Lifetimes of our heritage need maintenance

Musings from the river….

I’ve been mulling around this topic for weeks now, trying to come up with a way to express my feelings on the current state of affairs with our politics, our perspectives, and for some (including myself) a fundamental lack of organization in our fisheries and public lands practices.

I see clearly the meaning of maintenance on a personal level should mean more than to be a “preventative method of sustainability”. The issues I have focused my efforts on within the realm of fisheries advocacy and public land access have been a worthwhile effort, and I have learned as much as I have tried to teach. But my current capacity for extending those efforts to a larger audience has fallen short of my expectations.  My maintenance of the relationships I have built over time have faltered and for that I apologize.

Recently, I came to purchase a boat which I have named “Grandma’s Rocker” because I continuously find myself caught in the past. Thinking on my grandparents and the love they taught me, the name seemed appropriate for the emotion I feel each and every time I set forth into the water in her aged wooden structure. This boat was built some time between 1961-2 by one of the founding innovators of the McKenzie drift boat. His name was Woodie Hindman and his contribution to the river dory found on the waters of Oregon has never been the same. For me, this boat means more than just a vessel to adventure – it is rich in a history and heritage of the countless hours it has explored Oregon waterways.

She creaks and groans down the river, and over the rapids found in the Lower Deschutes – each moment spent in that state of uncertainty and testing my senses on the oars is unlike anything I have ever experienced. Scouting a rapid from the road, standing up with my oars, looking and listening for the next set of danger coming and then going with the flow of the river, phasing one direction then spinning and ferrying across a seam, hitting the wave train just right, then finding a quite spot to anchor up and reflect on the line taken through a difficult stretch – this is not unlike being part of the conservation/advocacy community for fisheries and public lands.

Sometimes I just can’t help myself….

The similarity in making a good decision in all those aspects, and likely making mistakes along the way, has too much similarity to not make a reference to it somehow. This is the same for anyone who takes the time to prepare for an outdoor adventure. Whether its fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, birding, photography, or camping – we take the time to prepare, and then afterward we reflect on the experience to enhance the next time we have the opportunity to return.

In seeking out a boat and subsequently being found by this one – my mind reeled back to when it was constructed and the time when the waterways of Oregon were in a fundamentally richer state than now, but in no way comparable to their robustness prior to our expansion into this territory. That being said – we cannot turn back the hands of time, but we must continue our efforts toward creating a better future for them. This is where maintenance comes in.

Maintenance means more than a passive acceptance of the work we must do as individuals toward the upkeep of our gear, our boats, and our trails that are integral for our passion as outdoors enthusiasts. It means taking a stand and coming together for the health and safety of the systems where we go to create our memories and test our limits. The core of the issue is simple for anglers – you have to have fish to catch them, and to have fish you must have suitable, healthy habitat. Too often I read and hear how outraged people get over something and then watch how their interaction with the subject matter wanes once our attention span reaches its limit.

This is unacceptable for some simple reasons. You wouldn’t do this when it comes to your gear to go fishing, hunting, hiking, kayaking, rafting, mountain biking, or any other activity you partake in the outdoors. So why can’t we take the time to help maintain our outdoor recreation areas in the same way we take care of our individual maintenance needs? I can see the trapping of this thought and I hope I can explain how we can overcome it.

The trap is simple – and we find ourselves conflicted by it. We believe the natural resource agencies will “do their job” by maintaining them and keeping them healthy for us. The simple answer to that thought is – quit being lazy – but in reality it’s not that simple. The time must be taken by each of us to ensure these places are healthy is our responsibility as outdoor enthusiasts. Secondarily, the agencies constantly find themselves short of funding and capacity to do this job on their own. Subsequently, organizations have popped up to help provide increased capacity to do that work – as volunteers.

This is how I have chosen to keep the heritage of the outdoors alive for future generations. By taking of my time to give back to those organizations who need help. Those groups need your help too, in whatever amount of time you can give to help. Now I have a boat that needs that same care, thoughtfulness, and upkeep. My hope is that I can keep it floating for the next generation to enjoy some day in the far off future when the fisheries are in a state similar to when it was built on the banks of the McKenzie. The metaphor this boat has become for my advocacy efforts is a tribute to the heritage and teaching of all those who have come before me, and especially to my grandparents who taught my love of the outdoors.

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