Featured Conservation Leader: Mike Simpson

Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho is dedicated to the conservation of our natural resources both today and into the future. Simpson took some time to answer a few questions for the TRCP.

The TRCP is set to honor Simpson at the 2013 Capital Conservation Awards Dinner held April 18.

How did you become passionate about the outdoors?

Like most people, I became passionate about the outdoors because of my family. My father had a profound love for the outdoors, hunting, fishing and for Idaho’s natural beauty. He instilled that passion in my brother and me. I have carried that passion with throughout my life – and into my service in Congress.

What is a favorite memory of a trip afield?

My favorite memories of outdoor trips involve my favorite memories of outdoor trips involve family vacations to Redfish Lake.  To this day, I love returning to that lake, enjoying its natural beauty and basking in the memories that are so important to me and my family.

To this day, I make it a priority to join the Idaho Conservation League each summer in Redfish Lake and engage in dialogue about the importance of protecting Idaho’s outdoor heritage.

Photo by Dona Cox/Idaho Fish and Game.

What is your go-to piece of hunting or fishing gear?

The hunting-related possessions I treasure most are the rifles and shotguns passed down to me by my father. I also cherish his wildlife mounts which are now on display in my Washington, D.C. office.

What led you to a career in Congress?

I never set out to be a member of Congress. I ran for the Blackfoot City Council hoping to serve a community that had been very good to me and my family. I chose to run for the State Legislature and eventually for Congress because of the opportunity each office provided for serving the people of Idaho.

I’m not sure anyone knows what they are signing up for when they run for Congress, but it has been among the greatest honors of my life. Serving Idaho in Congress allows me an opportunity to work every day on the issues that are most important to the people and the state I love.

What role do you see sportsmen playing in the conservation arena?

Sportsmen play a critical role in the conservation community because they are arguably the most diverse subset. Sportsmen and -women know firsthand the value of the collaborative process that holds the greatest promise for finding long-term solutions to conservation challenges.

What are some ways sportsmen can become involved in public policy?

Sportsmen can go individually or in groups to meet with their elected officials and impress upon them the importance of their cause. They can also work through the many conservation organizations dedicated to impacting public policy and advancing the cause of sportsmen.

It is critical that sportsmen and -women take the time and get involved in the public policy arena at the local, state and federal levels and make sure that politicians clearly understand the size and passion of the sporting coalition that exists in this country.

What do you think are the most important issues facing sportsmen today, and how do you hope your work in Congress will resolve these issues?

The federal budget crisis is the single most important issue facing everyone who has interests in Congress – including sportsmen. The need to reduce federal spending naturally puts pressure on many of the programs most important to the sporting community. These include the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the North American Wetlands Conservation Program, the Conservation Reserve Program and many others.

I am working to preserve these programs because I understand their importance, not only to our nation today, but to future generations.

In the simplest terms, why do you care about conservation?

Countries throughout history that have ignored or betrayed their natural treasures have always come to regret such decisions. I greatly respect the cultural, artistic, historical and natural diversity of our nation and believe we are duty bound to protect it and pass it on to future generations.

Any conservation leaders or heroes you look up to?

Idaho Senator Jim McClure had a significant impact on my view of conservation and collaboration. Senator McClure was a conservative republican, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and icon to Idaho’s ranchers, loggers, miners and multiple-use advocates.

He was a leader who understood the value of natural landscapes, was a strong supporter of sportsmen and -women, and believed strongly in the importance of collaboration and dialogue in advancing public policy.

TRCP Supporter Wins Signature Buck Knife

The signature TRCP Buck knife won by Matt Dunlap.

Here at the TRCP, we want to learn how best to serve the hunting and angling community and further the TRCP’s mission of guaranteeing all Americans a quality place to hunt and fish. In order to facilitate our mission, we asked sportsmen to complete a survey about issues they value most.

As an added incentive, the TRCP gave away a signature TRCP Buck knife to a randomly selected survey respondent. Matt Dunlap of Lincoln, Neb., was the lucky recipient.  Matt is a law student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We were able to catch up with him in between classes to chat about his interest in conservation.

How did you first become interested in the outdoors?

Matt: My dad got me into the outdoors when I was really young. He took me out hunting with him when I was about 5. I also fished since I was really young.

Do you have a favorite place to hunt or fish?

Matt: Every year I go duck hunting at the Nebraska Sandhills. It’s a place I look forward to going back to every year. Right now we’re hoping for some more water in Nebraska so the ducks can land.

I also do a lot of fly fishing in Colorado. I usually go near Vail or to the Conejos River in southern Colorado.

What are you currently doing?

Matt: I recently graduated from Northwestern University. Right now I’m attending law school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I’m not exactly sure what kind of law I want to practice. I’m interested in environmental, but that could change.

What do you think the most important conservation issues are facing sportsmen today?

Matt: Habitat conservation in general is a pretty big deal – making sure we keep the numbers up. I’m also a big supporter of public access. The recent Colorado roadless rule is a big deal to me because I do a lot of backpacking and fishing in the rugged parts of Colorado.

Where are you planning to put your new commemorative Buck knife?

Matt: I’m putting it on top of my dresser. That’s where it is right now.

TRCP supporter Matt Dunlap talks about hunting, fishing and conservation issues that matter to him.

Featured Conservation Leader: Kim Rhode

Olympic skeet shooter Kim Rhode talks with the TRCP about shooting, hunting and her Olympic experiences. Photo courtesy of americanrifleman.org.

Kim Rhode is a double trap and skeet shooter who made her debut in the 1996 Olympics where, at the age of 16, she became the youngest female gold medalist in the history of Olympic shooting. Since then she has medaled in the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Earlier this year, Kim took some time to speak with the TRCP about shooting, hunting and her Olympic experiences.

What are some of your earliest experiences with shooting?

Kim: Shooting has been passed down from generation-to-generation in my family. My grandfather was a hounds-man and an avid outdoorsman. He taught my dad, my dad taught my mom and they eventually taught me.

So you were a hunter before you ever tried skeet, trap and sporting clays?

Kim: Oh yes! I was into hunting prior to any competition. I hunted birds, deer, bear; I even went on a hunting trip to Africa. I’ve always been very active in the outdoors. I also love fishing for trout, salmon and steelhead.

Growing up we were very active. Those are some of the best memories of mine. Sitting around the campfire with my grandfathers and uncles telling hunting stories like, ‘the deer was THIS big!’ It was just fantastic. I hope to share my passion for the outdoors with my kids one day.

What was the first gun you ever shot and what are you shooting now?

Kim: Wow, I don’t even remember the first gun I ever shot. I know that when I first started competing I was using a Remington 1100 youth model. Then I went to a Perazzi.

I was so small at the time that I had a hard time getting any type of gas-operated gun to fit me. They were always too big and I was fighting the gun. The fit of your gun is something that’s so important in shooting.

What’s your favorite thing to hunt?

Kim: I have to say some of the bigger game but bird hunting is awesome too. It is super fun and exciting, especially when I get to go out with my family and friends.

I would imagine there aren’t many missed birds…

Kim: Well anyone who says they don’t miss is a liar. Everybody misses; the trick is to not miss when it counts the most.

What are some of your views on conservation?

Kim: Living here in Los Angeles, there are so many people who are completely out of touch with the outdoors. They just don’t go out and appreciate the beauty that’s out there. They spend so much time on the computer or watching television that they totally miss looking around and taking in the beauty and splendor of nature. One issue I see with our youth today is the technology factor, trying to get them off the games and get them outside.

It’s really important that children understand the heritage and the conservation side of things because it goes hand in hand with hunting and the outdoors. Hunting is about tradition and passing something on just as much as it is about land management and conservation.

Can you tell us what it’s like to win a medal at the Olympics?

Kim: It’s really about the journey. It’s not about the gold, the silver, the bronze or anything like that. Of course that is a fantastic part of it but when you’re standing on the podium, watching the American flag go to the top of the pole, you aren’t thinking about the medal. You are thinking about all the experiences that got you there. The journey is what keeps me going back – overcoming obstacles, succeeding when people say you can’t and representing your country. It’s such an honor. I’m so blessed.

Erica M. Stock

Image Courtesy Erica Stock.

Current location: Denver, Colo.

A self-proclaimed “native trout freak” Erica Stock has been working in the conservation arena for more than 10 years. Erica got her start on the water in Oregon where she fell in love with salmonids. She currently resides in Colorado with her daughter, Portland, and husband, Tim. When she’s not out bow hunting or fly fishing, Erica spends her time rallying for native trout restoration and habitat conservation projects throughout the west.

What are you up to right now?

I like to joke that I have two full-time jobs. I’m working as the outreach director for Colorado Trout Unlimited and the director of strategic partnerships for the Western Native Trout Initiative.

Why are you so passionate about native trout?

Native trout are majestic fish. Each one is distinct and beautiful. Once they are gone you can’t go into a lab, re-create them and put them back in a river somewhere.

Native fish have been reduced to such a small fraction of their historical range that some species have been lost all together. It would be a shame to see this trend continue, but, given all the threats faced by native trout, it is a very real possibility.

That’s where groups like WNTI and TU come in. Both of these organizations have been integral in uniting the community and developing the National Fish Habitat Action Plans. These plans give us a glimmer of hope.

Tell us a little bit about National Fish Habitat Action Plans.

These plans encourage collaboration between different state agencies, federal agencies, local partners and non-profit organizations that have an interest in fish conservation and management. These plans allow for much more progress than if all these groups were working separately.

Prior to the establishment of these plans, there was so much fragmentation and inefficiency. Everyone was out doing what they thought were the top priorities – using their own science or no science at all. NFHAPs provide a game plan so individuals and groups can work together toward the common goal of rebuilding some of these fish populations.

Tell us about what you do for TU.

I work with our grassroots; Trout Unlimited has 23 chapters and 10,000 individual members in Colorado. I work with these partners on some great native trout projects and projects that benefit local communities directly – regardless of whether there are native trout involved.

How did you get into fishing?

I was on the Deschutes River in northwestern Oregon doing invasive plant removal. We were just getting off the river for the day when I decided to pick up my friend’s fly rod. It was on an Orvis four-piece rod. I was immediately hooked.

What are some of the greatest threats faced by fish populations?

There are 15 native trout for which WNTI works. Seven of these are threatened and the remainder are species of concern. Development has degraded important habitat for a long period of time. The introduction of non-native species like rainbow and brown trout has caused serious competition between native and non-native species. These non-native fish will hybridize with the natives, destroying their genetic purity.

Climate change is another big threat to native trout. We need to make sure these fish are going to have habitat as the climate shifts. Fortunately these fish are in headwaters and roadless areas on public lands – and that’s no coincidence. The best hunting and fishing are found in roadless areas. We need to be sure these areas remain pristine and relatively untouched.

Check out “TRCP’s Native Trout Adventures,” a video series featuring native trout fishing expeditions in spectacular landscapes across the Rocky Mountain West.

Learn more about the Western Native Trout Initiative.

Dan, Jeff and Pat Vermillion

Growing up on the banks of the Yellowstone River in the trout-crazy town of Billings, Mont., Dan, Jeff and Pat Vermillion were primed for a life chasing salmonids with fly rods.
All three have decades of experience guiding in exotic locations about which most anglers can only dream. In 1995, Dan, the oldest of the Vermillion boys, abandoned his career as a lawyer to join his brothers and a small group of guides to form Sweetwater Travel, a fly fishing travel company specializing in delivering anglers to some of the world’s greatest waters.

Throughout the quest, which included countless exploratory trips that often resulted in dead ends, the Vermillion brothers recognized the need to be active in conserving the natural resources upon which their fishing operations rely. Whether advancing the Taimen Conservation Fund, formed by Sweetwater Travel to conserve Taimen populations in Mongolia, or working in British Columbia to prevent overfishing of steelhead, Dan, Jeff and Pat Vermillion are dedicated conservationists who take nothing for granted.

Dan, Jeff and Pat Vermillion. Photo courtesy Sweetwater Travel.

Dan Vermillion: “When you are lucky enough to make your living off of the bountiful natural resources that are found in places that are yet to be overly disturbed by a human presence, you feel a responsibility to keep those opportunities alive for generations in the future.”

One of the perks of being a fly fishing guide is the chance to meet some extraordinary people. In 2009 on his way to vacation in Yellowstone National Park, President Barack Obama stopped for a float trip down the East Gallatin River. Dan Vermillion served as his guide. Dan was presented with the rare opportunity to spend several hours fishing with the president of the United States – with no cameras or media present.

Were you able to do a little lobbying on behalf of sportsmen?

Dan Vermillion: “I didn’t really have to. Several times during the day we talked about water rights, we talked about water flows. He told me very clearly that he didn’t grow up hunting and fishing but that it is really important that we continue those traditions in the U.S. He said the key to those traditions lasting is caring for the resources that provide us with the ability to hunt and fish.”

Do you think he was genuine?

Dan Vermillion: “I do. I came away from my time with him feeling that he was the most genuine politician I have ever met, besides maybe Jon Tester. And I’ve met a lot of them.”

Dan and President Obama celebrating after hooking a trout. Photo courtesy whitehouse.gov.

What do you see as the biggest threats to hunting, fishing and conservation?

Dan Vermillion: “I see two threats. The big threat, of course, is just the onward march of human beings to every corner of the planet. Unfortunately, whenever human beings seem to interact with a lot of these places that produce quality recreational opportunities for hunting and fishing, the hunting and fishing species tend to not do too well. But the reason that it is consistently allowed to happen is that the people that love to hunt and fish, with exceptions, of course, don’t tend to make decisions in the rest of their lives that are reflective of their dedication to hunting and fishing. They’ll go out and support politicians or they’ll support certain policies that ultimately undercut their ability to have quality hunting and fishing opportunities in their backyards; but they never put two and two together.”

The most pressing conservation issue in which the Vermillions have become engaged is the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Sweetwater Travel owns two lodges in Alaska that lie on either side of the proposed mine. Last month, Dan and Pat were among 40 sportsmen leaders from 17 states participating in a trip to Washington, D.C., to press Congress and the Obama administration to protect Bristol Bay and its unrivaled salmon fishery from the proposed Pebble Mine.

“Obviously it’s a potential threat to the businesses, but that’s not the main reason we’re backing this up,” said Pat Vermillion. “We’re backing this up more for the potential damage to the salmon runs.” The sportsmen delivered a letter to the Obama administration from more than 500 hunting and angling groups around the country who want the EPA to take action under the Clean Water Act to conserve Bristol Bay.

Dan Vermillion: “I think that Pebble Mine fly-in was one of the most impressive groups of people I’ve ever been around. As a group, we presented a compelling message, and that message was that Bristol Bay is far too important, not just to fishermen and hunters of the world, but also the native communities that live and have lived there for thousands of years. There’s no justification whatsoever for an open pit mine to be put smack dab in the middle of the last significant large sockeye salmon run.”

Pat Vermillion: “Pebble is something that will go through unless people are active and actively try and stop it. It’s way too big of a deposit. If people don’t stand up and get active and push, the mine is definitely going to happen. That’s what makes it such a compelling cause and one that needs to be recognized on a national basis.”

Dan Vermillion: “We took our message to the Hill, and I don’t think any of them felt that strongly that this mine has to go forward. And I think the same thing is true with Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA. Something she said really struck me, and I may not have it quite right. To paraphrase, she said that this discussion is not about always having the opportunity to fish for and experience the wild sockeye runs of Bristol Bay, but it’s about always having the ability to dream about going up there someday. Of critical importance is the simple fact that it’s out there and that makes our world a better place to live.” Learn more about the Vermillion brothers.Learn more about Save Bristol Bay.

Capt. Ryan Lambert Discusses Gulf Coast Restoration with the TRCP

 

Southern Louisiana is losing wetlands at a frightening rate - a football field every hour. Photo Courtesy Cajun Fishing Adventures

The Senate transportation bill passed on March 8 includes as an amendment the RESTORE Act, an important measure that would bolster Gulf restoration efforts by directing 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines paid by BP to Gulf states. As the House deliberates the bill before a March 31 deadline, the fate of coastal Louisiana hangs in the balance. House passage of a transportation bill that includes the RESTORE Act would be a major victory for sportsmen-conservationists and stakeholders in southern Louisiana, including Capt. Ryan Lambert.

A southern Louisiana native, Lambert owns two lodges and has been guiding fishing and duck hunting trips in the area for more than 30 years. Lambert is very active in Gulf restoration efforts and has testified before the House Natural Resources Committee on the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. While the one-two punch of Hurricane Katrina (which left 24 feet of standing water in his lodge and put him out of business for nine months) and the oil spill devastated him on a personal level, Lambert is more concerned about wetland loss.

Levies and channelization built in the Gulf region after the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927 has had a two-pronged negative effect on the Delta ecosystem. First, sediment no longer is able to collect around the mouth of the Mississippi, and, second, salt water is encroaching on exclusively freshwater ecosystems.

Channelization near the mouth of the Mississippi River increases the velocity at which the river enters the Gulf. As a result, sediment from spring flooding events that would normally collect in the marshes to give them structure now goes straight out into the Gulf. The combination of rising sea levels and a lack of marsh structure has lead to the vast and widespread disappearance of wetlands near the mouth of the Mississippi.

Lambert: “The land is subsiding. It’s sinking. And when it does so, there is nothing to replenish it like in years past. As [saltwater] intrudes into the fresh water, it kills trees and freshwater animals, and the soil just gets washed out.”

Image Courtesy coastal.la.gov

The Mississippi River Delta is losing its wetlands at a frightening rate – a football field every hour.

“Ninety-nine percent of the land and marshes in my area on the west side of the Mississippi River are gone. This is the worst erosion in the United States, maybe North America. It used to be 6.5 miles of marsh between me and the Gulf. Now there’s none. I could point my boat that way and never touch a piece of grass. It’s sickening to me because I know what that land produced. Even when I ride around near marshes that were my old stomping grounds growing up, it is so disheartening because now it’s all open water. It’s like a dagger in my heart when I see it.”

A number of shipping canals and channels cut directly through the marsh systems, allowing salt water to seep in, killing vegetation and disrupting the salinity balance that many species need to survive.

“It’s only a matter of time before the whole marsh system collapses. I think about my area and about all the wildlife we’ve lost. These were rich trapping grounds: otter, muskrat, mink, raccoon, deer, rabbits and millions of acres of habitat for waterfowl. All that’s gone. Where did those animals go? We lost all that and nobody says anything. If that happened somewhere else in the country or in the world, they would have more people there trying to fix it. I don’t understand why this never gets any attention. We lost millions and millions of furbearing animals and nobody’s said a word.”

TRCP: How much has the spill cost you and your business monetarily, and how much has BP paid you for your losses?

“So far its cost me over $2 million, and so far I’ve gotten $155,000 from BP. It’s gonna cost for a long time.”

TRCP: What was worse; the spill or Hurricane Katrina?

“Oh, the spill by far. Because I had to stay open to have a claim. So I stayed open all year with no business and kept my lodge open and paid my employees and all my cooks. You are legally obligated to mitigate your loss. If I just closed the door and didn’t wanna go fishing, I would have no claim. So I lost an additional $160,000 keeping my lodge open and paying my employees for no reason. I worked harder for less money than I ever did in my life.”

TRCP: How was your duck season this year, and how has the fishing been?

“My duck season was very, very good. There hasn’t been a speckled trout to speak of since last May. They are just depleted and going down, down, down. So I turned all my attention to my duck hunting operation. We were booked every day and killed 4,600 ducks, and it was just fabulous. But after that, we are dead in the water because there are no fish. Historically, my guides could go out and catch 1,000 speckled trout on a day with no wind. Ten boats would catch between 800 and 1,000 fish. Now we’re not catching any.”

TRCP: What would it mean for the Gulf if RESTORE were to pass?

“It’s no different than if you’re holding a person down and choking them and right before they die, you pull your hand off their throat. Boom! Instantly, they come back to life. I think it would do the same thing for Louisiana.”

Learn more about the Senate passage of the RESTORE Act.

Learn more about Vanishing Paradise, a coalition of more than five hundred businesses and organizations working to restore the delta by reconnecting the Mississippi River with its wetlands.

Scott Hed

Scott and his wife Nicki on a recent trip to Bristol Bay, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Scott Hed.

In this issue of the Square Dealer, we are highlighting a TRCP friend and fellow sportsman, Scott Hed, director of the Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska. This article originally appeared in “The Drake” magazine and is written by Geoff Mueller.

Severed by North Dakota, the Saskatchewan plains, Alberta tar sands and British Columbia’s snow-covered Coast Mountains, Gaylord, Minn., is far removed from a proposed large-scale Alaskan mining operation and the toll it would take on anadromous fish runs. But it’s in Gaylord that Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska Director Scott Hed had lived a quintessential Midwestern life – playing football and baseball, hunting, fishing and anxiously awaiting annual pilgrimages to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area – before he started down a path to spearheading the 49th state’s highest-profile environmental standoff in recent memory.

Hed attended Minnesota’s St. Olaf College, where the aspiring economics and accounting major crunched, chewed and digested meaty numbers and the intricacies of gain, loss and risk. Money, it was clear to Hed, made the world spin. And while Oliver Stone’s Wall Street was hitting pay dirt in the late ’80s, an aspiring Bud Fox was born.

“When ‘Wall Street’ came out I was going to school, getting my degree in economics, and I’m thinking, ‘this is sweet, this is what I want to do,’” Hed says. After graduation, he landed in Marshall, Minn., working in the finance industry. It wasn’t quite fast cars and fast women, but it was a respectable living that allowed Hed to taste the nine-to-five grind. When his branch expanded to Sioux Falls, S.D., Hed followed. It was a busy few years of work and relocation, ascending the corporate escalator, and dreaming of someplace else: Alaska.

Fantasizing about The Last Frontier is a popular office antidote for desk-bound outdoorsmen the world over. But with Hed, it sparked his imagination. Next to work and family life, Alaska became Hed’s top distraction. He acquainted himself with the state as a wide-eyed tourist, exploring Denali and the Kenai Peninsula, returning again and again.

“I’d always been good at what I did, and I got paid well to do it,” Hed says. “But I wasn’t able to get up in the morning, look in the mirror, and say, ‘I really have a passion for, and care about, what I’m going to do at work today.’”

Hed’s next move came when his Sioux Falls office went bust and handed him a serendipitous10-month severance package. As Bud Fox states, “Life all comes down to a few moments. This is one of them.”

Hed took the cue and headed north to the coast of the Arctic Ocean for a month-long raft trip under a midnight sun. A timely and fortuitous soul cleanse, the trip also opened a door when, upon returning home that summer, a message on the answering machine awaited. It was the Alaska Coalition, with an opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., and speak on behalf of Alaska as a citizen lobbyist.

“It sounded extremely daunting,” Hed says. But he was sold on the message; so much so that one month later he donned a suit and tie, marched up the stairs on Capitol Hill, and let the words pour. D.C. led to more public presentations, touring the upper Midwest for the Coalition and defending the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling and development.

Hed spoke to whomever had an open ear: church groups, bird gazers, garden hosers, and hunting and fishing advocates from all walks of life. He shined in his new capacity, receiving an expanded territory and a full-time paycheck. Life was good, and the gig was rewarding – even easy, considering Alaska’s broad appeal. But black clouds were brewing, with whispers of something massive on the horizon: “This thing called Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay,” Hed says.

The year was 2006, well before the word “Pebble” had become emblematic of a cancer so big it could devour two of the most prolific sockeye-bearing rivers in the world: the Kvichak and Nushagak. Located at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Pebble would be the largest gold and copper mine ever built in North America—a gaping open pit, miles wide and several thousand feet deep. If developed, resulting toxins could threaten not only the area’s salmon runs but also the health of an entire ecosystem. Six years after Hed began tunneling for answers to life’s proverbial questions, he found his calling in the form of a ticking ecological time bomb.

In October, Hed was at the Jet Hotel in Denver’s trendy LoDo district – a hipster receptacle with a full-service bar in the lobby and heavily promoting a Playboy-sponsored “Fantasy Hotel Party.” Dressed in a “Save Bristol Bay” ball cap, muted fleece and jeans, he was quick to explain he was there for the fight, not the party.

The Save Bristol Bay Road Show had just closed curtains in Seattle, Portland, Corvallis, San Francisco and Santa Fe. After Denver, the grassroots outreach and advocacy effort would hold one last private event in New York City, but the drain of a multi-city slog was not evident in Hed’s demeanor. Upbeat, gregarious, and less slickster D.C. lobbyist than one might expect, the cautiously optimistic Midwesterner says we are now entering decision-making time in the Pebble Mine slugfest. In February 2011, the EPA announced the beginning of its watershed assessment for the region, investigating ecological, cultural and economic values related to the Kvichak and Nushagak and the potential risks brought forth by large-scale mineral development there. Essentially, if a project like Pebble is deemed detrimental to (a) municipal water supplies, (b) fisheries, (c) wildlife or (d) recreational interests, the EPA under the Clean Water Act holds the power to tank it.

The good news, according to the anti-mine movement, is that the EPA’s decision, slated for fall 2012, is a relative no-brainer. “In the case of Bristol Bay,” Hed says, “It’s easy to argue that all four criteria would be adversely impacted by Pebble or any large-scale mineral developments.” (There are currently 1,000 square miles of claims in the region, in addition to Pebble’s.)

But the reality is that the EPA taking that level of action under the Clean Water Act would be unprecedented and would undoubtedly lead to lawsuits from deep-pocketed developers as well as the heavily pro-development state of Alaska.

Ultimately, Pebble Mine might go down as one of the greatest fisheries conservation victories of our time, thanks in large part to people like Hed. Or, as the scrappy Midwestern economics major put it: “If the world’s largest wild salmon fishery and one of the planet’s top sport-fishing and hunting destinations could be lost to something like Pebble, then everything is on the table.”

Learn more about the Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska.

Matt Suuck

Matt Suuck displaying the latest in Minox hunting and sporting optics at a recent TRCP event.

Sport Optics Manager

MINOX USA

Twitter: @MinoxUSAHunting

Location: Claremont, N.H.

What is a favorite hunting or fishing memory?
When I was a kid my family rented a cabin for a long weekend in the mountains of western Maryland. My dad and I spent every day fishing out on the lake. We didn’t catch a lot, but those memories will stay with me forever. It was such a peaceful feeling to be out on the water, just my dad and I.

Tell us a little bit about your job at Minox. What are some things you like about the job and the company?
Minox has been around for 75 years and specializes in photography equipment, hunting optics and a wide range of binoculars. The company is not a large corporation and is privately owned; this gives us the ability to make good, solid and quick decisions. We have the ability to be very flexible and creative in adapting to the market. As a privately owned company, we are looking for long-term stability and are not solely focused on next quarter’s profits.

I’m responsible for all aspects of sales and marketing for hunting and outdoors products at Minox as they pertain to hunting and the outdoors. I do everything from managing our sales force and working on promotional items to working with the press.

How did you become passionate about the outdoors?
My parents were always taking me out fishing, hiking, exploring and sight-seeing. The great outdoors have been a part of my life since I was an infant. My parents would put me in the back of the Chevy, hook up the camper, and we would head out for an adventure. From the time I was little we would be out every weekend.

I went to college out West, and being out there shaped my passion for the outdoors immensely. My love and appreciation for the outdoors, hunting and fishing is such a huge part of why I do what I do today.

What role do you see the TRCP and Minox playing in the conservation arena?
Minox has always supported conservation issues both in Europe and the United States. We have an economic incentive to support conservation, but our interest in conservation goes beyond the economic bottom line. If we don’t invest in conservation, sportsmen won’t be able to hunt – they won’t have a place to go or game to harvest. If there are not any hunters, there won’t be a market for many of our products. At Minox, we believe that investments in conservation are not only the right thing to do, but they are of great importance to the overall economic stability in this country.

What do you think are the most important conservation issues facing sportsmen today?
Loss of access and degradation of habitat are two of the most concerning issues facing sportsmen today. When I lived in places like Utah, Wyoming and Montana I could basically walk out my door and go hunting or fishing. It is a lot harder to find these opportunities now. A lot of the hunting lands are tied up, and you can’t hunt on Sundays where I live in Pennsylvania. These factors severely hamper our outdoor traditions. A lot of people see these restrictions and just say, “Why bother anymore?”

This is a major issue because sportsmen fund our core conservation programs here in the United States. Fewer hunters means fewer dollars for conservation – and the economy. On top of that, the government is slashing funding for programs that work to promote access.

Wherever I’ve worked I’ve pushed to get involved in conservation because I really believe in it. Minox has been a great partner in this. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the partnership that we are building with the TRCP and we at Minox are looking forward to continuing that in 2012 and beyond.

Hal Herring

Freelancer

Conservation Writer, Field & Stream

How did you become passionate about the outdoors?

I have been fishing and hunting out in the woods since I was a young boy and have been hunting since I was nine. I’ve hunted and fished in some truly beautiful places. The more I’m out there, the more I’ve realized that these places are beautiful because they haven’t been torn up or developed. Since I had that realization I’ve always had a desire to give back to these places.

What led you to a career in conservation writing?

I began writing fiction in my 20s and then started journalism in my early 30s. When you write full time, it’s often hard to find the motivation. I learned that the only way I could keep my energy up was by writing about things that were inspiring to me. Nature and the outdoors have always been fascinating to me, so it’s been a truly natural fit for me.

What role do you see TRCP and particularly Field & Stream playing in the conservation arena?

Field & Stream is a publication for people who care about fish and wildlife, while the TRCP is an organization working to advocate for fish and wildlife. The fit has been a natural one as the TRCP and Field & Stream both bring awareness to similar issues.

In order for both the TRCP and Field & Stream to move forward, there needs to be an irrefutable positive link made between fishing, hunting and conservation. By working together, we can ensure that conservation becomes an integral part of the American mindset.

What do you think are the most important issues facing sportsmen today, and how do you hope your writing will bring awareness to these issues?

Getting more young people involved in conservation and the outdoors is an issue of great concern to me. It is important to draw young people into a deeper connection with nature. And it’s not just children; people in general need to be more connected to the outdoor world. These connections bring a greater awareness of the importance of clean water, habitat and conservation. Our natural world is incredible, and we need to nourish what is left.

Bill Klyn

Bill Klyn on left after a day in the field with his trusty dog, Bear, and outdoors writer, Todd Tanner. Christen Duxbury

International Business Development Manager, Patagonia

Jackson, Wyo.

From the time he was a little boy, to his current position with Patagonia, Bill Klyn has demonstrated an unparalleled passion for conservation and the outdoors.

How did you become passionate about the outdoors?

Growing up as a little boy in a small town outside Cleveland, I remember going to Lake Erie and seeing scores of dead fish that continually washed up on the beach. I was seven and even as a little guy, I remember thinking that something was wrong [with this]. I began fishing when I was 12 then began skiing and rock climbing not long after that. I always enjoyed time outdoors but it wasn’t until I took a six-week National Outdoor Leadership School course out in Lander, Wyo., that I realized how much these wild places really meant to me.

What led you to a career in conservation?

I moved out to Wyoming when I was 26 and it was there that I plugged into the conservation community. I was active in the fishing and hunting community through my part ownership of a fishing, hunting and outdoor sporting goods business. It was through this work that I saw how much sportsmen really invested in conservation and were willing to step up to the plate for the resources they cared about; through joining national and local non-profit organizations or rallying to support specific issues with hands-on work, donations and using their sphere of influence.

As a business owner, I saw that threats to our fish and wildlife resources in turn were threats to the sustainability of my business and the local economy. I couldn’t run my business without healthy streams and habitat. Nor could I pursue my personal passion for hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits.

What role do you see the TRCP and Patagonia playing in the conservation arena?

I still believe that educating and inspiring the public about the threats to our natural resources and offering them a call to action is the key. Bringing the concept of economic viability and sustainability to conservation, protection and enhancement will incentivize businesses, elected officials and end-users to become more involved to do the right thing. I think this is something that the TRCP is excelling at right now. The TRCP’s work uniting hunters and anglers with folks in the outdoor industry is a great example, and following these efforts we are seeing a powerful voice emerge around conservation issues.

So many times in the past we’ve seen groups divide and take sides on issues where we should be working together. How many hunters still think the folks at Patagonia are a bunch of tree huggers? We need to get past these notions and unite around the resources we care about. The TRCP has always been able to reach out and partner with a wide array of organizations. Patagonia looks forward to working with the TRCP to continue to bring these walls down.

What do you think are the most important conservation issues facing sportsmen today?

Gaining an awareness of our water usage is critical. People have to realize that by the year 2025, human demand for water will account for 70 percent of all available freshwater. What does that leave for wildlife and habitat? We need to be thinking about this not only when we use water at home, but when we buy things. To make a pair of jeans, it takes 1,450 gallons of water – that’s enough to provide 58 people with water for a day. We need to look at our impact and take stock in what we are using and what is left for wildlife and habitat. Learn more at www.patagonia.com/environment.

Runaway energy extraction with the focus on next FY profits rather than a long term plan that takes into consideration wildlife and local populations is another key issue. There’s no denying we need to develop our domestic energy resources, but this can be done responsibly.