Bristol Bay is safe.
I know you’ve heard that before, but this time, it’s for real, done in by the Clean Water Act. After watching the Trump Administration finalize plans last week “to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development, a move that overturns six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States,” according to the New York Times, I thought Bristol Bay would share a similar fate. Not so.
Check out the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers statement and be happy:
This administration supports the mining industry and acknowledges the benefits the industry has provided to the economy and productivity of this country, from job creation to the extraction of valuable resources, which are especially important as we recover from this pandemic. The Pebble Mine project has the potential to fulfill all of those needs; however, as currently proposed, the project could have substantial environmental impacts within the unique Bristol Bay watershed and lacks adequate compensatory mitigation.
Given these concerns, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finds under section 404 of the Clean Water Act that the project, as proposed, would likely result in significant degradation of the environment and would likely result in significant adverse effects on the aquatic system or human environment.
See you on the river, Jim Burns
From the Los Angeles Times: Despite its concrete casing, installed in the late 1930s to rein in once-frequent flooding, signs of the natural river persist. Besides birds of many feathers, it’s home to beefy carp, small-mouth bass, tilapia and — once upon a time — steelhead trout. If you tilt your gaze in just the right way, away from the overpasses and concrete shores, it could be Georgia.
There are grander digs to fish — rushing rivers with glittering trout in Mammoth Lakes and Kern County — but they lack one of the L.A. River’s greatest strengths: convenience.
As requested by county officials, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham delayed the start of the trout opener in Alpine, Inyo and Mono counties. The director made this decision in consultation with California Fish and Game Commission President Eric Sklar.
The trout season was scheduled to open in these three counties this Saturday, April 25. The delay to the opener in these counties expires May 31.
Meanwhile, more fishing for shut-ins, this time at Brooks Falls – Katmai National Park, Alaska.
Washington State has closed fishing until May 4 on more than 7 million acres of public land; Oregon put the kibosh on recreational hunting, fishing, crabbing and clamming to non-residents, due to concerns about travel to Oregon to participate in these outdoor activities; for now, there’s no fishing, diving or boating in Florida’s Keys; meanwhile, free-wheelin’ Texas has declared fishing an essential activity; but what about California, home to more than 1 million resident fishing licenses?
Because of pandemonium during the call this week, the California Fish and Game Commission abruptly canceled a teleconference Thursday morning of more than 500 participants amid cries of “make fishing great again!” and “fascists!” before it could consider authorizing a limited ban on sportfishing in some areas, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The statewide heat got so hot that fishing was one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s points during his Thursday briefing,
“I’m passionate about fishing myself and I’m getting inundated by people that are concerned that we’ve canceled the fishing season,” the governor said at his daily COVID-19 briefing. “That is not the case, we are not canceling the fishing season in California.”
He added the state wants “to delay, not deny, the season,” according to KTLA.
Trout fishing season begins the last Saturday in April and runs through Nov. 15 every year. Opening Day, aka “Fishmas,” is Saturday, April 25, in Mono County.
As California more likely proposes a county by county system, it could be a model of what to expect as the state goes back to work. This is pure conjecture on my part, of course, but eventually we will have to find a way to safely ease our “shelter in place” restrictions.
When the meeting is rescheduled it will be posted on the commission’s website.
See you on the river (eventually), Jim Burns
Hello fellow fishers, sheltering in place.
It seems a natural to decamp to the great out of doors right now, to escape the virus anxieties and homebound blues. After all, municipal golf courses are still open, so what’s not to like in an even bigger venue?
That idea for me came crashing down when my friend and fishing guide Chris Leonard sent me an excellent blog post about how Bishop, California, is dealing with an onslaught of climbers. As one of the West’s best bouldering spots, I can see how the draw to go would be strong. But, questions arise as out-of-towners look for supplies and indoor camaraderie.
Here’s a sample from Thundercling:
Bishop, California, hosts some of the finest bouldering in the world, along with a friendly community dependent on visiting climbers. With COVID-19 sweeping into every nook of our nation, however, the town is struggling to limit visiting climbers; so far, unsuccessfully, putting the local population at risk for infection, a bleak prospect for a tiny community hours from the nearest metropolis.
“The current scene feels like people are on winter or spring break,” said Tammy Wilson, a local climber, skier, restaurant worker, and Volunteer Coordinator for the Flash Foxy Women’s Climbing Festival. “Lots of cars in the parking lots, more people at the boulders than Thanksgiving week. Massive crowds of people camping and in coffee shops and grocery stores.”
Despite mass outreach and the desperate warnings from physicians and health care workers worldwide, climbers from around the country have descended upon Bishop as though a global pandemic were some sort of hall pass from responsibility and magnanimity. These climbers, many of whom laud social services and universal health care and employ progressive social media messaging, have willed themselves to rise above distress and summarily jettisoned the very meaning of community in favor of sending some random V8 on volcanic tuft.
And that stalwart of independent journalism in the West, High Country News, turns our attention to the crowds descending on Arches National Park. Many years ago, environmental pioneer Edward Abbey warned that good roads would cause greater crowds to visit the park, but I’m sure he never imagined this scenario.
Ski resorts have shuttered. Disneyland is closed. Professional sports have been canceled. For most of the United States, social events and attractions ranging from museum visits to music festivals have vanished. But despite nationwide warnings that people should stay at home and limit unnecessary outings, national parks and monuments have, for the most part, remained open.
As a result, visitors desperate for activity and distraction have flooded into Moab, Utah, the gateway to Arches National Park. “We had crowds of people that felt like peak summertime,” said Ashley Kumburis, who manages a rafting and jeep tour outfitter that’s still open. “If you didn’t know this contagious virus was spreading, you would think it was a regular summer day in Moab.”
On March 16, doctors from Moab Regional Hospital sent a letter to Gov. Gary Herbert, R, asking for help. “We are writing this letter to implore you to shut down all non-essential business service in Moab,” it reads. Citing a lack of hospital beds and no local intensive care unit — at a time when lodging for the following weekend was estimated to be at between 75-95% capacity — officials were concerned that “tourism would drive the spread” of COVID-19. Within a few hours, the Southeast Utah Health Department issued an order closing restaurants and lodging, and camping on both public and private land to outside visitors.
Even though it hurts, stay home. I just pulled out of a trip I’ve been absolutely crazy to take for months, spring fly fishing the Western Sierra. We need to stop this thing any way we can. It’s not a hoax, fake news, overblown, over-estimated. It’s real.
See you on the river, Jim Burns