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Carmen Macdonald

A passion for fishing and hunting grew into a career that's included Alaskan guide, media sales, writer and the politics of outdoor recreation. My company, Vaunt Marketing, represents industry-leading brands in the US and Canadian markets.

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April 29, 2015

Zeros of Conservation

by Carmen Macdonald

I read this letter in awe and disgust as I consider the new lows Oregon's zealot class will go to in order to exercise their contempt for anglers. In short, I see it as disingenuous, somewhat delusional and across the board inflammatory. Scanning the overall membership of the Oregon Conservation Network, it's par for the course for many of these organizations, but seems especially shameful for a few particulars. It's not their opinion nor the arrogance the letter contains that is the issue, it's that these words have come from leaders that people throughout Oregon trust to know better.

This letter was sent as comment to ODFW's budget in the state legislature. As you read it, consider that many of those that signed it participated in ODFW's External Budget Advisory Committee (EBAC for short). They were part of the budget construction process, then turn to hurl stones at it.

Obviously my issues with these organizations stem from the 3rd and 4th paragraphs. Consider this:

"Instead, costs should be contained by curtailing programs that benefit just some Oregonians rather than the public at large…hatchery management ($4.8 million GF), fish screens ($2 million GF), engineering ($1.2 million GF), and Wildlife Services (.428 million GF). These programs should be funded with license and fee revenues."

The "public at large" should be grateful for hatcheries.

Hatcheries allowed for the development of dams that deliver inexpensive power, flood control, irrigation and drinking water diversions among a litany of things that are all damaging to fish, but very comforting to modern life.

Hatcheries saved our connection to fish while we denuded our forests and landscapes to build Portland, Salem, Eugene and the thousands of subdivisions, all of which that are squarely within salmon habitat that surround them.

Once-prolific runs of salmon, steelhead and sea-run cutthroat were systematically destroyed for the sake of the "public". Coastal and mountainous communities could be thriving centers for sporting pursuits, but instead are rendered shadows of their former selves so that the urban elite can hold fundraising banquets with goals of driving the final nails into the consumptive sporting community.

Every single signature on this letter understands the history and major limiting factors associated with fish populations: hydropower, urban development and runoff, diking and channelization, irrigation, destruction of flood plains. They also clearly know the benefactors of these projects, yet are amazingly fast to absolve themselves and the "public at large" of any responsibility for the current state of affairs.

It's disgusting.

Here's Oregon Trout's Tom Wolf from a 2012 Oregonlive guest column.

"If you live in Portland, you are fortunate to have some of the cleanest, safest drinking water in the world -- provided by the Bull Run watershed, which flows off the western slopes of Mount Hood. Because Congress took action in 1999 to protect Bull Run from logging -- and mud flowing off logging roads -- current and future generations of Portland residents can enjoy clean, safe drinking without worrying about mudslides and silt."

The Bull Run complex has no fish passage. Portland's beautiful water supply extirpated fish runs. Wolf knows this. Bakke knows this. Kaitlin Lovell, past co-president of the Native Fish Society and current "Senior Manager, Science Fish and Wildlife at City of Portland" knows this. Do these individuals go after Portland to provide fish passage at their project, of course not. Instead, they rally against hatchery fish that provide a fishery in place of the extirpated runs.

Here's another OregonLive quote from 2010, authored by Tom Wolf, Russel Bassett (then of the Native Fish Society), Willamette Riverkeeper Travis Williams and Michael Karnosh of the Grand Rhonde tribe, "The major dams on the Willamette tributaries owned by the Corps have literally decimated a range of wildlife, including native fish runs, from the time of their construction in the 1950s and '60s.

I might place my own addition to their 2010 sentence to bring it to the present day- but let's screw anglers anyway.

And certainly don't overlook the fish screen component. Probably one of the single greatest efforts made to mitigate human presence within the waterways, fish screens do not have anything to do with anglers, but that doesn't stop the zealot class from attempting to saddle ordinary anglers with their cost.

And they continue, "Further, if license and fee revenues are on the decline, then it makes sense to cut programs that just benefit those who purchase licenses and pay other fees."

Participation is declining, but revenues have continued to go up because the people who participate in Oregon's angling have regularly and willingly stepped up to fund rising costs while the "public at large" has shirked what was a miniscule financial responsibility given the magnitude of the benefits the public has received from the destruction of fish runs.

But it doesn't end there. When called upon to fund efforts for non-game programs, organizations like the Audubon Society and others have rebuffed opportunities to contribute multiple times. Oregon has turned down a tax on birdseed at least twice.

These organizations ride the coattails of Oregon's heroes of conservation, hunters and anglers, while whining, sniveling and frankly behaving like spoiled children.

It's arrogance and elitism of monumental proportion.

And in their closing, "We appreciate your consideration as we share ideas for solving the budget woes of ODFW while also helping them to realize their conservation mission, a mission that has been underserved in the past two decades."

I added the emphasis on this closing line, because frankly, I agree we lost conservation 20 years ago, though my interpretation is very different than theirs. Conservation includes use. It's not without impact. It includes people. Twenty years ago we replaced conservation with an antagonistic approach to fish and wildlife management that seeks to manufacture scarcity and drive the costs of participation so high that only the urban elite can cast lines from their ivory towers.

I can only guess that the goal of this letter is to decry the fact that all of the wretched little people have not been banished from the waterways.

To me, this letter is evidence to the goal. Saddle the little guy with the costs for which he bears no responsibility. Systematically destroy participation in Oregon's hands-on outdoors and all the connection and caring for the resource that accompany it.

And finally, I do hope that member of the legislature call these folks to the carpet to justify their closing sentence about the conservation mission being underserved. It seems a habit of Trout Unlimited's Tom Wolf to utilize this completely unsubstantiated rhetoric as of late.

Here's another recent example from Oregonlive, "They, through no intentional wish, got away from their mission of conservation," said Tom Wolf, executive director of the Oregon council of Trout Unlimited.

It comes as no surprise that Trout Unlimited, having come off a very commendable effort in Alaska's Bristol Bay region and Pebble Mine, could very well be in need of a new campaign to drive donations. Organizations need a crisis. If you don't have one…do you make one?

Comments (4)

flopearedmule wrote 2 years ago

Well said. We can now see who they truly are.

AlseaAssassin wrote 2 years ago

No surprise there. To quote Doc Holliday, "Their hypocrisy knows no bounds...."

I guess that's why TU's wild steelhead initiative gives me more reason for concern than hope.

watseco wrote 2 years ago

Great piece! This should be put on Oregon Live.com. They have an agenda and that agenda is not to improve fishing opportunity.

Fisherman Bob wrote 2 years ago

I do not support for one second what these people are saying about funding for ODFW. I for one, am gratefull for Carmen Macdonald taking the time to educate the rest of us. With "social media", anybody can sound like an expert and post bogus information. With the majority of the younger generations getting their information from the internet and social media, it's becoming more and more important that individuals respond to these bogus claims, and tell the people these are bogus claims. Thank you Carmen for being one of these people, and everybody else needs to take the time to confront these people and their bogus opinions in social media. Folks, this is the new world and like it or not, we all need to learn how to deal with social media misinformation.

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