We spend a lot of time talking about the value of wild places. We talk about how they inspire reverence and enrich our lives. In turn, we beat the drums of conservation and preservation, given the how much these places matter to us. As fishermen, we're most protective of the wild places where we go to chase fish. But, the qualities these places possess that inspire awe in the mind of the fishermen likewise do so in the hiker, the mountain biker, the rancher, the farmer and so on. Wild places don't only make for better fishing, they make for better living. So, it should come as no surprise to learn that the people that live amongst these wild places -- and their spectacular fishing -- are also the happiest with where they live.
Chances are, should you ask any fly fisherman in the country which states offer the best fishing, that places like Alaska, Montana and Wyoming will roll off their tongue without hesitation. As it turns out, these same states also have the country's happiest residents, according to a recent Gallup poll. The poll asked residents of different states whether their state was "the best or one of the best places to live." Residents of Montana and Alaska topped the list, with over three out of four residents (77 percent) answering yes. Residents of Utah and Wyoming weren't far behind, with 70 and 69 percent responding in favor, respectively.
Overwhelmingly, the people that are most pleased with the place they call home do so to states that are known for their landscapes, wildlife and outdoor recreation. The top 20 states with the happiest residents can generally be characterized this way, and many of these states -- places like Maine, Washington, Oregon, Vermont, Colorado, Texas and Hawaii -- also offer some of the country's best fishing.
When we talk about protecting wild places and the animals and plants that predominate them from the perils of industry and natural resource extraction, the march of human development or the threats of climate change, we go to great lengths to use fancy words and sometimes complicated arguments to remind each other why these places are important. We talk about their role in the global ecosystem, their value to the economy and their importance to future generations.
Perhaps there's a simpler way to look at it: at a rate that is in stark contrast to the places where we've trampled our wilderness and replaced it with something else, these places make people happy.
Maybe that's enough.