For months now, we’ve been featuring Trout Unlimited Business members who are supporting our efforts to Remove the Lower Four. We’ll continue to do so for some time to come. There are hundreds of these great businesses who are proud to stand with us on this, and we’re grateful for them. They come in all sizes from the big names in fly fishing to small family businesses – Wall Street to Main Street. Some of them are the usual suspects – lodges, fly shops, outfitters, guides and others with a direct stake in fly angling. But a surprising number of them are outside that box – coffee roasters, financial advisors, engineering firms and brewers all bring their names and reputations to the conservation table when they stand in support of this proposal.
It would be easy to pin some sort of pragmatic self-interest on some of them, I suppose. After all, if more salmon and steelhead in the Snake might mean more revenue for my business in Idaho or Oregon, I’d be an advocate, right? But when you talk with them, you learn that it’s about a great deal more.
Take Corinne Doctor from RepYour Water, the folks in Colorado who sell hats and other apparel: “For my entire lifetime, we’ve been trying to have both dams and fish. We’ve spent billions of dollars trying to do that. It hasn’t worked and it won’t work. These fish need free-flowing rivers to survive. Hatcheries are no substitute. We need to remove the lower four.”
Or Chris Johnson from Living Waters Fly Fishing in Round Rock, TX: “Conservation is one of the pillars of the fishing community and as anglers we are meant to be stewards of the aquatic environment. The removal of dams unlocks so much more than just the water they hold — it unlocks the natural potential of anadromous fish. By deconstructing our own creations, we allow nature to rebuild itself in a way that we could never imagine!”
Or Scott Hunter from Vedavoo, manufacturers of packs and other soft goods in Leominster, MA: “If we want to have wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin, the Snake River is the place. These fish are now at only 1 to 2 percent of their historic populations. Why? Dams.”
None of these businesses will see any significant difference in the bottom line as a result of what happens thousands of miles away on the Snake in eastern Washington. RepYourWater will still be selling hats and shirts. Most of the customers in Chris Johnson’s shop will never see a salmon or a steelhead. Scott will keep making and selling great packs, bags and other gear all over the US. But they know what’s right and what isn’t. It isn’t right to lose the iconic fish of the Columbia River basin. It isn’t right to keep pouring money into band-aid efforts that haven’t worked and won’t work. And it certainly isn’t right to just stand by and do nothing. These businesses won’t stand by. They stand up.
In the end, maybe my friend John Appleton at Alpine Archery and Fly in La Grande, OR says it as well as any of us: “Time has taught us that we can either have wild fish in the Grand Ronde or we can have dams on the Lower Snake. We can’t have both.” Truth.
These businesses are a vital part of the TU Team. They stood with us on Pebble. They’re standing with us on the Lower Four. It’s my privilege to work with them, and it’s our responsibility to support them when we buy gear or coffee or beer or financial advice. Check them out on the back pages of TROUT Magazine or on the TU website. They’re the real deal.