By ROBERT MONTGOMERY
I’m for a stronger Clean Water Act. I want to preserve old-growth forests. I think that it’s a disgrace that our federal government hasn’t acted more decisively to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes. I believe that we need stiffer regulations to protect our streams from strip mining, our groundwater from herbicides, and our estuaries from the runoff pollution of urban sprawl and farm fields.
But, alas, I’m also an angler, and anglers aren’t environmentalists. It’s not that anglers don’t want to protect the environment. They do. It’s that they don’t want to be called “environmentalists.” They associate that term with agenda-driven campaigns for preservation policies that often are not backed by scientific evidence.
For anglers, “conservationist” is the term of choice. Conservationists believe in both protection and sustainable use of our lands, waters, and other natural resources. They follow an ethical code of behavior and embrace a stewardship philosophy in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt.
So we have two factions, conservationists and environmentalists, sharing many of the same values, but more often viewing each other as enemies than allies.
Perhaps the most climactic moment of that divide now is occurring as environmentalists embrace a strategy to use Marine Protected Areas and other designations by governments at all levels to deny recreational anglers access to public waters. In doing so, they are shamefully insulting and dismissing a constituency that does more to protect those waters than any other.