Hold on to the Memory

My buddy Matt Miller, who blogs for The Nature Conservancy, posted something really profound recently that reminded me of days gone by when life was simple and fishing was even simpler.

Matt's piece is all about nostalgia, and how remembering the "good old days" is a good thing, particularly when it comes to remembering the fish--and the fishing--the way they used to be, before "pogress" got in the way and we lost sight of what was and why it was priceless.

Matt's post made me think of my friend Scott Stouder--a TU employee who works in Idaho to protect the backcountry. Scott was influential in the effort to protect about 9 million acres of roadless land in Idaho a few years back, but it's his personal history that I find remarkable. 

Scott grew up in Alsea, Ore., right on the coast, and he can remember huge runs of silver salmon running upstream near his home. He and his father and brothers would catch their limit every year, and the salmon provided important meat for the family talbe. But Scott grew up in a logging family, and he followed suit, cutting old-growth timber for years throughout the Northwest and Alaska. Then one day, he surveyed the work and realized that unchecked timber cutting was trashing habitat for fish and game in the region. To say he "switched sides" wouldn't be accurate--Scott's a pragmatist, which likely makes him one of the most effective conservationists in America today. Instead, he worked to achieve the always elusive "balance" that a lot of folks talk about, but rarely achieve.

He helped achieve that in Idaho a few years back, and it's a good lesson for the rest of. Remembering what we on ce had can help us reclaim at least some of it. Knowing that salmon used to course up the coastal streams in the Northwest is what helped us remove the Elwha Dam in Washington. Knowing that salmon and steelhead still course up the Elk River in southern Oregon, because the headwater habitat is still intact is what helped us protect the Copper-Salmon Wilderness a few years ago. We know what it can be like.

The challenge, as Matt so profoundly reminds us, is find ways to keep what we have and get back what we've lost as we search out that balance.

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