The ship be sinkin', grab a bucket

Sportsmen can make a huge difference when we stand together and speak with one voice
BLM lands montana

Back when I was guiding fly fishermen on the Henry’s Fork, I saw a sight I may never forget. We came floating around a bend in the river and there, in the distance, was a partially submerged drift boat. It was upright, and sideways to the current, and while the bow and stern were clear of the water, the rest of the boat was below the surface. Even though we were a hundred yards away, it was obvious that the boat was resting on the bottom in relatively shallow water.

The thing that really caught my attention, though, was the fellow on the oars. In spite of the fact that his drift boat was 80% submerged, he was still rowing to beat the band. When we got a little closer we could see that the oar locks were just an inch or two out of the river and the full force of the Henry’s Fork was flowing right through the boat. Yet the man in the rower’s seat just kept rowing and rowing and rowing. He must have known that his efforts were futile, but I’m not sure he could think of anything else to do.

We, of course, immediately dubbed the boat “A River Runs Through It” and then helped haul it towards the bank and bail it out.

Over the last few months, I’ve seen something that can’t help but bring that sunken boat to mind, along with all the relevant metaphors it conjures. Over and over again, in Facebook posts and on comment threads, people who profess to be sportsmen are complaining about all the “political” posts and stories they’re seeing. My personal favorite was “Stupid stick to fishing there are plenty of fucking political party pages I would have liked one of them if I wanted to see more of this shit.” Someone else wrote, “Just HAD to get political here, huh? NOT good! We get it, but please confine FB to trout fishing methods, flies, places, equipment.” A third added, “Goodbye ... I didn't follow you on FB to here [sic] about your political opinions!!” At the same time, I’ve literally lost track of the number of people asking for a “no politics” filter on their social media feeds.

All of which leaves me scratching my head and wondering why so many folks who claim to love America’s outdoors seem to have lost their moral center.

Here’s a news flash. Members of Congress, led by the radical congressional delegation from the state of Utah, are doing their damnedest to sell off the federal lands where we fish, hunt, camp, hike, and otherwise recreate. They don’t care about our fishing. As best as I can tell, they don’t care about much of anything except spreading the scripture from the Book of Profiteering & Privatization. And these anti-public lands extremists are actually steering the Republican party. If you go to the 2016 Republican Platform and click on the Agriculture, Energy & Environment section, you can see for yourself that the GOP is advocating for the disposal of our public lands.

Now you’re welcome to stick your head in the sand for as long as you can hold your breath, but facts are still facts and I just shared the honest-to-goodness, cross-your- heart-and-hope-to-die truth. Which means we can either stand up for ourselves, and for the public lands where we fish and hunt, or we can kiss it all goodbye. That’s the choice before us, and as the song goes, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

There’s an even larger issue, too, for sportsmen who might dismiss the ongoing attempts to privatize public lands as distant or irrelevant. No matter who you are, or where you fish, climate change is poised to beat the living bejeezus out of your angling. That’s the bad news. The worse news is that the same politicians who are trying to sell off our public lands are lying through their teeth about the threat we face from global warming. Turns out they’re perfectly willing to sit back and cash their big fossil fuel industry checks while the planet moves from climate stability to climate chaos.

A second news flash. Some people will do just about anything for money. The fact that our fishing is at risk, and that we’re screwing our kids and grandkids, doesn’t matter one bit to the politicians with the Grinch-sized hearts and the sociopathic tendencies. The DC insiders, partisan hacks, and fossil fuel bigwigs who are pulling the strings on climate denial don’t care about scientific accuracy. In fact, they couldn’t care less about our purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain, or about truth, justice and the American way. If there’s cash involved—and in case you haven’t noticed, there are billions of dollars on the line—they’ll smile, and lie to your face, and pat your little Cindy Lou Who-head, and then steal every part of your outdoor heritage that isn’t bolted to the floor after they’ve tucked you back into bed.

Seriously, the powers-that-be in Washington, DC and on Wall Street are playing us for fools. They’re willing to trade a strong, sustainable economy and healthy landscapes—not to mention our fishing—for wealth and personal power. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it? Thank you, sir, may I have another?

And you know what’s even worse? Far too many of our fellow anglers don’t want to hear the truth. It’s much easier to gawk at fish porn, or drool over the latest epic fishing destination, or whine about the people who take their duty as citizens seriously. Fortunately, real sportsmen - real anglers - don’t shirk their responsibilities. They fight for our fish and our kids because they know if we don’t stand up now, we’re going to lose it all.

So to all of you who are jumping on the phone and calling Congress, and signing petitions, and supporting our fisheries with you dollars and your passion: Thank You! You’re doing the right thing by standing tall for our outdoor heritage. And to those of you who aren’t, please ask yourself why you’re sitting on the sidelines when we need you in the game, or why you’re siding with the public lands privatizers and the rapacious profiteers and the “I Hate Science” crowd. It’s in your best interest—hell, it’s in all of our best interests—to stick up for ourselves, and our kids, and our fisheries. End of the day, that’s the only way we’re going to hold on to the things we care about.

jason chaffetz instagram

Here are the facts. Human-caused climate change is real. Our fisheries—not to mention our families—are at risk. Public land haters are trying to sell off the places we hunt and fish. The pathological liars who control DC are the problem, not the solution. That’s right, the ship be sinkin’. It’s time to grab a bucket and start bailing. Please call your senators and congressman. Call them today and tell them to tackle climate change and defend America’s public lands. We can make a huge difference—Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz just pulled a bill to sell off 3 million acres of public land because conscientious sportsmen raised hell—but we have to stand together and speak with one voice.


Thank you. As a society we have become complacent. We take our public lands for granted and think access will always be there. The fight is the same fight TR fought over 100 years ago. The question each of us need to ask is are we leaving this planet better for our children and grandchildren, will they have the same opportunity to experience those outdoor activities we have. Stay involved, research the issues and become informed. What we are told is not always the complete story. Who benefits from the selling of public lands? There are times when disposal of public property is a management tool but should only be done with the intent to improve management not for private gain.

My day job is lobbying politicians. I know what makes them tick, what influences their votes, and how they get re-elected. Todd's analysis is spot on. If you can't write a big check to a politician and bend his/her ear in person, write a small one to Trout Unlimited or another advocacy group that can carry the message. If you can't do that, pick up the phone or write a letter. Emails are a distant 3rd in terms of the impact they have. If you choose to do none of the above, you can bet your ass that people who don't care about clean cold water or fish or wild open spaces will be doing them all and the politicians will think their voice is the only one that counts.

Clean air and clean water should be above politics. It's a terrible development that environmental issues have been turned into political wedge issues. Conservation is something we should all agree on and, at one time, was a bipartisan cause. If we use the enormous technological and scientific strength of this country we can have plenty of energy and a clean environment as well, it's not either/or. Don't let politicians turn the health of the environment into a partisan issue.

This is a real bi-partisan issue. Despite President Trump's assertion that he was going to drain the swamp, he instead found every industry insider he could to staff his administration. We have been hoodwinked. The voice of the people needs to remain strong. I'm encouraged that US Rep Chaffetz listened to public opinion and withdrew HR 621. I do find it a bit hard to believe that he just discovered that sportsman were against this act of tyranny. Regardless, it's encouraging to know that if enough of us stand up, we can make a difference. We can save the thing we love as long as we're active and vocal.

Hoowinked is too nice a word. Lied to would be better.

You are doing the right thing. Its very inspiring to see lots of fishing-related IG and FB accounts speaking out about this. It's also a little depressing to see quite a few accounts not mention this issue at all, even with most of their photos being taken on public lands. I'm going to be optimistic and just assume they aren't currently aware of these bills, so that's why.

If you fish on National Park, BLM, National Forest, etc. land, this should be a no brainer.

Very well written article. I agree this was a major victory however this is far from over I think we will see a deal later on. I live in Colorado which is blessed with abundant public land. I am grateful for this. My fear is that with the current philosophy of our current administration the shift will be away from science based management to a more emotional response. My state mangers have done a good job protecting our resources as have Montana's and Wyoming. An example was Montana's decision not to stock rainbows after whirling disease appeared. We need to keep things like that going. Again a good article keep up the fight

Thanks for sticking your neck out. I understand that many of us like to read "happy" stories of big fish and pretty waters, but as you put it, "we can't stick our head in the sand".

As others have pointed out, this shouldn't be about political party. These days it seems that, not unlike cable providers, our political views are "bundled". We feel compelled to adhere to all left views or all right views. I'm baffled at how issues of public lands access and clean air/water somehow shift left! You don't have to abandon your party, or your political leaders, to voice your opinion on specific issues. Just call/write your congressional rep or senator and state what you want to happen on a particular issue.

It's also increasingly clear that ALL politicians and their special interests listen to money. So support businesses, organizations and leaders that are in line with what you value. Withhold your money from those that don't.

Thanks again and keep up the good work!

"Human-caused climate change is real"
With this you lost me. Just because "98%" of a screened number of 'scientists' (many of which are NOT Climatologists) are quoted as the "settled science" experts for the quoted line, neither makes it real nor 'settled'.
The only agreement, sans credible evidence to the contrary, is that climate IS changing. But then, it's been doing that since before mankind existed.
I won't bother to provide supporting evidences, not because they don't exist but because I'm not going to waste my time having to explain it as well. Besides, my experience with those pushing anthropogenic global warming refuse to pay heed to evidence that contradicts their position.
So, we shall continue to disagree until one or the other is vindicated.
As for the "sale" of Public Lands, the most recent information that I have been able to find via the appropriate government departments, has been that the idea was to RETURN TO STATE CONTROL those lands currently under FEDERAL CONTROL with the purpose being to make sure that Public Land within a State's borders were treated in the manner that the individual States wished, NOT what the Federal Government wanted.
And frankly, that is as it should have been all along. It would then be up to you, as a citizen resident of said State, too see to it that your own government and citizens took responsibility for it, not some bureaucrat in Washington who likely never set foot anywhere on or near it.
I would appreciate hearing from, and the logic behind, any thoughts to the contrary.

Please forgive my brevity, as it’s a busy day here in Montana.

Public Lands - It is impossible to “return” land to the states when it never belonged to them in the first place. The land was owned by the federal government before the states existed. It has never belonged to the individual states. Therefore, you’re asking American citizens to take land that we own, collectively, and hand it over to states or private entities who have no legal claim to that land. Why in the world would we ever do that? Would you give your car or your house to a stranger on the street?

Climate Change - In March of 2016, Dr. James Powell published a paper in the Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society titled “Climate Scientists Virtually Unanimous, Anthropogenic Global Warming Is True.” Here is the abstract from that paper.

“The extent of the consensus among scientists on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) has the potential to influence public opinion and the attitude of political leaders and thus matters greatly to society. The history of science demonstrates that if we wish to judge the level of a scientific consensus and whether the consensus position is likely to be correct, the only reliable source is the peer-reviewed literature. During 2013 and 2014, only 4 of 69,406 authors of peer-reviewed articles on global warming, 0.0058% or 1 in 17,352, rejected AGW. Thus, the consensus on AGW among publishing scientists is above 99.99%, verging on unanimity. The U.S. House of Representatives holds 40 times as many global warming rejecters as are found among the authors of scientific articles. The peer-reviewed literature contains no convincing evidence against AGW.”

If you want to argue that we should listen to the four authors of peer-reviewed climate literature who rejected the consensus view on human-caused global warming in 2013 and 2014, and that we should ignore the 69,402 authors of peer-reviewed climate literature who accepted the consensus view, then have at it. I’m sure Dr. Powell would be interested in your critique of his research.

You can't "return" to the State that which never belonged to the State. Here is your source, the Utah Constitution, ARTICLE III:
"Second:--The people inhabiting this State do affirm and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries hereof, and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any Indian or Indian tribes, and that until the title thereto shall have been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be and remain subject to the disposition of the United States, and said Indian lands shall remain under the absolute jurisdiction and control of the Congress of the United States."
All of the federal land is now appropriated, meaning it has reached its final "disposition" (that of belong to the United States) (FLPMA, 1976) and never "extinguished", the land belongs to all Americans, not the State legislators. Thank God and the constitution.

I have been writing my District Representative in the house regarding this issue and I am pretty much getting lip service. The response consist of the land cost the tax payers money and do not provide any revenue.
It seems that the fact that lands do generate income and jobs from the money's spent by the people that use the lands, lakes and rivers.
Here is Michigan a wink and nod deal between the state, the DEQ, and the governors office could end up destroying the river where Trout Unlimited was born. If the people do not stand up to the elected officials and work to educate these people all the gains made over the last 40 years will be lost forever.