Trump is Bad News for Fly Fishing

Climate change and American flag in two directions on road sign. Withdrawal of climatic agreement.

For anglers, the bad news started rolling in almost immediately. Rumors of appointments included everyone from famous polluters to climate change deniers to individuals whose career ambitions included privatizing public land. And after the inauguration, the executive orders, appointments, deregulation, and new policies and reviews rolled in.

Fearing for our fisheries, The Venturing Angler cried foul and offered lists of information with links about what was going down. It was largely a nonpartisan offering of facts with sources. However, blowback came in the form of a number of responses. So, just like B-Rabbit launched a preemptive self takedown in 8 Mile when up against Papa Doc, let’s list some of the less helpful and generally peculiar responses we can anticipate for this post:

  • “fake news”
    • Even when directing responders to legislative record, “fake news” were two words that were frequently fired back. It isn’t. Sources available.
  • “stick to fly fishing”
    • When policies are made that will impact fly fishing, addressing said policies is in fact sticking to fly fishing.
  • “consider yourself unfollowed”
    • Okay. If a defense of rivers, public lands, and ecosystems angers you, you might frequently be frustrated with this site.
  • “liberal”
    • Theodore Roosevelt articulated a defense of public lands. Richard Nixon is largely responsible for present day protections. Both conservatives recognized the need for healthy and accessible ecosystems. Just like infrastructure or other generally agreed upon domestic needs, there is no reason for environmental issues to now be liberal issues.
  • “removing protections is necessary for jobs and the economy”
    • From the end of President Obama’s presidency until now, we have near record unemployment, record corporate profits, the stock market is at an all-time high, and other measures of economic success are at an all-time high. This is not to say that there aren’t needs for other areas of economic growth, especially for lower-wage earners. But if by many measures things have never been better, when will it finally be time to protect our lands and waters?

The title of the last look at the presidency so far irritated some people. Point taken. “Donald Trump is Killing Fly Fishing” ruffled feathers. Maybe not a good title. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Every one of us talks about how fly fishing used to be. And in most places there has been a dramatic decline. There are two important points to be acknowledged about this decline:

  1. It’s recent.
  2. It’s due to public policy decisions, largely around logging, dams, oil, coal, and manufacturing.

That said, when you look at what has unfolded from the Trump Administration in a very short amount of time, all anglers, even Trump supporters, ought to be gravely concerned. As a hunter/angler relative of mine told me recently in response to budget proposals that would gut ecosystem cleanup efforts and protections all over the country, “I voted for him, but now we have to stop this.”

A listing of actions and news so far that is of concern to anglers:

From the former post:

  • On the afternoon of the inauguration, the climate page of whitehouse.gov was promptly removed from the site and promises were issue about deregulation of environmental protections.
  • Northern Dynasty announced it has the support of the Trump administration and will move forward on Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Since then, there have been some ups and downs in the market for Northern Dynasty, but the threat is back. (More here.)
  • Trump has given the green light to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Protesters were removed from the site, and completion of the pipeline is underway. (More here.)
  • Trump has given the green light to the Keystone XL Pipeline. (More here.)
  • The Trump Administration is moving forward on ending the Clean Power Plan. This puts the health and lives of Americans at risk and puts the brakes on any progress and much hope when it comes to a more sustainable future. (More here.)
  • Trump is moving forward on gutting the environmental protections of the Clean Water Rule that formerly safeguarded rivers, streams, and wetlands. (More here.)
  • The GOP in Congress has voted to gut the Endangered Species Act to allow more mining, drilling, and logging. (More here.)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency has had grants, projects, and research halted and is now under a gag order preventing communication with the press. (More here.)
  • Trump has killed the Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule that keeps coal companies and mines from destroying rivers with pollution and waste. (More here.)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency is on the verge of catastrophic cuts that will put ecosystems and human health at risk. These cuts will end cleanup efforts of of destroyed ecosystems. Often, these efforts come alongside state projects. Now the states will struggle with how to resolve these key needs. (More here.)
  • Critical government research on climate change will lose funding. (More here.)
  • Despite some hope among anglers with Trump’s Interior Secretary pick, the administration overall has no regard for public lands, and Congress and state governors have recognized this and have introduced legislation that strip Americans of public lands or allow drilling, mining, logging, and other destruction of our lands. It is very clear: Trump’s priorities are oil and gas and a dying coal industry over public lands. (More here.)
  • As the world’s sole leader that does not believe in climate change, Trump is likely to disrupt the critical achievements of the Paris Treaty by pulling out of the agreement. Even Bill O’Reilly thinks this is a bad move! To quote Yvon Chouinard, “If you’ve got a politician that’s running for office who thinks he’s smarter than 98% of the world’s climate scientists, they’re crooks or they’re dumbasses.” (More here.)
  • Trump nominated and Congress approved of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is what protects are rivers, streams, lakes, beaches, bays, and wetlands. Of course, the EPA is also what defends public health against corrupt and destructive industries and practices. It would be difficult to find one other person with more contempt for the EPA. While fracking-caused earthquakes destroyed property in the state, Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times and has little regard for the EPA. The climate change denying Pruitt believes that the EPA’s regulation of fossil fuel companies over mercury poisoning go too far. As Attorney General, it was Pruitt’s job to defend the law and the residents of Oklahoma. Instead, he served fossil fuel and chemical companies, even copying and pasting their language from emails and putting it into lawsuits against environmental protections. Though suing the EPA on behalf of polluters, Pruitt never took legal action against the natural gas companies that have greatly impacted the ecosystems and citizens of Oklahoma. Oklahoma now has more earthquakes than California. (More here.)
  • It is expected that next week will bring sweeping cuts to important environmental priorities in the government. We will soon know what this means, but it is anticipated that NOAA will see a 17% budget cut. This will catastrophic to climate change research. (More here.)

Since the last post:

  • The U.S. House has removed protections for watersheds that prevented pesticides from poisoning rivers and other waters. Many anglers, especially in the mid-Atlantic region, know how destructive pesticides are to watersheds. (More here.)
  • In a backroom deal, the Environmental Protection Agency reversed Obama policy and has eased the burdens of the permitting process to allow Pebble Mine to move forward. Though not approved, it is now moving closer in that direction. (More here.)
  • The EPA has dismissed its advisory panel of scientists and the Department of the Interior has suspended its advisors. Both now seem to be taking advising from polluters and developers rather than scientists. (More here.)
  • In DamNation, the filmmakers note that the era of dam building is essentially over. Not if Trump can help it. As he stated, “They don’t even talk about dams anymore … You know hydropower is a great, great form of power … we don’t even talk about it because the permits are virtually impossible.” (More here.)
  • Trump and the Interior Department have made it easier to mine, log, and drill on public lands. (More here.)
  • Trump removed the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. We now join Syria and Nicaragua as hold outs. Even North Korea’s dictator stated that the United States’ position is “short-sighted.”
  • All National Monuments named since 1996 (Clinton, Bush, Obama decisions) are now under review and at risk. This includes land and marine monuments that are critical to healthy fisheries. (More here.)
  • While the head of the Interior asserted he will defend public lands, it is now clear that he only means the existence of public lands. The department is largely open to allowing corporations in to exploit and likely contaminate those lands and related water.
  • Due to the pledged or likely support of the president, since the inauguration, Congress has aggressively pushed selling off public lands to polluters and developers. (More here.)
  • The Trump Administration’s proposed federal budget guts existing conservation and protection programs for more organizations than we can possibly name. Groups such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation have in essence stated that the cuts will be catastrophic. The EPA budget would be slashed with thousands of jobs eliminated. They would even cut funding to superfund sites — areas designated as so polluted or toxic that federal intervention is needed. (More here.)

So what are the solutions? Frankly, that is a tough one. Formerly, we had branches of government that were at least somewhat interested in the opinions of the public. And with good laws in the books, a strong EPA, and the backing of the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act, there were at least the foundations for defending our land and water. This is now less the case. On a small level, we can sign petitions and support organizations such as American Rivers, the Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska, Trout Unlimited, California Trout, the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, and so on. Such groups will often make calls to action, including formal demonstrations. We can also cut consumption. However, unfortunately, the challenges faced are so great that more is needed. The fact is, these are critical times for access to lands and water, and the health of our fisheries haven’t faced challenges this great since at least the early 1970s. At the very least, we need a movement.

As I stated last time, while many don’t want fly fishing to be politicized, doing nothing is a political move as well. And with so much under attack, we have no choice.

— Tim Harden

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