Yesterday, as I was wandering the fields with my Labrador retrievers in pursuit of a few late-season ringneck pheasants, I had time to reflect on 2007 and the work being done by sportspersons to advance conservation in Alaska.
Alaska remains a hunting, fishing, and outdoor-fanatic's paradise. Some of you have been there (some many times), and I'm guessing those who haven't been there yet dream of doing so. It's a worthy dream, and one I encourage wholeheartedly. It's why I do the work I do, and why the Sportsman's Alliance for Alaska (SAA) exists. In the past year, thousands of individuals, hunting and fishing groups, and outdoor businesses took action to make sure Alaska's vast wild public lands and the opportunities for hunting and angling on them are not jeopardized. These lands face threats in many forms, but you continue to speak up in their defense, ensuring that ours and future generations of hunters and anglers will be able to enjoy them. For that you should be proud.
Some of my best memories of 2007 took place in Alaska.
I spent five days during June in the Tongass National Forest with representatives from several hunting conservation groups. We learned more about the issues facing the Tongass and came up with ideas on how fish and game resources should play into planning for the future of the nation's largest national forest. One highlight of that trip was a break from an afternoon of fishing to visit with my good friend Jim underneath a grove of ancient trees, discussing the state of the Tongass and our shared vision for its future. Jim and his family, who have operated a hunting guiding business in the Tongass for over four decades, were our very gracious hosts for this fantastic trip. At the end of that work trip, I was pleased to show my wife part of Alaska as she joined me for her first trip up there. We did some fishing, saw whales, bears, eagles, glaciers, and had a great time.
I returned in August for my first trip to the Bristol Bay region. I joined a few work colleagues and friends for a weeklong float trip. As a relatively new fly fisherman, it was the best fishing I've ever had. But I'm guessing someone could have been fly fishing for many years and still find that Bristol Bay tops most anywhere else. That's just how incredible it is, and why we must fight for this place. We caught and released countless rainbow trout and grayling, and lost a fair share too. I'll never forget playing a big 'bow in the last light of the day, wading downstream toward camp where everyone else had already returned. Many thanks to Mark for jumping in the river and helping me land my biggest fish of the trip!
I'm looking forward to returning to Alaska in 2008. It's definitely a place worth getting involved in the efforts to protect some of the greatest fishing and hunting on earth.
Please take a few moments to read below for updates on the campaigns that you and the SAA continue to be engaged in, for news on the SAA Web site (you can now donate online to support the efforts to protect Alaska's best hunting and fishing lands - and get a deal on some great sunglasses to kick off the promotion if you act fast!), and what to watch for in 2008.
Remember, with each additional person, group, or business involved the SAA and the efforts to protect Alaska's wild lands, game, and fish only get stronger. Please refer the SAA to all your hunting and angling friends and family.
Many sincere thanks for a great 2007 and best wishes for an even better 2008!
Tongass National Forest
The Tongass Land Management Plan revision is due to be released in early 2008. We are hopeful many of the recommendations submitted (by The Wildlife Society, Conservation Force, Dallas Safari Club, Wildlife Forever, and the Kenai (Alaska) Chapter of Safari Club International) to the U.S. Forest Service as a result of our June 2007 trip will be implemented in the new plan. While the Tongass is seemingly full of endless controversy, there is progress being made, and the region is working together and moving toward a future with a new vision. We will continue advocating for a balanced management of the Tongass, one in which the timber industry is a participant, but not the only dominant player at the expense of other forest users. We will work to protect the watersheds with the highest values for fish and game, while collaborating with others on focusing timber harvest activities in areas already accessible by roads and the transition of timber harvest from old-growth to second-growth trees.
While the Pebble Mine continues to be in the forefront of the threats facing this region, the Bureau of Land Management recently announced a plan which would lift restrictions on mining on the lands it manages in the region. The Bristol Bay campaign continues to be of tremendous interest to anglers, hunters, and the sport fishing industry worldwide. Major conservation groups such as Trout Unlimited, Wildlife Forever, Federation of Fly Fishers, Dallas Safari Club, the Izaak Walton League of America, and others have expressed their opposition to the mining plans in Bristol Bay. Sport fishing and hunting groups are joining with commercial fishermen and other local residents of the region in this critical campaign. SAA successfully placed advertisements in nearly all the major fly fishing magazines, showing support for keeping the world's largest runs of salmon and all the other renewable resources of the region protected from the threat of a massive mining district. Thousands of individual anglers have signed the SAA petition to the State of Alaska and the federal government stating that Bristol Bay is no place for huge mines. Efforts are underway in Alaska right now to place clean water initiatives on the 2008 ballot which would go a long way to keeping Bristol Bay the magnificent place it has always been. The coming year will definitely be a busy one on the Bristol Bay front, and the SAA will keep you informed and involved.
While this might be a relatively unknown place, it's of great importance to waterfowl enthusiasts all across North America. Teshekpuk is a massive lake and associated wetland complex on the north slope of Alaska. Species such as black brant, white-fronted geese, snow geese, Canada geese, pintails, tundra swans, and more spend part of their summers breeding, nesting, and molting at Teshekpuk Lake. These birds migrate through every flyway on the continent and are taken by hunters from the Pacific Northwest to the Eastern Seaboard to the Gulf of Mexico and everyplace in between. When plans were released to possibly eliminate the protections that Teshekpuk Lake has enjoyed for over 30 years (presidents dating back to Ronald Reagan have kept it protected) and to offer these lands for oil and gas leasing, the SAA worked to get waterfowl hunting groups and their members involved. Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, the Pacific Flyway Council, International Wild Waterfowl Association, the Washington Brant Foundation, Izaak Walton League of America, and scores of state outdoor groups and individual hunters contacted the Department of Interior, asking for the protections at Teshekpuk Lake to remain in place. We are hopeful that the BLM will heed this call from the sporting community and are anxiously awaiting release of the final plan in early 2008. Until it is released, you can sign the Teshekpuk Lake conservation petition at the SAA Web site.
Donate to the Sportsman's Alliance for Alaska
If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to help support the work of the Sportsman's Alliance for Alaska, you are now able to do so securely online. Instructions are also on the Web site if you'd prefer to send a check. This project is something of a skeleton operation, with Scott Hed as its only employee, but the ability of the SAA to perform its mission of engaging hunters and anglers in Alaska public lands management does require funding. We are grateful for the ongoing support of foundations, businesses, and other donors, and we are now making the ability to contribute available to anyone wishing to do so. Thank you for your consideration and support.
- As a special incentive to kick off the Web fundraising effort, our friends at Smith Optics will provide a VIP card to the first 35 individuals making a contribution of $100 or more. The VIP card entitles the holder to a discount (roughly 50%) on a one-time purchase of their polarized fishing sunglasses. There is a limit of two pairs of sunglasses per VIP card. Check out their product line at www.smithoptics.com. Don't worry, if you don't need fishing glasses you can purchase other Smith products on the VIP card instead. This is a great way to support the SAA and get some nice shades as part of the deal. Thanks again to Smith Optics for their support!
Stuff to check out now and watch for in 2008
The Sportsman's Alliance for Alaska will be exhibiting at the following sport shows in early 2008:
- The Fly Fishing Show at Denver Merchandise Mart, Denver, Colo. (Jan. 4-6)
- Fly Fishing Expo at Colorado Convention Center, Denver, Colo. (Jan. 4-6)
- Dallas Safari Club Convention at Dallas Market Hall, Dallas, Texas (Jan. 10-13)
- The Fly Fishing Show at Royal Plaza Trade Center, Marlborough, Mass. (Jan. 18-20)
- The Fly Fishing Show at Garden State Exhibit Center, Somerset, N.J. (Jan. 25-27)
- The Fly Fishing Show at Meydenbauer Center, Bellevue, Wash. (Feb. 1-3)
- The Fly Fishing and Wingshooting Show at Charlotte Merchandise Mart, Charlotte, N.C. (Feb. 8-10)
- The Fly Fishing Show at Alameda County Fairgrounds, Pleasanton, Calif. (Feb. 22-24)
- The Fly Fishing Show at Pasadena Center, Pasadena, Calif. (Mar. 1-2)
- Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo at Sheraton Minneapolis South, Bloomington, Minn. (Mar. 14-16)
- National Fly Fishing Expo at Lakeland Center, Lakeland, Fla. (Mar. 28-30)
Stop by to say hi, talk about your Alaska trips or dreams, and learn how you can stay involved with the SAA. Links to show details can be found on the SAA Web site.
Teshekpuk Lake on Field & Stream Web Site
Visit www.fieldandstream.com to see some great photos and learn a bit more about why this place is so important to waterfowl and waterfowl hunting.
Bristol Bay Films Coming!
View the trailers for Red Gold and Equilibrium online. Red Gold is by Felt Soul Media and will be released in Spring 2008. Castaway Films produced Equilibrium, which will be shown at many of the sport shows the SAA is exhibiting at in early 2008. Both films are not to be missed, and they will be tremendous tools in showing the world why Bristol Bay is such an amazing place and why we must fight to protect it.
- View the Red Gold preview at http://youtube.com/watch?v=KqrpbgeeyeE
- View the Equilibrium preview at http://www.castawayfilms.com
Also make sure to hit the Fly Fishing Film Tour on its 2008 run. The guys at Angling Exploration Group (AEG) put on this tremendous event, and they are going to devote a good share of coverage to the Bristol Bay situation. You can find tour information, dates, and (in the near future) buy a "Save Bristol Bay" t-shirt with proceeds benefiting the SAA at the AEG Web site: www.aegmedia.com.
Bristol Bay Fundraising
Later this spring, you will receive details about another way you can help the campaign to protect Bristol Bay. Through the generosity and engagement of many companies in the sport fishing industry, we will hold an online fundraising auction with proceeds dedicated toward the efforts to keep massive mines out of one of the world's true sport fishing meccas. Product donations are arriving every week, and here's a small sample of what you will be able to bid for:
- A "one-of-a-kind" Abel Super 8 Bristol Bay conservation edition reel
- A Hardy 10-wt Zane saltwater fly rod and reel combo
- Fly rods from R.L. Winston, Scott, St. Croix, G. Loomis, March Brown, and more
- Fly reels from Galvan, Ross, and more
- Gear from Patagonia, Cloudveil, Filson, Kaenon Polarized, Smith Optics, and more
- A weeklong fishing trip for two people at Pesca Maya Lodge on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula
- More items and details to come...
Outside this online auction opportunity, please keep an eye out for a very special limited edition fly fishing outfit from Sage, Redington, and Rio Products. Only 300 of these ready-to-fish outfits will be released by April 2008, and they're certain to sell out quickly. Proceeds from the sale will benefit Bristol Bay conservation, and more details can be found at www.fishandfly.com.