It may not be considered remarkable news when the head of an industry trade association steps down, but for fly fishers across America, this one’s different.
Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association for the past nine years, announced his resignation this week. Bulis helped rejuvenate AFFTA, working to first save the annual International Fly Tackle Dealer Show and then to make it a very successful event for all within the fly-fishing industry, from manufacturers, guides, outfitters, dealers, retailers and the travel sector.
But Ben is also a strident conservationist with a savvy political head on his shoulders. He convinced the fly-fishing industry to become more involved and more invested in conservation. He was a frequent visitor to Washington, D.C., where he lobbied on behalf of dozens of conservation issues ranging from protecting Bristol Bay to the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to the defense of the Clean Water Rule. An avid angler in his own right, Ben understood one of most oft-overlooked components to successful fishing: intact habitat translates into good opportunity.
And he took it one step further. He was able to help many within the industry understand that protecting the best habitat that’s left, restoring habitat that has great potential and reconnecting rivers and streams was good business. Habit and opportunity go hand-in-hand. But they also work together to create economic activity.
I was fortunate enough to serve on the AFFTA board of directors some years back when Ben was still finding his way as the head of an industry association that often struggled with its efforts at relevance. I saw the work Ben put in to bring the movers and shakers in the fly-fishing industry together, and to get them all rowing in unison, in the same direction, for the common good of fly fishing (and, with my TU hat on, for the betterment of our trout and salmon fisheries). It wasn’t an easy task, but today, AFFTA is a trade association that punches above its weight when it comes to policy and influence, and that’s due to Bulis’ determination.
Here’s to Ben and whatever he decides to do next. And here’s hoping the AFFTA board can find a new executive director with some mighty big feet. He or she will have big shoes to fill.
If you’re interested, here’s the press release announcing Bulis’ resignation.