Eight Sportswomen Who Have Shaped Conservation

Highlighting standout female leaders who advanced the American conservation movements

Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, and John Muir are readily recited by many as the forefathers of the American conservation movement. And though their immense influence is something to be proud of, we’d like to recognize the often-overlooked women whose dedication has helped to shape the modern conservation landscape. Here are eight standouts.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

Long before water quality in the Everglades was the subject of national news, a young society columnist by the name of Marjory Stoneman Douglas spearheaded a grassroots effort to protect Florida’s sawgrass swamps from being drained and developed. Her extensive research, and the publication of her book “The Everglades: The River of Grass”, changed public perception of this important habitat and led to the creation of Everglades National Park in 1947.

Margaret Murie

Dubbed the “Grandmother of the Conservation Movement,” Margaret “Mardy” Murie’s activism led to the passage of the Wilderness Act. A trailblazer and writer, Murie grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, and later went on to become the first female graduate of the University of Alaska. Together with her husband, she made several trips into the Artic—the result of which was her book, “Two in the Far North”, a compelling personal account of her lifelong love of Alaska and a testimonial for the preservation of its wilderness.

Although life would eventually lead her away from the state, she never lost her love of its wild places. She organized the coalition that persuaded President Dwight D. Eisenhower to set aside 8 million acres of wilderness as the Arctic National Wildlife Range, which was later expanded and dubbed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Rachel Carson

Carson began her career as an aquatic biologist writing radio scripts for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and eventually rose to become editor-in-chief of all publications for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 1962, she published her seminal work “Silent Spring”, which brought widespread attention to the effects of dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, an insecticide more commonly known as DDT, on bird populations. The public outcry that followed led to stricter regulations on chemical use in the environment, and Carson has since been credited with helping to launch the environmental movement.

Sylvia Earle

Dr. Sylvia Earle is an oceanographer, aquanaut, author, and the first female to serve as chief scientist of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency responsible for fisheries management and coastal restoration, among other things. After developing a love for scuba diving in college, Earle went on to specialize in botany, believing that an understanding of marine plant life would be integral to ecosystem preservation.

As founder of Mission Blue, a global coalition to improve ocean protection measures and restore the world’s marine ecosystems, Earle utilizes the power of modern media to inform the public and decision-makers about the effects of overfishing, pollution, and climate change while advocating for habitat protection and restoration.

Anne LaBastille

Anne LaBastille was a woman who could have out-Thoreau-ed Thoreau himself. She built her influence through a successful writing career while living in a small cabin in a remote part of the Adirondack wilderness.

Her four-volume autobiographical series “Woodswoman”, published in 1976, has inspired decades of women to get outdoors and enjoy self-sufficient pursuits like hunting and fishing. And her 1980 book “Women and the Wilderness” addressed the historically male-dominated culture of conservation and put a spotlight on female naturalists.

A licensed wilderness guide, this Cornell graduate was also a consummate defender of the Adirondacks and served as commissioner of the Adirondack Park Agency from 1975 to 1993.

Mollie H. Beattie

Appointed as the first female director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1993 by President Clinton, Beattie fiercely opposed the dismantling and defunding of the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act in Congress. She was a forester by training and put great emphasis on managing habitat and the economy by stressing the responsibility of private landowners to effectively steward forest lands.

Unfortunately, her tenure with the Service was cut short by a fatal brain tumor, but not before she oversaw the establishment of 15 national wildlife refuges, the signing of more than 100 habitat conservation plans with private landowners, and the reintroduction of the gray wolf into the northern Rocky Mountains.

Lisa P. Jackson

Jackson started her career at the Environmental Protection Agency as a staff-level scientist before working her way up to the position of Administrator over the course of her career. The fourth woman and first Black American to hold the position, Jackson has spearheaded environmental programs to protect clean water, reduce harmful emissions, and protect at-risk communities.

Jackson eventually left the EPA to join Apple Inc. and now serves as the tech company’s vice president of Environmental Policy and Social Initiatives. She oversees efforts to minimize environmental impacts of business and address climate change through renewable energy and green materials.

Rue Mapp

After growing up in an outdoor-loving family, an adult Mapp was surprised to find that she was the only African American woman in her hiking groups and bike trips. Determined to get more members of her community involved in the outdoors, Mapp founded Outdoor Afro, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting Black Americans with outdoor spaces. Mapp’s goal is to shift the visual representation of what getting out into nature in America looks like and provide outdoor leadership training for people of color.

Her work has successfully connected underrepresented communities to nature and the benefits of spending more time outdoors. She currently serves on the boards of the Outdoor Industry Association the Wilderness Society, helping to shape conservation initiatives. She has also been named a National Geographic fellow.

Click HERE for the full post by Cory Deal on the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership website.

A traveling ICU nurse finds peace on a fishing line in Arizona’s high country

Lori Patterson stood at the edge of Akre Lake in a tucked-away corner of pine forest in eastern Arizona and watched the fish dance.

As the sun set, fish jumped out of the water, casting a painterly blur on the blooming aspen trees’ reflection in the lake, high in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.

Patterson felt a tug on her fishing line and a burst of excitement. With her husband’s coaching, she reeled in a wriggling Arctic grayling and, with it, what felt like a life-changing love for fishing.

Patterson, a traveling ICU nurse from Tennessee, is on assignment in Arizona to assist with the COVID-19 crisis. In the time she’s been here, fishing has become a welcome respite from the stress of her work as a nurse at the front lines of a pandemic.

“It was this really amazing feeling like you’re a part of nature,” Patterson said in a phone interview. “It’s like catching a wild beast, having a moment with it, then knowing it’s going to return to its home and not be harmed.”

Patterson had caught plenty of rainbow trout over the years in her home state of Tennessee, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that the joy of angling became an essential outlet rather than an occasional outing with her husband.

The only refuge in a closed world

Patterson has worked in ICUs across the country for more than 30 years, spending the last two winters in Arizona with Banner Desert Medical Center. She’s no stranger to high-stress situations and has long known the necessity of healthy ways to lower stress.

Usually, on her days off, she’ll get a massage or have her nails done, maybe do some shopping and go out to dinner with her husband, Jeff. But with businesses closed, that was no longer an option.

“The pandemic has changed everybody’s lives, not just nurses,” Patterson said. “I’m still going to work every day. I still have to take care of patients every day. And I’ve taken care of infectious patients for 31 years. But it’s not something that you typically have to deal with to this volume and this frequency.”

“My wife is the person that runs towards the fire not away from it,” Jeff added.

The outdoors have long provided welcome respite for the two, a way to find some peace and quiet in a fast-paced world. Now it has become their only respite.

“It’s good for your mental health, for your physical health,” Patterson said. “I’ve always felt like fresh air was better than air-conditioned air inside.”

'A huge stress relief for me'

ICU nurse Lori Patterson holds a cutthroat trout she caught at Big Lake in the White Mountains. (Photo: Lori Patterson)

With the pandemic in full swing, they made it their mission for Patterson to complete the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Trout Fishing Challenge. Anglers must catch and release all four species of the state’s wild trout, or at least six of the eight total species in Arizona: Gila, Apache, brown, brook, rainbow, grayling, cutthroat, and tiger trout.

In the past month, she and Jeff have traveled all over “the great state of Arizona,” as they often refer to their new home-away-from-home. She caught a golden Gila trout on the East Verde River, a cutthroat at Big Lake in the White Mountains, a speckled Apache trout and silver grayling at Aker lake, and a brook trout at Perkins Tank in the Kaibab National Forest.

In just 26 days, she finished the challenge, quite a feat for a beginner angler. She was often surprised at the beauty of the fish when she saw them up close. A vegetarian and animal lover, she found the challenge and its requirement to release the trout a perfect way to intimately experience nature without causing harm.

Next month, the Pattersons will relocate to New York, where Lori will care for COVID-infected patients. But Arizona will stay with her, she said.

“There’s just such amazing diversity in this state, not just the fish, but Coues deer and Gould’s turkeys and elk and mountain lions,” Patterson said. “It has been a huge stress relief for me to be able to unplug and get out in nature and enjoy the great outdoors.”

“Did Arizona need Lori more or did Lori need Arizona more?” Jeff asked. “I think it’s probably the latter in this case. It was the place where Lori could do what she could do to help, and the great state of Arizona gave her a way to get the job done.

Click HERE for the full article by Erin Stone on azcentral.com

Erin Stone covers the environment for The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com.

Gila trout recovery on Mt. Graham

Gila trout are one of the rarest trout species in the United States, making them a focus of Trout Unlimited’s restoration work on native, southwestern trout. They are only found in Arizona and New Mexico earning them a spot on the federal Endangered Species List in 1967.

But they were re-classified as threatened in 2006 thanks to successful conservation work. Today, Gila trout conservation is guided by the Gila Trout Recovery Plan and the Gila Trout Recovery Team led by professionals from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the University of New Mexico, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD).

Gila trout fry earning a successful recovery

Recovery efforts started in earnest after a wildfire ripped through Mt. Graham near Safford, Ariz., in 2017, scorching 50,000 acres and the well-established Gila trout fishery on Ash and Frye creeks. Recovery teams salvaged what remained of the Gila trout populations just before monsoon season hit and toxic ash flowed down both creeks. Since then, agencies and organizations partnered to create a plan to reintroduce the Gila trout back to its native streams.

By early April 2019, Frye Creek recovered enough to receive its first supplemental stocking of 20,000 fertilized Gila trout eggs. The process required building a redd on the outside of a plunge pool and injecting the eggs a few inches below the gravel’s surface. Just days later the trout hatched, securing refuge in the slower current of the pool. This is a new technique for Gila trout, originating in New Mexico and exhibiting an 8- to 10-percent success rate from egg to fry. Grapevine Creek in Arizona also successfully received this same treatment, displaying similar results.

Injecting fertilized eggs on a redd

Gila trout eggs on a redd

Another effort to reach the Gila Trout Recovery Plan conservation goal happened in November 2019. Trout Unlimited, AZGFD and USFWS crews backpacked 250 Gila trout fry into the headwaters of Frye Creek, roughly 3 miles above the Frye Mesa Reservoir. This helped expand their range and helped ensure the cold waters in the headwaters could help them endure threats from climate change.

Volunteers make good mules for trout fry

Most recently in March 2020, Frye Creek received another 16,000 fertilized Gila trout eggs from AZGFD and TU staff, of which I had a pleasure to be a part. Our hike up Frye Creek was energizing, with spring run-off in full swing and new growth on every tree and bush.

It showcased the resiliency of mountain streams and their riparian areas displaying only a few charred juniper trees, emphasizing the stark reminder that a fire decimated this watershed only three years prior. This watershed is home to a diverse ecosystem that supports elk, Couse deer, Goulds turkey, javelina and my favorite, black bear. We observed 3- to 5-inch Gila trout in multiple pools during this stocking, representing diverse age classes from our previous egg and fry stocking. By spring of 2022, we should have a wild, reproducing population of Gila trout in Frye Creek, with the hope of returning it to the great sport fishery it once was.

Black bear scratches on this aspen mean lots of wildlife in this region of Arizona.

Fishing for Gila trout:

If you’re looking to catch one of these native treasures in Arizona, try Upper Gold Water Lake, Lynx Lake, Frye Mesa Reservoir or the West Fork of Oak Creek. When stocked in lakes, these fish can grow up to 18 inches. Although they’re not wild reproducing populations, these fisheries still offer the chance to catch this beautiful native fish, bringing you one step closer to completing your Arizona Trout Challenge!

Learn about more about one of the southwest’s native trout.

Click HERE to read the full article on TU.org.

Time to get away

It was time. Actually, it was well past time. I had to get out of the house. I work from home and have for years, so these stay-at-home orders weren’t a big change for me. But because I’m immunocompromised thanks to ongoing cancer treatments, I haven’t been in town, seen friends nor been anywhere but doctors’ offices for well over a month. Don’t get me wrong, I know many out there are worse off, but it was time for me to get away.

I did what I always do when I need a release. I studied maps to find a spot close by with water. I knew we shouldn’t drive far, so a spot along the Dolores River is where we headed. I floated this section about 12 years ago when the Bureau of Reclamation let enough water out of the dam to be exciting, but I didn’t remember much other than it was beautiful and the water was cold.

We dipped down from the canyon rim leaving behind fields upon fields of beans. Red rock faces and massive ponderosa pines greeted us and there it was, the low but clear Dolores. We jaunted down the road to a pull-off tucked behind a boulder the size of a small house with some nearly leafing out gambel oak, and of course, right next to the river. The sun was shining and warm for the first time in a few weeks, so I plopped my tired body into a chair on the bank of the river and just sat.

There’s nearly nothing I enjoy more than sitting on the edge of a river. Whether it’s in waders with a rod in my hand or lying in the van with the doors open, the sounds of a river sooths my soul. The gentle rapids tumbling over rocks make pockets of noise while rushing to a calm pool just downstream. I watch for action in the water and for bugs flitting through the air. I listen for slurps and close my eyes to envision the activity.

OK. That’s it. I can’t take it anymore. I pull on my waders, gather my gear and head a bit downstream to a deep hole. It’s a streamer kind of day since I haven’t seen any top water action. I wade across the cool water and start to chuck the meat. I keep at it for a while with bikers, hikers and recreational vehicles occasionally passing by. They all ask how it is, and I say, it’s fishing. One nice gentleman offered up a few of his streamers, but I was set.

Beauty around every corner. Photo by Kara Armano.

As per usual, my husband outfished me. I guess that’s what I get for teaching him how to fish all those years ago. His line came tight and with a bit of a fight, he reeled in a nice fish. It took us a minute to figure out what was happening when other fish darted towards the fish on the line. Once he got it to the surface, we realized it was no trout. It was a decent sized smallmouth bass, which explains the fight.

Though the water was cold with spring runoff that day, I knew the reason behind the surprising catch. Being below McPhee Reservoir, this section of river often runs very low making the water temperatures too high for trout, at least this far below the dam. The deep pools are enough to sustain the smallmouth population throughout the year, so next time, I’ll remember where those pools are and to bring my streamer box.

Thank God for a weekend away!

For the full article by Kara Armano on TU.org, click HERE.

Kara Armano is TU’s southwest region communications director. She lives and works in Durango.

TU lead scientist recognized by American Fisheries Society

Helen Neville is a juggernaut in native trout conservation, science and life.
Dr. Helen Neville, Trout Unlimited’s senior scientist, was recognized this week by the Western Division of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) with the Award of Merit. The award is given to AFS members who have made positive and regionally significant contributions to the Western Division, to the profession, and to fisheries resources.

“It is hard for me to envision success in restoring native trout without involving Helen Neville’s years of contributions — scientific; on-the-ground, and personal. Helen’s energy, drive and vision have led the way on countless efforts to put native trout on the road to recovery across the country,” said Jason Dunham, supervisory aquatic ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “Her success is the result of years of pure grit. There is no way to add it all up and do proper justice to Helen’s commitment to native trout. I am absolutely delighted to see her efforts recognized with the Award of Merit. It’s a well-deserved and high honor to one of our best.”

Trout Unlimited Senior Scientist Helen Neville, left, and Doug Peterson with the Fish and Wildlife Service, right, install a stationary PIT antenna on culvert to track fish movement. Trout Unlimited photo.

The American Fisheries Society consists of more than 8,000 members from around the globe and is the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the fisheries profession, advancing fisheries science, and conserving fisheries resources. The award will be announced June 10 at Western Division AFS meeting.

As an AFS member engaged in her profession, Helen recently served as President of the Idaho Chapter of AFS, she has been active in AFS’s Genetics Section, and served in various other capacities across different state and national sectors of AFS. Being engaged in AFS is how one keeps up with the fisheries profession and having exceptional people active in professional societies is how science-based professions like AFS move forward and remain relevant.

Helen is also a leader in conservation science for native trout. Helen completed her Ph.D. at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2003 where she studied how river network connectivity influences Lahontan cutthroat trout populations using genetic tools.

Trout Unlimited Senior Scientist Helen Neville during a tour of a Lahontan cutthroat trout project with John Elliott (Eastern Regional Fisheries Director with Nevada Department of Wildlife), Jason Barnes (Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Coordinator for TU) and Mike Starr (Fisheries Biologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife). Trout Unlimited photo.

“I will never forget the day Helen came to my office to ask me if I would take her on as a student. Saying yes was one of the best things I have ever done. Helen simply rocked it then and has continued to do so throughout her career,” said Mary M. Peacock, a professor with Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology Graduate Program at the University of Nevada, Reno. “She never looked back and has become one of the most important trout conservation biologists- out there working hard in the trenches. This award is richly deserved and I applaud the Western Division for awarding it to Dr. Helen Neville, trout chick extraordinaire.”

After a post-doc with U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station in Boise, Idaho, Helen joined TU in 2006. Since then she has led science that has expanded our knowledge of how stream connectivity and restoration, nonnative trout stocking, wildfire, and climate change impact native trout in the western United States. She has also applied novel genetic tools to understand how native trout have evolved to be adapted to their environment. As a testament to her scientific acumen, Helen has published numerous papers on novel native trout research in leading scientific journals or books.

“Helen is an immense talent who has mastered applying often abstruse topics into common sense proposals that help make our rivers and streams healthier,” said Chris Wood, president and chief executive officer of Trout Unlimited. “We are so proud of her work and feel honored to have her as part of the TU family. Well done Helen.”

As a seminal achievement in her scientific career, Helen brought in more than $1 million in funding – including a large NASA grant – to develop cutting-edge models to understand the viability of Lahontan cutthroat trout populations and develop decision support tools to inform recovery actions for this ESA-listed fish across Nevada, California, and Oregon.

Trout Unlimited Senior Scientist Helen Neville spends most of her time in the office working on reports and scientific papers, but thoroughly enjoys her time in the field. Trout Unlimited photo.

Helen has also been a leader in conservation. She has led a large-scale conservation program for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation focused on Lahontan cutthroat trout. This multi-million dollar program has bolstered Lahontan cutthroat trout conservation by enhancing science capacity and on-the-ground conservation efforts over the last 10 years.

“Helen’s energy and passion for advancing science and then integrating our improved knowledge into conservation practice is infectious,” said Jack Williams, Emeritus Senior Scientist for Trout Unlimited. “She does great work and does it with enthusiasm. I could not be more proud of her accomplishments.”

Since joining TU in 2006, Helen has become a recognized leader in the national science community, and ascended to lead Trout Unlimited’s Science Program as Senior Scientist, a position she has now held since 2018.

More importantly, Helen is mother of two beautiful daughters, Sadie and Luna, and married to Frank Aldana.

Great people get recognized, as exemplified by this AFS award which recognizes Helen’s professional achievements.

Click HERE for for full story by Dan Dauwalter at tu.org.


Dan Dauwalter is the Fisheries Science Director for Trout Unlimited. He is based, along with Helen, in Boise, Idaho, and has been at TU for 11 years.

Want a peaceful, picturesque way to stay active while social distancing? Fly fishing could be the cure.

Fly-fishing in the backcountry for native brook trout is the ultimate in social distancing, a solitary pursuit with a pair of waders and wading boots, a fly-rod and some dry flies.

Off the trail, you are focused on catching trout while aware of natural – and perhaps supernatural – surroundings.

That was the case for me two Fridays ago when I explored the Hughes River in Shenandoah National Park. More stream than river, the Hughes starts as a trickle on Stony Man Mountain, empties into the Hazel, which empties into the Rappahannock, which empties into the Chesapeake Bay.

Usually, I start at the lower park boundary and hike in, but because that trailhead is adjacent to a more popular trail, the parking lot was overflowing with vehicles the weekend of March 22. The trail resembled Monday morning at O’Hare more than it did a peaceful hike. Social distancing protocols were ignored, and park officials were not pleased, closing county roads that lead to those trailheads.

Responsible hiking has become a hot topic as people look for a respite from confinement during various stay-at-home orders. It’s best to stay in your area/region and avoid popular hikes. Find trailheads with parking spaces for six, seven cars to minimize your contact with other hikers. If you know your way around these mountains and trails, you can avoid people.

A hike through Shenandoah brings you to some prime fly-fishing locations. Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY

This is a slight deviation from the Working Out From Home concept so please adhere to government mandates and use common sense.

You can access the Hughes from up top along Skyline Drive, and that’s what I did, hiking down 1.5 miles to the stream. (Now, that same trailhead along Skyline Drive is essentially closed, too. So before you go out in your area, check to make sure you have access.)

I parked at the trailhead, threw my waders, wading boots, flies, water and sandwich into a backpack, grabbed the fly-rod and began the hike, which starts off steep and rocky before a more flat, gradually descending trail takes you to the Hughes.

A view of Corbin cabin located in Shenandoah National Park. Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY

Families lived in the various sections of what is now the national park. Along this trail lived the Nicholson and Corbin families. George Corbin built a cabin streamside in 1909, and it still stands today.

Corbin carved out a life off the land, which included farming and moonshine (apple and peach brandy and whiskey), before he was removed from the land. That’s another story.

It’s said the area is haunted by Corbin’s second wife, who died in the cabin while giving childbirth. In an interview, George said he walked four miles into town to get milk for the newborn after she died then dug her grave.

I’ve never noticed anything unusual along this stream near the cabin, which is where I ate lunch. But in the mountains, not everything is what it seems. The shaded boulder 50 yards ahead looks like a hunched black bear, and the stick on the ground in the leaves looks like a rattlesnake at first glance.

I tied on a purple Adams parachute fly and began fishing. The trout are small but feisty – they survived the ice age – and vibrant with their blue, red and orange spots. What they lack in size, they make up for in beauty, one of the most colorful of freshwater fish.

The reward for a hike down and back up is the opportunity to catch native trout in clear streams. I don’t know how many trout I caught; keeping score has never been my ideal day on the water.

Following lunch, I fished some more, caught some more and hiked back – about a 900-foot gain in elevation. My legs were tired and sore, my heart was pumping and my mind at ease by the time I reached my car.

The late poet and author Jim Harrison implored everyone to walk in the woods, “to draw away your poisons to the point that your curiosity takes over and ‘you,’ the accumulation of wounds and concomitant despair, no longer exist.”

Can’t wait to return.

Jeff Zillgitt | USA TODAY

Click HERE to read the full story on the USA Today website.

Roanoke’s Orvis production center turns from embroidery to mask making

In a facility designed to make personalized products, Roanoke’s Orvis employees are now making personal face masks.

Mike Rigney, the vice president of operations for Orvis in Roanoke, said the effects of the pandemic have forced Orvis to close stores across the country. In Roanoke, it’s also required furloughs and the layoffs of 30 to 40 percent of its workforce, Rigney said.

But with the 100 or so employees still working in their operations center, Rigney said they are keeping busy contributing to the community.

For the last two weeks, staff who normally hem pants and do embroidery work for personalized items are making face masks. They’re using the sewing machines to make medical-style masks as well as cloth masks. So far, Rigney said they’ve donated around 900 of them to the Roanoke Rescue Mission.

Their own employees are using masks, too, while maintaining a distance between each other in the 300,000-square-foot center, Rigney said. But they are also working on a partnership to distribute masks to the staff with Feeding America Southwest Virginia.

Rigney said the staff making the masks has been excited about the opportunity.

“It was very energizing for the associates that are working here. It is very consistent with our values; we have an ongoing relationship with the Rescue Mission so seeing us take it to another level with another opportunity,” he said. “I think the group felt pretty motivated, pretty excited about it.”

Rigney said so far, they’re making 300 to 400 masks a day. Eventually, he said, they’d like to create around 600 per day.

By Leanna Scachetti | Copyright 2020 WDBJ7

Click HERE for full story and video at WDBJ7 website.

To fish or not to fish during the outbreak

Admittedly, things are moving fast and my own opinions have evolved quite a bit in the past several days especially. But one thing that really sticks out and absolutely warms my heart is the sheer class and integrity of the many people in fly fishing with whom I have talked this issue through. We are definitely a community, and we are in it for the long haul. There will be another side of all this, and fly fishing will be just as cool, captivating and interesting on that other side as it was before … maybe even more appreciated. Keep the faith.

That said, I cannot count how many times in recent days I have been asked: “Should we be fishing ourselves, and should we be encouraging others to fish?”

I’m not brave enough to answer those questions myself. So the first thing I did was reach out through my co-editor of Angling Trade, Tim Romano, to ask an ER physician—and avid angler—Dr. Cliff Watts. Dr Watts started working in the emergency department in 1974. After completing an Emergency Medicine Residency in Charlotte, N.C., he moved to Boulder, Colo., in 1978. After many years in the Boulder Community Hospital Emergency Department, and a few years as Associate Faculty for the Denver General Emergency Medicine Residency program, and 10 years as physician advisor for over 16 volunteer EMS agencies, he ended his active career at Boulder Medical Center Urgent Care in late 2013.

Having caught his first fish at age 5, he has fished around the world from the Arctic to Patagonia, from the Kola Peninsula to Tibet. He still spends much of time helping people in need of medical information, travel questions, fishing information concerning gear and destinations, taking kids fishing, as well as having a spey rod in his hands while standing in flowing water.

We hit him with five straightforward questions, so here they are, with his responses.

1. Is it okay to fish in a “lockdown” or “shelter in place” state? If I am completely alone, get in my vehicle, get out and fish, never encounter another human within six feet or more, and have a healthy (at least mentally) escape, is that cool?

Yes, I believe that is very safe. If you are alone, the gas pump or the convenience store that you might visit on the trip is probably the most potent risk of exposure or transmission. Not the water. Not the fish. But I am unsure about ( different states’) regulations.

2. What is the max distance one should travel to fish? Are we talking about “walk to fish?” or is it okay to drive an hour to the river if part of the isolation appeal is to keep people off the roads entirely?

I do not think driving will increase your risk or that of others as long as you follow CDC guidelines. See: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html Now, if you feel sick or later get sick, going too far might lead to a difficult return home.

3. How about a boat? Like a drift boat… is there any way you see a fishing boat being a safe “socially distanced” scenario?

Most drift boats mandate the rower and the fisherperson to be less than six feet apart. The person downwind of a sneeze, or a spit, would be vulnerable to “droplets” and hence there could be a significant potential to spread any virus.

4. Assuming I can go fish, and I buy a dozen flies and a spool of tippet from my favorite fly shop (online, sent to me through the mail, or they leave it out the door), do I have to disinfect those flies and tippet somehow, and if so what is the best way to do that?

According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can live in the air and on surfaces between several hours and several days. The study found that the virus is viable for up to 72 hours on plastics, 48 hours on stainless steel, 24 hours on cardboard, and 4 hours on copper. But the actual viral load decreases rapidly on most of these surfaces. Cleaning surfaces with disinfectant or soap is very effective because once the oily surface coat of the virus is disabled, the virus should not be able to infect a host cell. The facts and science change daily. I do believe soaking anything in 91-percent isopropyl alcohol or 80-percent ethanol (real moonshine) for one minute would kill any virus on a fly or tippet materials, but this might affect those materials. Letting any of these fishing materials just sit for 72 hours, should certainly make them virus free. I would not hold fresh flies or tippets with your lips until you do so.

5. Is the virus transmitted through water?

According to the CDC, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of pools and hot tubs. The virus has been detected in patient’s feces, but I doubt that the virus has significant presence or danger as far as fishing waters in North America. 

Fishing alone is probably OK, but stay close to home so as not to put anyone else at risk if you need help, from, say, a flat tire or a slip-and-fall injury. Photo by Chris Hunt.

Okay… so let’s start there, and build out the discussion. Based on that information, fishing seems like a healthy, safe option and a welcome diversion from all that is going on—especially if you fish as an individual (or with family members with whom you share your space), and especially if you can walk to the water, be that a local pond, or a river, etc. I certainly wouldn’t get in a boat with someone who isn’t an immediate family member, and if we are going to do a float, I would for darn sure run my own shuttle. But that leads us to another important question… driving to fish and how far (see question 2 above)? I’m actually a bit more conservative on this point, and I think that driving distances to fish opens up other points of “contact” you might want to consider. What if you get a flat tire, or heaven forbid, get in an accident driving far to fish? Longshot, sure, but worth even a tiny risk to involve others who would have to bail you out of trouble? I think not. Moreover, every single rural fly shop owner and guide I have spoken with (via email or over the phone) in the past few days is in agreement that they do not want people from urban, heavily affected areas driving up and fishing in and around small communities with little or no healthcare infrastructure—certainly nothing capable of handling something of the COVID-19 magnitude. So you are really not doing anyone in small fish-town America a favor by showing up to cast a line. As someone living in said small fish-town America, even if some guide trips might be good for you and your business, you must also be thinking about the local convenience store, and doctors and nurses, and so on. It’s about a lot more than you and your business.

We are all in this leaky boat together. Please think about fishing, the river and the canyon. We are really going to need your support when this is all behind us. We are keeping all staff on payroll so we will all be here for you when the time is right. Words cannot express how much we are looking forward to shaking your hand and telling you in person how greatly we appreciate seeing you back at Lees Ferry. In the meantime, be safe and healthy.

—Terry Gunn, fishing guide from Lee’s Ferry, Ariz.

Fly shops… manufacturers and commerce…. Well, suffice it to say that the very foundation of my professional life is encouraging people to get out and fish, and more specifically, to send them to fly shops so they can buy stuff manufacturers produce. I’m still all-in on encouraging e-commerce, and innovative ways of getting consumers product and information. But there’s no sugarcoating the fact that we’re all going to take a big economic kick in the shins, from manufacturers where the layoffs have already started, to shuttered fly shops… to magazines and digital media (we’re going to keep cranking because the thirst for distraction-type content has never been greater, but we don’t know how advertisers are going to pay us either). Guides… I absolutely love you like family, and the guide world is where my roots were sunk, going way back over 20 years to a little book called “Castwork.”

One of the guides in that book, Terry Gunn, proved to me today why he still remains a mentor and example for all of us. He sent this to his clients:

A resounding THANKS to you and all our customers! We have seen a lot together over the years — the stock bubble of 1999, the tragedy of 9/11, The Great Recession, government shutdowns … but nothing like this devastating virus and its consequences.

Arizona Gov. Douglas Ducey has ordered a statewide shutdown. Under certain conditions, Lees Ferry Anglers, Cliff Dwellers Lodge and Kayak Horseshoe Bend might remain open, continue operations and go fishing with the lodge open for guests. However, after careful consideration, we have decided the prudent and compassionate action for our staff and guests is to temporarily close all business operations as of 5 p.m. today.

We are cancelling all fishing trips, kayak launches, hotel and lodge operations until April 30, at which time we will reevaluate conditions and either reopen or extend our closure.

We are all in this leaky boat together. Please think about fishing, the river and the canyon. We are really going to need your support when this is all behind us. We are keeping all staff on payroll so we will all be here for you when the time is right. Words cannot express how much we are looking forward to shaking your hand and telling you in person how greatly we appreciate seeing you back at Lees Ferry. In the meantime, be safe and healthy.

That is exactly the right play. And I believe that this market, when it rebounds, which it surely will, will reward those who sacrifice for the greater good now. You can count on the fact that Angling Trade will.

One last point of punctuation. It’s just fishing. Sure, we hold it sacred, special, and it is part of all of us… but it’s a recreational activity. Think about the doctors and nurses and EMTs and others in New York City, and what their professional lives look like right now before you drive 100 miles to a river to get your Ya-Ya’s out, or load up your Instagram feed, or whatever, by pulling on a tiny animal through a graphite stick and a strand of monofilament… and then consider whether or not that’s an insult to people who are literally laying their lives on the line right now. Symbolically, if nothing else, solidarity means staying home.

In sum, Angling Trade’s position relative to that elephant in the room: Fishing is great, done alone, or with household members. We encourage hyper-local fishing, whenever possible. Social distancing is a must, and every angler should adhere to exactly what their state and the CDC advises, without question. We don’t think people should drive far to fish, and we don’t think guides and shops should invite people from affected urban areas to rural areas to fish. We encourage e-commerce, community and the broader exchange of information and ideas. We’re in it for the long haul, and lives matter most now. We’re going to throw our strongest support on the other side of this to those who act most responsibly now.

Be smart and safe, and protect yourselves and your families.

Kirk Deeter is the vice president and editor of TROUT Media. He lives and works near Denver.

Fishing, TU and the pandemic

If your email inbox looks like mine, almost every organization you have ever worked with, joined or “liked” has sent you a note this week about the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.

It’s a sign of how thoroughly this crisis has swept across all of American life. Trout Unlimited is rooted in communities of volunteers, anglers, and partners coming together in the name of conservation. And, given the advice from experts to practice “social distancing,” our work faces serious challenges in the coming weeks.

As of today, Trout Unlimited is cancelling all indoor gatherings of 10 people or more, including annual spring banquets, regular chapter meetings and other events.

Chris Wood’s message to members and volunteer leaders across America.

In addition, Trout Unlimited has cancelled all travel for its staff, called off our regional meetings, and is taking a hard look at whether to hold the annual meeting, scheduled for August in Maine. We have closed our offices around the country and are asking staff to work from home. We are all spending this time catching up on paperwork, writing assignments and overdue reports.

I will be sad to miss big events such as the Orvis Rendezvous in Roanoke, as well as smaller but equally important ones such as the Sal-Font Chapter banquet in West Virginia. It sounds obvious, but the most important priority for all of us is to stay healthy, and protect our friends, families and communities from the spread of this virus.

The sun rises over the Potomac. All photos by Chris Wood.

Last week, I was worrying about my parents’ health when my friend, Mike, texted. “You in tomorrow morning?”

Mike is one of the ringleaders of a small group who fish the Potomac River for striped bass or whatever else is biting before the peak of the better known shad run.

I was at the river before dawn the next morning.

Happily, fishing your local water is both a way to clear the mind and a great form of the social distancing. Mike laid off the oars, set the boat for a drift, and he turned to me.

“Crazy times we’re living in, huh?” Mike asked. Mike, who is certainly in the conversation when it comes the best angler on the Potomac, was wearing gloves and a full-face buff.

We were casting half-ounce jigs slightly downstream and waiting for them to hit bottom before jigging them back. The hope was that a big striper from the Chesapeake Bay would hit the bucktail jig, thinking it to be a herring or shad. 

Mike talked about his concern for the health of his 85-year-old mom, who still goes dancing every week. I fretted over my parents, who are only a few years younger and have an annoying habit of leaving the house practically every day to go shopping.

We cast and looked up to see flying mergansers in the lightening sky; a good sign that herring and shad were moving up-river.

Mike looked cross-stream and cast. When his jig hit the bottom, it stopped. Boom. Fish on.

Mike with a quillback sucker-carp, a Potomac River native.

“This is a good one!” Mike said. He reeled in a Potomac native, a large quillback carpsucker to the boat. Many anglers would be frustrated that it wasn’t a striped bass. Not Mike.

“What a beautiful fish,” he said as I snapped a quick photo, and he released it.

But even on the Potomac, COVID-19 edged its way onto the boat. “What do you think?” I asked Mike.

“It’s a mess,” he said. “But if we avoid crowds, listen to the experts and practice social-distancing, wash our hands, and all that stuff, we’ll be fine.”

COVID-19 has everyone on edge. Please be safe and be careful, but also enjoy the time with family and friends, and the people you love. Know that we will get through this together, and we will continue the good work of protecting and restoring the places we live, love and fish.

Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. He works from TU’s Arlington, Va.-based headquarters, a short walk to the banks of the Potomac River.

Trump Weakens the Nation’s Clean Water Efforts

The presidentʼs decision to roll back protections is deeply misguided.

The Environmental Protection Agency made a startling admission last month when it announced that many of the nation’s streams and wetlands would no longer be protected under the Clean Water Act, perhaps the nation’s most successful antipollution law.

The agency said it could not predict how many miles of streams and acres of wetlands would lose their protection because of “existing data and mapping limitations.”

In other words, the E.P.A. was sharply narrowing the reach of a landmark environmental law without understanding the consequences of its actions.

This is flat wrong on every level. We do know the consequences. And we can say unequivocally that this ill-informed policy will reduce water protections to a level not seen in more than a generation.

We understand the impact not just because the three of us have spent decades working to protect fish and wildlife, and not just because our organizations have an intimate understanding of the significance of the now-jeopardized headwater streams and wetlands that are so critical to healthy wildlife, waterfowl and wild trout.

We know this because we did what the E.P.A. apparently did not do: We dug into the best available mapping resources to find out what will happen.

Last year, Trout Unlimited analyzed detailed United States Geological Survey stream and topographic maps and other resources, and while these maps did not tell us whether a particular stream, lake or wetland will be protected or not under the new policy, they did help us reach larger conclusions.

Trout Unlimited’s research suggests that more than six million miles of streams — half the total in the United States — will now be unprotected by the Clean Water Act, because they flow only after rainfall. More than 42 million acres of wetlands — again, about half the country’s total — will no longer be protected because they are not immediately adjacent to larger waters.

This will make it easier to pollute streams and fill in wetlands that safeguard our water supplies, reduce flood risks and provide for healthy fish and wildlife habitat. And it will make it harder to provide sensible oversight of oil and gas projects, pipeline construction and major housing development. The impacts will be felt nationwide.

In Arizona, for instance, home of the threatened Apache trout, almost all streams are dry except during and after rainstorms. As a result, 83 percent of Arizona streams will lose protection under the E.P.A.’s new policy, according to state officials, along with 99 percent of lakes. Because the state does not have its own regulations, 98 percent of the permits that limit pollution discharges into waterways will simply no longer be in force.

The situation is similar in New Mexico, where the new rule will effectively invalidate permits controlling the levels of mercury and PCBs running off the heavily contaminated grounds of Los Alamos National Laboratory and into the Rio Grande, Santa Fe’s main drinking water supply.

In West Virginia and Virginia, there will no longer be federal protections for some 82 small streams that are to be excavated if the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline is built, based on surveys by Dominion, the pipeline’s developer.

In the Great Plains, the E.P.A. will no longer conserve freshwater marshes known as prairie potholes that fill with water in the spring and provide critical, timely habitat for more than half of North America’s migratory waterfowl. In the flood-prone Houston area, federal permits will not be required to develop coastal and prairie wetlands that absorb excess rainwater and provide habitat for migrating songbirds and waterfowl.

The E.P.A.’s new policy comes with a price tag. It’s not just that it threatens an $887 billion American outdoor recreation economy powered in part by anglers, duck hunters and wildlife watchers.

When the E.P.A. stops protecting these streams and wetlands, states will have to foot the bill for regulatory oversight; many states may decide not to step in at all. When developers fill in wetlands, local communities will be on the hook for cleaning up more frequent flood damage. When headwaters are polluted, cities downstream will pay to treat their drinking water.

You need only consider the name to recognize what’s happening here. What was the Waters of the United States Rule is now the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. This signals a narrow concern only for commerce but not, illogically, for the network of tributaries and wetlands that keep navigable waters healthy.

It also completely misses the point of the Clean Water Act, which is to protect the health of all the nation’s waters.

If we are to reach that goal — if we are to keep our streams and wetlands safe for fish and wildlife, recreation, and drinking — we must not allow this flawed and misguided rule to stand.

By Chris Wood, Collin OʼMara and Dale Hall

Mr. Wood is president and C. E. O of Trout Unlimited, Collin OʼMara is president and C.E.O. of the National Wildlife Federation, and Dale Hall is a former director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under President George W. Bush.

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