appetite for journalism that explores policy wonk and detail has turned from middling to voracious.
It therefore likely comes as little surprise that among the most read articles of 2017—among the usual fish tales and travel stories and tips on how to improve your time on the water—were a preponderance of stories that explored and examined actions taken by Donald Trump and his administration that threaten to have serious and lasting consequences for the places where we fish, hunt, hike, bike and climb. These stories helped shine a light on the threats facing sportsmen and the outdoor community at large and have often sparked controversy and debate.
- With friends like Ryan Zinke, who needs enemies?
- Pruitt sells out sportsmen
- Stop, Don't Do it
- On killing trout
- Within moments of taking office, Trump pledges to roll back measures of paramount importance to anglers
Despite a well documented congressional voting record that laid bare his unabashed support for extractive industries, when Trump announced his nomination of Montana Senator Ryan Zinke to lead the Department of the Interior, the vast majority of the sporting community tripped over itself its rush to express admiration for the purported angler, hunter self-proclaimed "Teddy Roosevelt conservationist." Zinke, many proclaimed, was just the kind of friend that outdoorsmen needed in the incoming administration. But since taking the helm at the DOI, Zinke has brought to life many of the worst fears of those who sounded the alarm about the dangers his appointment, leaving conservation writer Ted Williams to ask, With friends like Ryan Zinke, who needs enemies?.
Despite the heaps of attention being focused on Ryan Zinke as of late, there may be no greater threat facing the outdoor community than former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. With his history of attacks against the EPA and long history of efforts to strip away regulations that prevent industry from polluting, Trump's selection of Pruitt to lead the EPA seemed beyond the pale. Since his appointment, Pruitt has led an unabashed attack against his own agency. In March, Hatch Magazine published this letter signed by almost 40 prominent anglers—including Yvon Chouinard, Kirk Deeter, and Ted Williams—calling for Pruitt to resign his post atop the EPA.
Although published in late December, Todd Tanner's 8 lists of don'ts for 2018 was so widely read and shared that it quickly rose to join the most read articles of 2017. At times technical and at times tongue-in-cheek, Todd's list aims to help us all avoid certain bad behaviors in pursuit of being better anglers in the coming year.
Even talk of trout fueled controversy and debate in 2017, including Tom Hazleton's think-piece On killing trout. Within, Tom explores his transition from a staunch catch and release advocate to an angler that keeps a few trout from time to time on certain waters. In doing so, Tom notes, "The killing of trout is not easy. It’s a troubling contradiction. To admire the dark gold flanks of a brown trout just moments from its undercut home, with flashes of blue and pearl on its gills and the starscape of black and red spots, unique to that fish alone, never before so arranged and never again to appear — it’s hard to take all that in and then whack it with the handle of a knife."
Canadian academic and environmental activist David Suzuki is most often credited with the saying "We all live downstream," but it is a universally held understanding of the basic concept that what goes up must come down. Perhaps no single group of people is more tuned into this fact than anglers or others that spend their lives amongst running water. Our brooks combine to form streams, our streams combine to form rivers and our rivers flow to form our lakes and oceans.
And so it came as little surprise that when the incoming Trump administration swiftly made good on a campaign promise to roll back the Waters of the U.S. Rule—which made clear that the almost universally beloved Clean Water Act of 1972 included protections for brooks, creeks, streams, wetlands and other water bodies which feed into America’s larger waterways—the sporting world erupted in unanimous condemnation of Trump's action.