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Entries in stewardship (34)

Tuesday
Apr152014

Birds, Bears, and Balance

Cormorant photos by Robert Montgomery

Early this spring, hunters killed 11,653 double-crested cormorants on Lakes Marion and Moultrie (Santee Cooper) in South Carolina. Such an event would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. That’s because cormorants are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

But in recent years both federal and state resource managers recognized that these fishing-eating birds are causing problems for our fisheries, as their populations explode. Vocal, angry anglers played no small part in that recognition.

More recently, Florida Fish and Wildlife killed five black bears after a woman was attacked at her home in central Florida.

What do these two incidents have in common? They highlight who we are as a species and what we must do if we are to share land and water with other species.

We are beings who alter our environment to meet our needs. We clear the land to farm and to build cities, homes, and highways. We erect dams to control floods, irrigate formerly arid lands, and generate hydropower.

And when we do those things, we take away the habitat of other species, such as black bears in Florida.

Many think that we manage only domestic animals. In truth, if we are to have healthy populations of most wildlife species, we must manage them as well.

And that means sometimes that we must kill some of them because their numbers are too great to be sustained in their remaining habitat and/or they pose a threat to us.

As they were relentlessly hunted and their habitat destroyed, buffalo, deer, and turkey nearly disappeared. But enlightened management has brought them back, and now regular hunts keep their numbers at sustainable levels for their available habitat.

The cormorant is an interesting exception to the rule. That’s because it habitat has not been diminished by us, but rather greatly expanded by the reservoirs behind all of those dams that we’ve built. That’s why it has become such a nuisance species. Many no longer migrate, but instead stay year-around, feasting on fish and expanding their numbers.

Of course, many of those who call themselves animal lovers do not want to hear such rational arguments. They did not like the killing of so many cormorants in South Carolina, and I’ve no doubt that Florida Fish and Wildlife will endure sharp criticism for killing so many bears.

These people want us to either ignore the problem or attempt to solve it in an impractical way.

For example, the Missouri Department of Conservation decided to do something about the overpopulation of deer in suburban St. Louis awhile back. Its first choice was to have a managed hunt. But bowing to pressures from animal lovers, it went with the much more expensive option of trapping and moving the deer.

The agency later discovered that most of those transplanted deer starved to death because their new habitat contained little to none of the types of plants that they were accustomed to eating in the suburbs.

Moving bears won’t solve the problem in Florida either. Suitable bear habitat in the state already is at peak population. Otherwise the animals wouldn’t have moved in so close to humans in the first place.

Additionally, those that have ventured into civilization now grow fat as they scavenge garbage around homes or are intentionally fed by these same animal lovers who have exacerbated the problem with their compassion. In other words, the bears now associate humans with food and if trapped and moved, they’ll just head for the nearest subdivision.

The reality is that we must live with the consequences of our actions as a species that alters its environment, and one of those consequences is that we must manage the other species that share the land and water.

Sunday
Apr132014

Ensuring Fishing for the Future

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Most who fish just want to be left alone to do so.

Others desire that too, but are not content to leave it at that. They want to ensure quality fishing for future generations. State conservation directors in B.A.S.S. Nation are among those, as are volunteers with Trout Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation.

 My friend Teeg Stouffer is one of those, which is why he founded Recycled Fish, reminding anglers that we all live downstream.

I am one of those as well, which is why I founded the Activist Angler website with the goal of “promoting and protecting recreational fishing.” That’s why I’ve volunteered to be a fishing instructor for the Missouri Department of Conservation this spring.

And it’s why I wrote my new book, Why We Fish, in the way that I did. Most of it celebrates why we keep going back to the water and the benefits that we derive from doing so. But a small portion is devoted to stewardship and the threats confronting recreational fishing.

When I’m on the water, I’m not thinking about such things, and I’m not asking you to either. But when you’re not fishing, I’ll hope that you think about stewardship and the importance of passing on healthy fisheries to future generations.

And I’ll hope that you’ll take the Recycled Fish Stewardship Pledge:

  • I pledge to live a lifestyle of stewardship on and off the water. Living as a steward means making choices throughout my daily life that benefit lakes, streams and seas - and the fish that swim in them - because my Lifestyle Runs Downstream.
  • I will learn the fish and game laws where I hunt or fish and always abide by them.
  • I will practice catch and release and selective harvest faithfully and responsibly.
  • I will "police my resource" by turning in poachers and reporting polluters.
  • I will make up for "the other guy" by cleaning up litter wherever my adventures take me.
  • I will boat safely and responsibly, never trespass, and treat other enthusiasts respectfully.
  • I will inspect, clean and dry my boat, boots and waders when moving between waters to prevent the spread of invasive species.
  • I will provide my time, money, or other resources to support stewardship efforts.
  • I will take steps to see that my home, lawn, vehicle, workplace and everyday lifestyle are as fish-friendly as I can make them by reducing my water, energy, material and chemical footprint.
  • I will encourage others to take on this ethic and will connect others with the outdoors to grow the stewardship community.
  • I choose to serve as a role model in protecting what remains and recovering what’s been lost of our wild and natural places.
  • I am a steward.
Monday
Jul152013

Bass Brigade Doing It Right for Texas Youth

Texas is doing it right in terms of educating young anglers about aquatic ecosystems and natural resource management. Most notably, it is doing it through the Bass Brigade, one of several Texas Brigades youth camps. If you live in Texas, you should check out the program, both to see about opportunties for your children and to contribute.

I received the following from Steve Perry, regarding the 2013 Bass Brigade:

"Thank you, Robert, for donating three autographed copies of Why We Fish to this year's Bass Brigade camp!

"During camp, each cadet is required to design a table top, tri-fold display on topics such as aquatic habits, fish species, conservation, fly fishing, fish sampling etc. We awarded your books as prizes for the top tri-folds.

"Thanks for supporting Bass Brigade and our mission of educating teenagers with leadership skills and knowledge in fisheries, and land stewardship to become conservation ambassadors for a sustained natural resource legacy."

Friday
Jul122013

Faith and Fishing

Photo by Robert Montgomery

(Teeg Stouffer is found and executive director of Recycled Fish, an organization that encourages conservation through stewardship. This is an excerpt from his compelling essay, "Faith and Fishing," in my new book, Why We Fish. You can buy the book from Amazon--- see button on the right side of page--- or other booksellers.)

 God uses lots of images of nature to describe His Nature in the Bible. In fact, I think that all of Creation reflects its Creator. And early on, God entrusted it to us. He said, “I’ll take care of Heaven, you take care of Earth.” And in the thousands of years since, we’ve done a pretty terrible job of holding up our end of that deal.

But something happens in our wiring when that inanimate graphite rod in our hands springs to life, connected to another living thing. Think about this: Why would it be fun to catch a fish? Why would it be even more fun to watch a big fish swim away? Who knows, but it is.

Logic cannot define it. There is no reasoning to it, no explaining it to someone who hasn’t experienced it. But it is fun. It’s healing, being out there. It transcends a peace, and it’s about more than neurons and psychology.

That dancing rod does something in our soul, and, if you ask me, something in our spirit, too.

Thursday
Jul112013

Let It Grow, Let It Grow, Let It Grow . . . 

Photos by Robert Montgomery

Too many lakefront property owners want to make their land as sterile as the carpeting in their living rooms. They say things like, "I have cut the grass to keep the snakes away."

You know what else happens when you cut the grass right down to the shore? Fertilizers, pesticides, and dirt wash in when it rains, harming both the lake and its aquatic inhabitants.

Yeah, eliminating buffer zones along the water will keep snakes away. It also will discourage dragonflies, turtles, birds, and other animals from visiting, and it will deter fish from moving into the shallows.

Photos with this post show the life along my lakeshore, where I allow grass, wildflowers, cattails, and other plants to grow, providing a buffer against runoff pollution, as well as beneficial habitat for fish and wildlife.

The buffer has been enhanced a couple of times by nature, as high winds tore out the tops of oaks and they fell into the shallows. I left them, and, as you can see, fish and wildlife like them. Don’t overlook the pileated woodpecker with the turtles. 

Also, allowing a buffer doesn't mean that you'll be assaulted by chiggers, ticks, and other insects if you try to enjoy your lakefront. I maintain a walking path between the buffer and the uphill woods, and I keep several breaks in the buffer that allow me to fish. And I have fish to catch because my natural shoreline attracts them.

It's a win, win, win situation, for the lake, for the wildlife, and for me.

And, you know what? I’ve yet to see a snake along my lakeshore--- not that I would mind, if I did.