(Sorry folks - this has the makings of a long post)
Kristine at Outdoor Blogger Summit has issued one of the OBS challenges - write about how you help defend and preserve the Outdoors. (If you have an outdoor related blog and are not familiar with OBS, click on the badge alongside my post. I think you'll like what you find). I decided to accept her challenge, and have been thinking about the direction I want take for the past few days.
Most of us in the Outdoor blogging community write about personal experiences in the outdoors. Some incorporate more of their personal "this is my life" into their blogs - Bayou Woman comes to mind. In preparation for writing this piece, I just re-read my initial post on this blog from September 08. I was unsure where the blog would take me at the time, and I'm still just as unsure. The only continuity throughout the blog posting is that they revolve around water and fishing.
Water - no, CLEAN water - is the crux of all life. Clean water supports amazing biodiversity. One of my favorite places on earth is at the camp I've been going to (when I get the chance) for the past 25 years on Kettle Ck. in north-central PA. The main stem of the creek is now a very popular trout fishery reliant primarily on stocking efforts to keep its pools full of trout and the dirt roads that parallel the stream full of angler's vehicles. It is nestled among the steep, rocky mountains in Clinton County and, while the deer population is currently low (a topic for a different blog), there are deer, turkey and bear throughout the hills and valleys. I've seen hellbenders (the largest North American amphibians) twice in the creek. There are Timber Rattlesnake dens in the laurel thickets. My favorite part of the ecosystem, however, is not the main section of stream or its residents. I love the tributaries. Nearly every one of the tribs feeding into Kettle Creek is a wild trout stream. Unstocked, small-to-tiny rivulets that are home to abundant, spooky, small wild, native brook trout. Streams you can step across. Streams where there is NEVER the possibility of an unobstructed 30' cast - too many blowdowns and overhanging trees and limbs. Most of the people I fish with at camp just shake their heads when I tell them where I'm going. In years of fishing these tribs, I have landed ONE wild brookie in excess of 10". Most are 7" or less. If you measureteh success of your fishing by the size of your fish, you would NEVER fish these streams. They are not selective feeders - usually. If you can get a cast on the water without spooking them, they're yours. They are just absolutely beautiful fish, and they can only tolerate and survive in the cleanest, coldest, purest waters. I think that's why I love brookies and cutthroat so much - they thrive in the most beautiful places on earth..
A few miles downstream from the cabin, the effects of man's interference rears its ugly head. Coal mine drainage. Two streams are literally colored orange from mine acidified waters, and they pour into the Kettle from opposite sides. Nothing lives below this junction. The orange rocks signify death for anything that would try to survive in it's acidic waters.
Within this one valley are dozens of streams full of brook trout that have been native to the area as long as there have been trout, a well managed trout stream that caters to the legions of people who simply want to catch and eat some trout in a pretty setting, and a section of stream that was once alive, and has been killed.
So what does this have to do with preserving the future? Well, in this one valley, you can see what was, what is, and what happens when no one cares, and greed takes over. Anyone with any appreciation of nature - on any level - can see the effects of not caring simply by driving up the road. Sometimes it takes a visual and personal reminder of what can happen when we all take our eye off the ball for people to sit up and pay attention. When I drive along this road, it reminds not to take anything that I appreciate for granted.
I don't do as much as I could to help preserve and protect the natural assets of our land. I do belong to, and support, many of the agencies whose mission is to do just that - Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, RMEF, Pheasants Forever. In a small way, my dues and meager donations help to purchase land to preserve. We are adamant in our house about recycling - reducing the amount of land used for the purpose of landfills while more efficiently utilizing the products already in existence by re-using them. While my effort alone is negligible, I firmly believe that recycling is a simple way everyone can have a positive impact on our ecosystems, with the cumulative affect from the masses having a huge impact on our land. I DO try to clean up streams and lakes whenever I'm out - not to prove a point that I'm saving the world, but because I hate to see garbage when I'm fishing. It just looks like hell.
Will these little gestures make a difference in the world?? On their own, no. But I do one thing that I believe has a great impact on the future of our ecosystems - I try to introduce the outdoors to young people and anyone who has not taken the time to appreciate what we have outdoors. Certainly, I do this with my 12 year old son so he might someday feel the same as I do about the wild things. I love seeing the joy on a persons face when they catch their first fish, whether they are 3 or 30. If I can instill the passion that I possess about fishing and the outdoors onto others, I believe I can make an impact. If these people eventually drive up the Kettle Creek Valley in their own worlds, see the negative impacts of man's disregard for nature, see what can be if we take care of and nurture our environments, I believe they will vow to not let the abuse of our natural worlds continue. Then I will have made a difference.
Sorry forthe rambling - I just re-read the post agian and realize that I spent 8 paragraphs trying to say what could have been said in 4 words - Take A Kid Fishing.