Fly Fishing Is the New Bird-Watching

It’s the latest “old timey” hobby to gain a dedicated new following.

Step aside, goat yoga. The chic way to unwind now is fly fishing.

That’s right. For some of the same reasons millennials recently flocked to bird-watching, this sport — long dominated by old white men — is gaining popularity with a younger set.

For those who can afford the leisure time and some rudimentary equipment, it offers a reason to be outdoors, a closer connection to nature, an avenue for environmentalism, built-in community, opportunity for creative expression, and a lifetime’s worth of niche expertise. Fly anglers who are not vegetarian nor vegan, nor otherwise bound by the code of “catch and release,” see it as an extension of the farm-to-table movement. Plus, it’s very Instagrammable, even as it encourages people to put down their phones.

And where millennials go, hospitality brands follow. Guided fly-fishing excursions are now offered at many trendy boutique hotels, including The Little Nell in Aspen, Colo.; Tourists, the eco-friendly lodge opened by indie influencers including the bassist of Wilco, in North Adams, Mass.; and Sage Lodge, a new nature resort just north of Yellowstone National Park in Pray, Mont., which has a stand of fly tackles and nets in its lobby, and daily “Fly Fishing 101” courses at its backyard casting pond overlooking the Absakora Mountains.

At the DeBruce, a boutique hotel and culinary destination in Livingston Manor, N.Y., the wall art, bookshelves and nine-course tasting menu are fly fishing-themed. The banner amenity of the hotel, where rooms start at $449 a night (including breakfast and the tasting menu), is half a mile of private river; waders, rods and reels are all available for rental for $75 per day in the Tackle Room near the pool. And in the Great Room, where elegant young couples on honeymoons, babymoons and minimoons pass their happy hours, a full fly-tying station is set up in the corner.

Todd Spire, 45, a digital marketer turned full-time fly guide, has built his Catskills business on this new wave of interest. Over the past 4 years, his guiding outfit, Esopus Creel, grew steadily by word-of-mouth and Instagram, and this spring, he opened a brick-and-mortar fly shop in Phoenicia, N.Y.

“You have millennials who are drawn to experiences, looking for authentic ways to experience this place, and you have this activity which is such a big part of both this area’s history and its conservation,” Mr. Spire said. And, he noted, the area is of historic importance to the sport. “Almost every aspect of fly fishing was refined, changed, evolved in the Catskills.”

And indeed, when clients fish in the Esopus Creek with Mr. Spire, they’re waist-deep in the same waters where Babe Ruth fished during the late 1930s. Decades before that, pioneering sportsmen like Theodore Gordon and Edward Ringwood Hewitt fished on the Neversink River. Nearby, on the Beaverkill River, the inventor of the fishing vest, Lee Wulff, perfected the use of his namesake flies, while his wife at the time, Joan Wulff, a competitive angler, brought novel poise and femininity to the craft of casting them. (She once cast a cigarette out of Johnny Carson’s mouth on the daytime game show “Who Do You Trust?”) Ms. Wulff, now in her 90s, still teaches at the 40-year-old school they founded, run out of a cabin near Livingston Manor.

“I’ve become completely addicted to fly fishing,” said Mike Kauffman, 31, a tech entrepreneur and Manhattan resident who recently bought a home in the Catskills with his girlfriend, Annah Lansdown. “I find it totally meditative — the thing I never knew I needed.”

When he started out this spring, Mr. Kauffman knew virtually nothing about the sport: “I was at Phoenicia Diner and I saw ‘Esopus Creel’ on their menu,” he said, referring to an ad. “I thought, ‘Oh man, they spelled creek wrong.’”

But from his first guided outing with Mr. Spire, Mr. Kauffman and his girlfriend were hooked. “We’re scrolling all day thinking we’re connecting with the world, but our minds aren’t satisfied,” he said. “Being out in that river is a deeper connection to nature I never really had — and I think a lot of people don’t have. It’s something our monkey brain needs.”

Ms. Lansdown, 41, a creative director at a digital agency, added, “The water’s rushing around you, and you can’t hear anything. You can’t even hear people yelling at you. You don’t think about work, or emails, or the city.”

Now, the couple owns all the gear.

And there’s plenty of gear and apparel to own. Newcomers may require waders, vests, tackle boxes, rods, reels, creels, flies and perhaps even fly-tying equipment. Graphite rods can cost as little as $30 but classic bamboo rods — preferred by Brad Pitt in the 1992 movie “A River Runs Through It” — can cost thousands. (For those seeking the highest-end option, Hermés recently debuted a wooden fly rod, priced at $13,790, and a wicker and calfskin creel for $17,420.)

“I can’t put my finger on what it was, but about five years back, something changed,” said Joe Fox, 33, a manager at Dette Flies fly shop in Livingston Manor. “Especially in the past three years, we started seeing more new faces.”

According to the 2019 Outdoor Industry Association’s “Special Report on Fishing,” fly fishing is the fastest-growing category of the sport. Gender and racial diversity continues to tick upward. Age diversity encompasses both categories. Last year, one in four anglers surveyed were in the 18 to 34 age range.

Mr. Fox recently took over the family fishing supply business from his grandmother, who’d herself taken over from his great-grandparents, Winnie and Walt Dette. He launched a web store, and this past year, he and his partner, Kelly Buchta, also a fly angler, moved the business, which had been in the Dette family home in Roscoe, N.Y. since 1928, to a spacious new store on Livingston Manor’s main street. Longtime customers have stayed loyal. New customers continue to arrive.

In 2011, the store experienced a surge of attention shortly after celebrities like Selena Gomez and Steven Tyler, for inexplicable reasons, got into weaving grizzly saddle hackles — long, thin, speckled rooster feathers — through their hair. In short time, the style went viral. Shops like Dette began to sell out of their fly-tying supplies, and in the lead-up to Bonnaroo that spring, virtually nobody could keep feathers in stock. Prices spiked. Some anglers were furious; others took to eBay with their spare hackles, selling them for ten times the buying price.

This time, the newcomers are buying Dette’s wares for their intended purpose.

Defying the ‘Tweed Brigade’

The name of the Livingston Manor Fly Fishing Club may recall the elite private fishing clubs of the old-school Catskills angling community, but this creekside glamping village — where annual memberships cost hundreds not thousands of dollars, and the benefits are tailored to weekenders — is the millennial set’s take.

Tom Roberts, 33, is a founder. With a woolen flat-brimmed cap over shaggy blonde hair, a British accent from his hometown of London and a 1972 Triumph Spitfire in “British racing green,” he cuts a smart picture of Instagram escapism. (His dog, a mutt named Biscuit with the muddled coat of a German pointer, completes the picture. Mr. Roberts calls her the club’s director of marketing.)

The property includes a clubhouse, greenhouse and trail through the woods to the edge of the Willowemoc Creek, where a hand-built banquet table runs parallel to the waterfront. Benches are strewn with fur pelts. Lights are strung in the trees. Guests and members stay in bedrooms in the main clubhouse, or in canvas tents equipped with a rustic take on luxury amenities, several of them Swedish: Sandqvist bags, Stutterheim raincoats, and sheets by Lexington Company, a bedding brand in Stockholm.

The village’s bustling Main Street is minutes if not steps away, but it’s hard to tell from here.

“My grandfather was a fly fisherman. My dad and my brother are fly fishermen,” Mr. Roberts said. “But I never touched a rod in England. My perception of the sport was that it was stuffy and elitist. Most of the rivers are private. It’s the kind of tweed brigade that I’ve always pushed back on.”

An American friend convinced him it would be different on this side of the pond. “We came up here and got out on the river. I was useless,” Mr. Roberts said. “But it didn’t matter.” In fly fishing, he found the same level of Zen that he loved about surfing and sailing. “There are few things we do where our technology is not somehow part of the experience. But in this case, you’re standing in a river. Both your hands are occupied. It’s very hard to make your phone part of that practice.”

Over the course of a few years, Mr. Roberts and his wife, Anna Åberg, weekended in the area. When they sought out and purchased the property with a third partner, Mikael Larsson, in 2016, Livingston Manor was beginning to attract attention from more New York City residents. “We thought it would be great to bring back some of the heritage of fly fishing to this town. We wanted to connect the town to the name of the place, and to connect the name of the place to fly fishing,” he said.

Still, guests are given the freedom to take it or leave it. Fly fishing is not for everyone, Mr. Roberts acknowledges, and there’s always the hammock and wood-fired sauna. (The sauna sugar scrubs are housemade.)

Some of the older guard might see the Livingston Manor Fly Fishing Club as an unnecessary reinvention of the wheel. But everyone who loves fly fishing shares the opinion that environmentalism is inextricably linked to it.

Hallie Brennan, a 31-year-old freelance photographer in Santa Fe who took up the hobby four years ago, said, “Fly fishing makes natural conservationists out of people. The planet could always use more of those.” The sport’s meditative qualities help connect her to nature, she said. “It’s a beautiful sport and I feel beautiful when I fish. And it helped me understand and respect the ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains — I once hated flies and bugs. Now I love them!”

Fins-tagram

Jessica McKay, a Gen Z angler who graduated from college in her home state of Minnesota last year, recently found a job as a fly fishing guide in Estes Park, Colo. She had no experience when she applied, but she loved the outdoors, and the owners gave her a shot. “I’m fudging obsessed,” she posted on Instagram this past summer, with a giant grin and a hefty brown trout. (Nearly 2,000 of her approximately 3,500 followers “liked” that one.)

“The fishing community on Instagram is amazing,” Ms. McKay, 22, said over the phone. “I’ll have people reach out to me and ask me how to get into fly fishing, what are good flies to use, places to go — and I’ve used Instagram so many times to have my own questions answered.”

The sport was a natural extension of the DIY culture that brought Mr. Eberly as a high school student to skateboarding and punk: building the tackles, tying the flies. “When I went to my first fly shop, they sized me up really quickly and realized I wasn’t going to spend $500 on a fly rod,” he said. “So, they gave me no new information. But I was O.K. with that. I knew that’s what I was up against.”

Mr. Eberly said a resistance to that closed attitude is precisely why he blogs and guides, and that it’s becoming more a thing of the past. “I think these younger anglers recognize the need to make sure that these streams are listed and protected,” he said. “Anglers actually sharing knowledge and organizing these communities online is helping push that forward. What millennials have to learn is outweighed by what they can bring to the conservation side.”

Judy Van Put, a real estate agent and self-declared “fly fishing broker” who has been fishing in the area since the 1980s, recently received an invitation for an upcoming Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum fund-raiser, the second annual Emerging Anglers Dinner. “In addition to a very welcoming atmosphere, they have a live DJ after the dinner,” she said.

“When I first began attending fly fishing dinners they were more formal. I was always very nervous to meet with older guides.” Now there are meet-ups like “Coffee & Casting,” or “Women, Waders and Wine.” “That just isn’t something that would ever have occurred years ago,” she said. “But if it gets more people out on the river, so be it.”

By Alexandra Marvar
The New York Times

Click HERE to read the full article in the New York Times.

Grapevine Creek Poststocking Update-Success!

Arizona Game and Fish Native Trout and Chub Coordinator, Zach Beard, and his staff and Trout Unlimited staff completed a visual survey of the Gila Trout in Grapevine Creek on August 28.  It appears the  egg stocking there was a big success!  A total of 485 Gila Trout varying in size from about 2 – 3 inches (50-75 mm) were observed with some of the largest being closer to 4 inches.   The trout look to be in pretty good condition and have distributed themselves throughout the stream (from the start of the perennial water to the first pool directly upstream of the uppermost stocking location).

Does Fishing Have a Future?

As the young turn away from the sport, companies and schools look for new ways to reel them in.
Kayla and Paul Carlson fish with their sons at a pier in Jacksonville, Fla. PHOTO: BETSY HANSEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

By Mike Toto
The Wall Street Journal – August 15 , 2019

Paul Harris remembers driving to the New Jersey shore in a Ford Model A to go fishing with his father.

“Back in the 1940s, we’d go to the old Phipps estate for the weekend and fish for kingfish and croakers. Then we’d drive back home to Philadelphia, where the mothers and grandmothers were all waiting for the fish,” says Mr. Harris, 75, who still fishes that 10-mile stretch of shoreline, now known as Island Beach State Park.

Mr. Harris taught his two daughters to fish there in the 1970s, and he has fond memories of those times. “We were a crowd. Whole families would drive onto the sand and fish together. The older kids would help keep an eye on the younger kids. Now, you look up and down the beach, you see very few families fishing. You can’t get the kids outside anymore.”

Indeed, according to the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF), children are less likely to go fishing as they get older: Those aged 13 to 17 fish much less than those aged 6 to 12. That trend is contributing to a drastic decline in the popularity of fishing.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that the number of anglers in the U.S. increased from 33.1 million in 2011 to 35.8 million in 2016, but the number of total days they fished dropped precipitously—from 553.8 million to 459.3 million, a 17% decrease.

What is keeping older kids off the water? In his book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder,” Richard Louv writes that loss of discretionary time and increased screen use keep young people indoors. But he thinks there is more at work. “Much of society no longer sees time spent in the natural world as ‘enrichment,’” Mr. Louv writes. “Technology now dominates almost every aspect of our lives. Children are conditioned at an early age to associate nature with environmental doom.”

An ‘Off the Hook’ pop-up stand in Hudson River Park, New York, June 2019. PHOTO: RBFF

Frank Peterson, president and CEO of RBFF, points out the need for the recreational fishing industry to find and mine new demographics. “I go to all the industry meetings. I’m a 67-year-old pale white male. I look out at the audience, and they all look like me. We need to attract more diverse audiences and women,” says Mr. Peterson, whose “Take Me Fishing” program (and “Vamos a Pescar,” its Spanish-language counterpart) provides newcomers with everything they need to know—from tackle recommendations and knot-tying videos to finding a place to fish.

That is how Kayla Carlson, a stay-at-home mom in Jacksonville, Fla., and her family came to the sport. “Three years ago, my husband and I were looking for a fun Father’s Day activity for the family and decided to try fishing. We took our boys to a private pond. They loved it. We knew we had to learn more about it.”

Ms. Carlson, whose sons are now 6 and 5, found “Take Me Fishing” online, which directed her to a local fishing clinic. “It’s an awesome resource,” she says. “We all fish four or five times a week. The boys have caught hundreds of fish—red drum, sharks, snapper, pompano, whiting. Sometimes we bring fish home to eat.”

This past May, Emily Negrin of Minneapolis stopped by an “Off the Hook” stand, a pop-up introductory fishing experience that RBFF is setting up across the U.S. Owen, her 7-year-old son, learned the basics of fishing from a volunteer. Ms. Negrin says he has been on the water nearly every weekend since then—and that has rekindled his grandfather’s interest in fishing. “My dad has a stockpile of fishing poles that he dusted off so he can fish with Owen,” says Ms. Negrin. “The two of them have a blast.”

RBFF is also trying to encourage more women to try the sport with its “Women Making Waves” initiative, with blogs written by women and social-media platforms on which visitors can share fishing photos and information. Those connections are crucial, says Senior Vice President Stephanie Vatalaro, because while 45% of fishing newcomers are women, they drop out of the sport at a high rate. “Only 19% of women who fish identify as an angler,” says Ms. Vatalaro. “They’re going into tackle shops and reading fishing magazines, but they don’t see themselves. And they’re not sticking around.”

For young people, another inducement to try their hand at fishing can be found in high schools, where fishing teams compete for a spot in the High School Fishing World Finals. Teams fish for freshwater bass that are weighed and then released back into the water. This year’s finalists vied for nearly $3 million in scholarships from 60 colleges that have their own fishing teams.

James Hall coaches one such high-school team near his Birmingham, Ala., home, and says that many team members wouldn’t fish otherwise. He too sees the young inspiring the old to return to the sport. “The first year I started coaching, we had six freshman kids. Two hadn’t been fishing in years,” Mr. Hall says. “The boats owned by one kid’s father and the other kid’s grandfather were collecting dust. The father and grandfather volunteered to be boat captains, which the team needs, and that reignited their passion for fishing.”

Mr. Hall says his team crosses social divides. “Kids with long hair, jocks with short hair. Kids on the honor roll, kids who struggle to make Cs…they all get along,” says Mr. Hall. “The grunge kid catches a fish, the jock shakes his hand and says ‘Way to go, bro!’”

After seeing the drop-off in young people fishing on his New Jersey beach, Mr. Harris approached staff at Toms River South High School five years ago and offered to help form and coach a saltwater fishing team. Students from all grades are on the 19-strong Fishing Indians team, and some of them had little to no fishing experience before signing up.

“We meet the kids on the beach, teach them how to tie knots and cast,” says Mr. Harris, who lobbied members of his New Jersey Beach Buggy Association, a local club, to donate tackle for the team’s use.

Meanwhile, tackle manufacturers as a whole seem slow to embrace a new demographic. Most exhibitors at the 2019 ICAST (International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades) trade show in Orlando, Fla., last month featured photos of white adult males holding big fish caught with the gear on display. Rod and reel maker Zebco, with its mural of photographs of young, racially diverse men and women engaged in a variety of outdoor activities besides fishing—bicycling, tending a campfire, swimming—was one exception.

Fishing eyewear company Flying Fisherman was another. The firm’s president, Pat Sheldon, said he introduced the Buoy Jr. Angler Polarized Sunglasses at this year’s ICAST to help cultivate young fishermen. The eyewear is sized for kids but performs identically to standard fishing glasses. “Same lenses as the adult models,” says Mr. Sheldon. “For kids to have a good fishing experience, they need to see what the adults are seeing.”

—Mr. Toth is a writer and a former executive editor of Field & Stream.

Ruling blocks southern AZ mine

Hudbay Minerals Inc. had been preparing to start construction of one of the largest copper mines in the country when a federal judge halted the project and overturned the federal government’s approval of the $1.9 billion mine.

The ruling dealt a blow to the company, which saw its stock price drop on Thursday. The decision will prevent Hudbay from moving forward with work on the open-pine mine, which would be blasted and carved into the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson.

The judge’s decision, issued late Wednesday, represents a major victory for environmental groups and tribes that have been fighting plans for the Rosemont mine for years.

“We’re thrilled,” said Gayle Hartmann of the group Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, who has been battling the project since the early 2000s. “This exceeded our expectations, and I feel like the judge saw and understood the issue and did what was right.”

But while the ruling will freeze the project for the time being, the Toronto- based company plans to appeal. And opponents of the mine say their fight isn’t over.

Federal District Court Judge James Soto said in his decision on Wednesday that the Forest Service “abdicated its duty to protect the Coronado National Forest” when it failed to properly analyze the company’s mining claims.

The judge said the Forest Service had “no factual basis to determine that Rosemont had valid unpatented mining claims” on 2,447 acres and that the claims are invalid under the Mining Law of 1872. He said the agency’s review and decision were riddled with defects and led to “an inherently flawed analysis” from the proposal’s inception.

Hudbay has proposed to excavate a pit stretching more than a mile wide and more than 2,900 feet deep. In all, the project encompasses 5,431 acres of mountainous terrain, including more than 3,600 acres of Forest Service land, nearly 1,200 acres of private land, and other lands owned by the state and federal government.

In addition to the pit, the company has proposed a processing plant and areas for waste rock and tailings, the finegrained material that’s separated from the ore.

“The unauthorized dumping of over 1.2 billion tons of waste rock, as well as about 700 million tons of tailings, and the establishment of an ore processing facility no doubt constitutes a depredation upon Forest Service land,” Soto wrote in the decision. He said the agency implemented the wrong regulations, misinformed the public, and “failed to adequately consider reasonable alternatives.”

Soto said he was overturning the Forest Service’s decision “such that the Rosemont Mine cannot begin operations at this time.”

Company faces questions after ruling

Several conservation groups had challenged the federal government’s approvals of the mine, arguing it would tear up the landscape, destroy streams and ravage habitats for rare animals, including endangered jaguars that roam the wilds of southern Arizona. The upshot for the company is that they now “have to go back to the drawing board,” Hartmann said. “They have to try to respond to a whole bunch of the judge’s questions. My guess would be that they will not be able to actually respond to those, that it’s not possible to build a mine there and answer Judge Soto’s concerns.”

Hartmann said her group’s work will go on while the company takes the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “It’s certainly not over.”

Hudbay’s stock plunged more than 21% on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange after the court decision.

The company announced its plan to appeal, saying in a statement that it believes the court “misinterpreted federal mining laws and Forest Service regulations as they apply to Rosemont.” It said the Forest Service issued its decision in 2017 after a “thorough process of ten years involving 17 co-operating agencies at various levels of government.”

Peter Kukielski, Hudbay’s interim president and CEO, said the appeal will proceed as the company evaluates its next steps. “We are extremely disappointed with the Court’s decision,” Kukielski said. “We strongly believe that the project conforms to federal laws and regulations that have been in place for decades.”

Will ruling force changes in reviews?

The judge focused on the Forest Service’s 2017 decision that the mine would comply with environmental laws.

The agency’s decision drew three legal challenges, which Soto considered together in the ruling. He left one of the cases pending, saying the court will issue a separate order later. The groups that sued included Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and Arizona Mining Reform Coalition. The federal government’s approval of the mine was also challenged by three Native American tribes: the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the Hopi Tribe. The tribes objected to plans to excavate remnants of ancestral Hohokam villages and burial sites and said the mine would dewater springs and seeps they consider sacred. Randy Serraglio of the Center for Biological Diversity called the judge’s decision a “momentous precedent,” saying it makes clear that the Forest Service has been misinterpreting the 1872 Mining Law. “That means that it does not trump all these other environmental laws that have passed since then, and the mining company does not have an automatic right to dump their toxic waste on our public lands,” Serraglio said. “So, the Forest Service going forward is going to have to look at these projects through an entirely new lens.” If the decision stands, he said, “it’s a huge victory for everybody who wants to use public lands for something other than mining company profits.” Representatives of the Forest Service didn’t respond to a request for comment. The tribes’ leaders praised the decision. Robert Valencia, chairman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, said the judge’s ruling affirms “the fundamental principle that you can’t get a free pass to destroy public lands.”

“The value and integrity of the Santa Rita Mountains is of the utmost importance,” Valencia said. “And as a tribe, we feel that we need to continue to fight to really protect these places from being destroyed.”

Area is home to imperiled species

The Center for Biological Diversity has said a dozen threatened or endangered species would be harmed by the mine, among them a guppy-like fish called the Gila topminnow; birds such as the southwestern willow flycatcher and the Western yellow-billed cuckoo; the Chiricahua leopard frog and endangered wildcats including the jaguar and the smaller ocelot.

El Jefe as seen on remote-sensor camera in 2015. CONSERVATION CATALYST, CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

One jaguar, nicknamed “El Jefe,” was photographed repeatedly with remote cameras in the mountains several years ago, including at one location about a quarter-mile from the edge of the mining area. At least one ocelot has also been photographed traipsing through the area multiple times.

The Center for Biological Diversity sued the federal Fish and Wildlife Service to challenge its determination that the mine wouldn’t jeopardize threatened or endangered species. In that case, a decision is still pending.
Opponents of the Rosemont mine argue it would wipe out streams and desert washes in a zone that helps recharge groundwater supplies for the Tucson area.

Hudbay has disputed those concerns, stressing that the project has gone through a thorough vetting process lasting more than 12 years, with a long list of studies that examined the potential effects on the environment.
The company says the Forest Service and state regulators require testing of surface water and groundwater, and there would be regular checks of monitoring wells drilled around the site.

Mine would yield ore, revenue

Rosemont would be the third-largest copper mine in the United States, after the Morenci mine in Arizona and the Bingham Canyon mine in Utah. Hudbay has projected the mine would yield about 10% of the country’s total copper production, while also extracting molybdenum, silver and gold.

The company has touted the economic benefits, saying the mine would employ up to 2,500 workers during the peak of construction. Throughout the 19 years of mining, the company says, Rosemont would employ an average of 500 full-time workers and would generate more than $350 million in local tax revenues.

Business groups that have voiced support include the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Arizona Business Coalition.

It’s unclear how the court decision might affect other proposed mining projects. Steve Trussell, executive director of the Arizona Mining Association, said the organization is evaluating the court’s opinion.

Until the ruling, the company had appeared close to starting work on the mine. In March, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cleared the way for construction to begin when it approved a Clean Water Act permit. The Forest Service then issued the mine’s operations plan, which was the final step in the permitting process.
Hudbay’s lawyers had said in a document submitted to the court they intended to start initial work on the mine in June. The company’s lawyers later said in court that they would hold off until August to give the judge additional time to consider the issues and rule on several motions.

In recent weeks, crews of volunteers from the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society helped remove cactuses and other desert plants from a “utility corridor” where the company planned to install power lines and water pipes. Richard Wiedhopf, the society’s president, said the volunteers “rescued” the plants along 7-8 miles of road and on a 20-acre site around a pump station.

The nonprofit group is often invited to do this work, removing plants that would otherwise be destroyed in development projects and saving them to be used in landscaping. Wiedhopf said the volunteers have almost finished their work removing plants from the roadside strip. But the judge made clear in the decision that no work on the mine may proceed.

Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva applauded the ruling and said it’s “the ultimate emperor-has-no-clothes moment.”
“Congress, federal agencies, and most of all the American public no longer have to live with the industry-backed fiction that the law gives them a blank check to mine and dump wherever they please,” Grijalva said in a statement. He has proposed legislation that would make various changes to mining law, including ending the system of claimstaking and patenting, and collecting royalties on mining operations.

Ian James
Arizona Republic USA TODAY NETWORK


Reach the reporter at ian.james@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8246. Follow him on Twitter: @ByIanJames. Environmental coverage on azcentral and in The Republic is supported by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Follow Republic environmental reporting at environment .azcentral.com and at OurGrandAZ on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

An update on the National Environmental Policy Act

What’s happening?

The U.S. Forest Service has undertaken an initiative to update its regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. Signed into law in 1970 by President Nixon, NEPA is one of our country’s bedrock environmental laws, providing citizens a voice in federal decisions affecting the environment, fostering transparency, and ensuring that decisions are informed with the best available science.

The Forest Service began this effort in January 2018 with a round of public comment, generating nearly 35,000 comments (See TU’s comment letter). Currently, the agency has published a draft rule and is taking public comments through Aug. 12. The agency first promulgated its NEPA regulations in 2008, and while there have been some modifications over the years, this is the first overhaul of the agency’s NEPA regulations in over a decade.

The Forest Service’s stated goal is to “complete project decision making in a timelier manner, improve or eliminate inefficient processes and steps, and, where appropriate, increase the scale of analysis and the number of activities in a single analysis and decision.”

Why NEPA?

All federal land management agencies, including the Forest Service, are required to follow NEPA procedures for applicable decisions and give proper consideration to the environment. Generally, the NEPA process comes with multiple opportunities for public involvement and coordination with local, state and federal partners.

NEPA does not prohibit impacts to the environment, but rather requires agencies to analyze and disclose impacts prior to making a final decision. In this way, NEPA assures that both the decision-maker and the public are fully aware of impacts and the balance of pros and cons for an action. Importantly, this process can also identify unacceptable risks and opportunities to mitigate impacts to fish and wildlife habitat or if necessary, deny a project.

As noted in NEPA’s implementing regulations, “NEPA’s purpose is not to generate paperwork—even excellent paperwork—but to foster excellent action. the NEPA process is intended to help public officials make decisions that are based on understanding of environmental consequences, and take actions that protect, restore, and enhance the environment.”

Why it matters for TU:

Because TU is both an advocacy and restoration organization, we find ourselves on both sides of NEPA. When we partner with the Forest Service on restoration projects located on public land, those projects must go through the applicable NEPA process, which can be cumbersome. On the other hand, the NEPA process allows TU to have a say in projects that could harm coldwater fisheries – such as poorly sited energy development or logging projects – and bring our expertise to the table to ensure trout and salmon fisheries are given a fair shake in the decision-making process.

TU’s firsthand experience with NEPA provides us a unique perspective, and while the agency is right to seek efficiencies, this rulemaking should not erode the basic tenets of NEPA: public involvement, transparency, and informed decisions affecting America’s resources and public lands.

How will TU respond and how can you help?

  • Trout Unlimited will file comprehensive comments. Comments are due by August 26th.
  • An outline of key points is provided below.

    Make your voice heard: go to the rulemaking homepage on regulations.gov and click on the Comment Now! button to speak up for your public lands. You can use the message points outlined below and TU encourages you to make your own, detailed comments about why public lands matter to you!

Need some help? Check out our “how to” guidance for commenting.

Connect with your Council leadership: Several TU Councils have been following this rulemaking and may have additional guidance on engagement from TU leaders in your state.

Highlights and our view:

  • Collaboration is one of the most important tools for fostering efficient land management. When projects are conceived, developed and implement in a collaborative manner, the result is not only increased efficiency, but also more durable decisions less prone to legal challenges. Strengthening opportunities for collaboration should be a primary objective of the revised regulations.
  • Hunters and anglers must be assured that the revised regulations will not erode opportunities for meaningful public involvement in decisions affecting their public lands. Soliciting input at the beginning of the NEPA process, called scoping, is an important part of any decision. Unfortunately, the proposed rule would eliminate scoping from all but the most complex projects. The final rule must allow for scoping and meaningful public involvement.

  • The proposed rule includes ten new categorical exclusions that exempt certain project from comprehensive NEPA review. These categorical exclusions fall into three categories: (1) those covering infrastructure activities, (2) those covering special uses, and (3) those covering restoration activities. Categorical exclusions that allow projects to be exempted from further NEPA review can be useful tools to expedite projects that are reasonably expected to have minimal adverse environmental effects. However, categorical exclusions must include a narrow focus and adequate sideboards to prevent unexpected impacts on important fisheries, or misapplication when a more robust process should be utilized.

  • An important check to ensure that categorical exclusions are properly used is the “extraordinary circumstances” review. Under current practice, if an extraordinary circumstance is present, such as the potential for significant impacts to a threatened species, then a more thorough review is required. The proposed rule would eliminate the existing requirement to consider impacts to the agency’s Sensitive Species list, which includes numerous native trout species, including Westslope cutthroat, Bonneville cutthroat and Colorado River cutthroat trout. Additionally, the proposal does not add Species of Conservation Concern, a new classification developed by the agency. The final proposal must require consideration of the agency’s Sensitive Species list, as well as the Species of Conservation Concern, as applicable.

  • Timber harvest on up to 4,200 acres would be categorically excluded from further NEPA review so long as at least one “restoration” activity is included. Any categorical exclusion for restoration should be limited to projects where restoration is the true priority and not an afterthought, and include meaningful sideboards to ensure that the categorical exclusion is not applied haphazardly. Allowances for permanent roads must be eliminated and there should be a requirement that all activities directly address environmental impairments, resulting in a net conservation gain.

  • Determinations of NEPA adequacy could help relieve the agency of redundant NEPA reviews by establishing a consistent process for determining if an existing analysis is adequate. This decision must not be made in a vacuum. Public involvement – including scoping — and consultation with stakeholders, applicable resource professionals, and partners is necessary to ensure that this decision is fully informed. Additionally, the determination cannot be a simple yes or no. The deciding official should be required to not only answer if an existing analysis is sufficient, but more importantly why it is sufficient. The final rule must support meaningful public engagement and require clear explanation of NEPA adequacy determinations.

  • Funding for agency staff and programs is needed. Creating efficient processes is about more than revising regulations. Without sufficient funding and qualified resource professionals, streamlining NEPA is just a band-aid on a bigger problem. Since 1995, there has been a nearly 40% decline in non-fire personnel. That means fewer biologists, fewer engineers, fewer hydrologists, fewer trail crews and fewer professionals to conduct timely, thorough NEPA procedures. Ensuring adequate funding is an issue that Congress and the Administration must address to not only ensure healthier forests, but a healthier Forest Service.

Click here for the full article on tu.org.

Remind me again… what is PLREDA and why should I care?

Bill would help to advance renewable energy projects on public lands in a manner that protects fish and wildlife habitat, and strengthens local economies and communities

What is PLREDA?

On July 17, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA) introduced the bipartisan Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act (PLREDA).

Congressman Gosar’s press release on the bill is available, HERE.
Congressman Levin’s press release is HERE.
A joint press release from Trout Unlimited, BHA and TRCP is HERE.

The Public Land Renewable Energy Act would create a new system for efficient, responsible renewable energy development on public lands. By identifying priority areas for wind, solar and geothermal development, PLREDA encourages smart siting and efficient permitting of projects in places with high potential for energy and low impact on wildlife and habitat.

Critically, the act would also strategically direct the royalty revenue from development to invest in local communities, fish and wildlife resources and more efficient permitting for renewable energy projects.

Why PLREDA?

The nation’s public lands system provides Americans with the some of the world’s richest opportunities for outdoor recreation. In some cases, federal holdings also represent a reasonable setting for well-planned and properly mitigated renewable energy development projects. These energy projects could stimulate job growth, reduce carbon pollution, and contribute to the protection and restoration of fish and wildlife habitat on public lands.

Utility-scale wind and solar projects are a growing presence on our public lands. These projects will help us move toward a clean energy future, but can take up large chunks of land for long periods of time, and may cause some unavoidable impacts on fish, wildlife and water resources and recreational access. The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act provides the conservation counterbalance to unavoidable impacts on our public lands.

PLREDA offers a way to offset issues created by development on public lands by designating a conservation fund derived from royalties and other revenues generated by wind and solar energy projects operating on federal land. The bill also directs a portion of the royalty and lease revenues from public land wind and solar projects to compensate for states and counties impacted by development. Read more about the bill details in our factsheet.

Why this Matters for Trout Unlimited

Public lands contain some of the most valuable trout and salmon habitat in the nation. In most western states, public lands comprise more than 70 percent of the available habitat for native trout, representing the vast majority of remaining strongholds for coldwater species. PLREDA offers a way to advance development of renewable energy on public lands in a responsible and innovative fashion, while also ensuring funds flow back into Trout Unlimited’s critical on-the-ground conservation work that benefits anglers and downstream communities.

Click here to see the TU PLREDA Factsheet and learn more about the bill.

How you can help

TAKE ACTION HERE! We need your help to build even more support for PLREDA. Urge your member of Congress to sign on as co-sponsor of the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act.

Click here to read the full article on tu.org.

Everything went wrong – except the day

I don’t believe in letting some weather forecaster run your life. So when Tom Osterday said he could take me out in his little boat and prove to me that the Blue Ridge Reservoir fishery had risen from the dead and dry, I said sure.

Granted, the weather forecast called for 40-mile-an-hour gusts by sometime in the mid-afternoon. But we planned to meet at 8 a.m., get on the lake, catch a couple of the 10,000 freshly stocked trout and make it to some cozy spot for lunch.

A perfect plan. What could go wrong?

I figured I’d be safe and sound in the hands of Osterday, who spent 35 years helping IBM run the world. He jetted all over everywhere, one of the big-brained guys who has all the angles figured. Come time to retire, he found his little slice of heaven on the C.C. Cragin Reservoir — which holds Payson’s water future in the steep, winding contours of a 200-foot-deep, 15,000-acre-foot lake.

“Historically, that lake is famous for big fish in the spring and good fishing in the fall,” said Scott Rogers, Game and Fish Region II aquatic wildlife program manager.

The deep, narrow lake retains enough water to carry the fish through the winter, leading to big fish in the spring. Moreover, the lake usually has lots of food for the freshly stocked trout — leading to some big fish come fall. The steep shoreline makes it tough to fish the lake without a boat, which reduces angler pressure.

Fishing slows down in June and July when the water warms up, algae blooms near the surface and the trout go deep, said Rogers.

Still, that’s perfect for folks like Osterday, with his own little aluminum boat.

Better yet, Game and Fish hooked a grant to completely transform the steep, narrow, little dirt metaphor for a boat ramp. The Coconino National Forest blasted away a rock wall and paved a wide ramp down into the lake, with lots of extra parking.

All well and good.

However, the lake’s had some problems.

For starters, two years ago Game and Fish found itself with a fish shortage in its hatcheries. So fishery managers skipped stocking the lightly used Blue Ridge for a season.

Then it got worse: Enter the drought.

Every year, the Salt River Project pumps most of the water out of Blue Ridge — officially known as C.C. Cragin. The water flows down a pipeline jointly owned by SRP and Payson, then gushes into the East Verde River at Washington Park. Payson’s 3,000-acre share of the water will instead go into a pipeline running along Houston Mesa Road, starting this week or next.

Last year, the 64,000-acre watershed got almost no snow. They never turned on the pumps. Heck, you couldn’t even use the fancy new boat ramp. So Game and Fish never stocked the lake.

So after two years without stocking and one year of going almost dry, you couldn’t catch trout in Blue Ridge with dynamite. This caused Osterday all kinds of anguish. But he quietly lobbied Game and Fish to jump-start the fishery now that a bountiful winter has filled the lake to the brim.

So Game and Fish has now plunked 10,000 rainbows into the reservoir.

Now, the fish have some challenges. They have to share food with an infestation of illegally stocked green sunfish.

“They’re like cockroaches,” said Rogers. “They just fill space and consume resources – not good for a trout fishery. Trying to mechanically remove all of those little buggers is an arms war you’re never going to win.”

Still, the 10,000 stocked trout should have a good old time, with the lake up, plenty of submerged vegetation and a bloom of both insect larvae and daphnia — little shrimp-like crustaceans better known as water fleas.

They might even bump into the occasional surviving native Sonoran sucker.

“We’d love to also put some native fish in there — maybe Gila trout,” said Rogers. But right now, Game and Fish is still learning to grow the finicky native trout in large quantities.

So once Tom found out Game and Fish was going to stock the reservoir in May, he started emailing me — promising a string of fish or at least a soothing day on the water. We met on schedule, bumped down the five-mile dirt road to the fancy new boat ramp and launched without incident.

And so began the adventure.

Don’t get me wrong: The fishing was great. They were hitting our lures like crazy, mostly in the vicinity of the boat ramp. Turns out, stocked trout don’t generally move too far from where they first plop into the water – although this tendency is better documented in streams than in lakes. We quickly pulled in six trout — although two of mine managed to spit out the hook once they got a good look at the boat.

But I have a certain genius for not knowing when to stop — just ask my wife about my puns. So I suggested we putter on up to the dam. Last time I saw it, the lake was half empty. Tom agreed enthusiastically, eager to get his beloved reservoir as much good press as possible.

So he turned off the electric trolling motor and yanked the pull rope of the 10 hp Mercury outboard. Nothing. Not even a good gagging/coughing sound, which is what I can normally coax out of an outboard. Remind me to tell you sometime about my years as a boat owner with young boys and a skeptical wife. Many of those trips ended with me breast-stroking back to shore with the bow rope clenched between my teeth.

“No worries,” said Osterday, sunnily. “The trolling motor will get us there.”

So off we went, puttering along, alarming the canvasback ducks and great blue herons — while attracting the professional attention of the circling turkey vultures. We covered all manner of topics as the clouds scudded across the sky and the wind began to gust. We agreed IBM should have seen Microsoft coming. But big organizations have a hard time recognizing when everything has changed — kind of like people in a little boat when the wind starts gusting.

When a second effort to start the outboard proved unsuccessful, I seized the oars, cast back to an affectionate recollection of my days as a Boy Scout camp counselor on Lake Emerson, dolling out the rowing merit badge.

We reached the dam without incident, marveling at the pileup of logs against the curving surface.

“Got what you need?”asked Osterday, a note of anxiety creeping into his voice.

“Absolutely,” I said.

So we turned about. On the way to the dam, I’d been rowing into the wind. But now the wind shifted. So we were still rowing into the wind, which made the skiff skitter like a waterbug going sideways.

That’s about when the trolling motor ran out of juice.

So we labored back toward the safety of the boat ramp, bullied by the wind — the oarlock squeaking like a teenager in a horror movie with every pull.

Osterday insisted on taking over at the oars just as my blisters got started.

“Should we put in to shore and wait for the wind to die down?” I asked.

“Nope. Supposed to get worse.”

“Ah well. Still a beautiful day,” I said.

“It is that,” said Tom.

“At least everything that can break has broken,” I joked.

At my age, you’d think I’d know better than to say dumb stuff like that.

So after about five more minutes of manly rowing, the bracket for the oarlock snapped off. So we each grabbed an oar and pretended it was a canoe paddle.

In this fashion, we made it back to the boat ramp, zigzagging across the lake with the wind, laughing out loud.

Safe back on the ramp, Osterday kept apologizing.

But that made no sense at all: I had a stringer of fish, a card full of photos, the breezy memory of a day on the lake and hadn’t drowned. Sounds like the perfect day to me.

by Peter Aleshire
Consulting Publications Editor
Payson Roundup

May 24, 2019

Contact the writer at paleshire@payson.com

Click here to read original article in the Payson Roundup

Update: Gila Trout Eggs thriving in Grapevine Creek

On April 17 Arizona Game and Fish Department, with help from Arizona Trout Unlimited, tried a new stocking technique and planted Gila Trout eggs in Grapevine and Frye Creeks near Prescott. As of the end of May, of the approximately 19,000 Gila Trout eggs planted in Grapevine Creek the representatives returned to determine the survival rate. They found hundreds of 20-30 mm Gila Trout in each of the pools that were stocked with eggs and even in a few pools where eggs were not stocked. The success rate will continue to be monitored through the summer and the following years.

Arizona Game and Fish Department Successfully Plants Gila Trout Eggs Into Frye Creek!

In April, Arizona Game and Fish Department tried a new approach to stocking—they successfully planted Gila trout eggs into Frye Creek! After two days of egg stocking, participants became seasoned professionals at this procedure. Everything went smoothly and about 24,000 eggs in ten separate redds were planted. They also moved substrate and build up redds in each of the pools, however the substrate available was really great! We ask that everyone keep hopes high that these eggs will hatch and establish!

Praising Arizona

Homeward bound out of Phoenix, I couldn’t believe how much water was on the landscape. More exactly, how much water was in the landscape, for as we all know, water in its physical, palpable form is a rare sight among the rocks and draws of the Sonoran hardscrabble. The water I saw was in the form of plants, saguaros, mesquite and yellow flowers. Hillsides of prickly pear in bright light green. Happy green, the kind that tells you that a plant has downed some drinks.

Though not drunk myself, I was definitely hung over from the surplus of inspiration I’d consumed at the Arizona Native and Wild Trout Conference, an annual event in Phoenix that my wife refers to as “Geek Fest.” Yes, I do love this conference. It enables me to see Arizona at it’s green and cool best. I enjoy catching up with the friends I’ve made at the conference over the years, fellow geeks from Arizona TU’s over-achieving council and chapters. The final evening’s barbeque feed is always a special treat.

My favorite part, of course, is the conference itself. We heard about the exhaustive lengths to which an Arizona Game and Fish hatchery professional went in growing recreational Gila trout from eggs, his emotional ups and downs as he faced egg and fish mortality with limited resources and a dedicated staff. I remember wondering if I, when of such a young age, would have been so stalwart against such looming odds, or if my penchant to throw the towel would have kicked in.

From Jim Brooks, the preeminent Southwest native fish biologist, we learned about the enormous power of citizen science and the potential value of using rapid habitat assessments to prioritize restoration projects. Brooks reminded us that citizen science is cheap, can yield data of the highest quality, and most important, is absolutely necessary in our race against the ruthless clock of climate change.

We were also treated to Chris Wood’s riveting and urgent key note address on why restoring Southwest native trout matters. The question had been bugging me for some time and thanks to Chris, was still with me as I climbed out of the desert and into the pinon and juniper outskirts of Payson.

I was listening to sports radio. The show hosts were holding a contest in which the winning caller would qualify for a trip to this year’s NFL draft. I thought, “Now why would someone want to do that?”

“Simple,” I answered myself, “because it matters.”

Maybe not in the life and liberty sense, but definitely in the pursuit of happiness, and given that approximately 100 percent of the human population engages in some form of this pursuit now and then, it’s reasonable to assume that what matters, be it of emotional or rational origin, may be real. Think about it. As a noun, the word “matter” is defined as “a physical substance.” As a verb, it means “to be of significance.”

I continued through Payson towards Tonto Creek (one does not drive through unfamiliar territory without at least attempting to fish it), suspicious that I was onto something.

I parked at the hatchery and walked downstream. It felt good to stretch my legs after two long days of sitting, to be outdoors and to smell things. The water was a frigid 45 degrees, no surprise that I only caught two stockers. Filling the spaces between firs, sycamores and towering beech trees were Manzanita shrubs and Gambel’s oak, and it occurred to me that I’d never seen all of these species together in one place. I also noticed, again, the beautiful violence common to Mogollon Rim watersheds, the felled Ponderosa logs across piles of pushed rubble, the historical rotation of wildfire and flood. Caught in a sudden squall of corn snow, I wet-waded my butt out of there and hit the road for home.

The blizzard lasted for another hour as I drove slowly along the Rim while searching my mind for the meaning of Arizona. The Mogollon Rim, a 200 mile long escarpment at the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, is home to the world’s most expansive Ponderosa ecosystem. South and east of the Mogollon, the White Mountains rise. Arizona’s land features have made its streams, which in turn have shaped the land.

And for all they have made together, Arizona’s land and streams did not make brook trout or rainbows, and they most definitely did not make browns. Not to say these fish don’t have their place. Like humans who’ve migrated from elsewhere, they most certainly do. True as that may be, it is also true that Arizona is most elementally defined by its rocks and weird plants, its horned lizards, rattlesnakes, and tarantulas. By its Apache trout and Gilas. In their own original way, these are the things that matter in this place.

It is the place that made them, the Arizona, we must acknowledge, that they have made.

Toner Mitchell is New Mexico the water and habitat coordinator for Trout Unlimited. He lives and works in Santa Fe.

Link to original article on TU.org.