Welcome to the latest installment of the Wednesday Wake-Up Call, a roundup of the most pressing conservation issues important to anglers. Working with our friends at Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Everglades Foundation, Captains for Clean Water, VoteWater.org, and Conservation Hawks (among others), we’ll make sure you’ve got the information you need to understand the issues and form solid opinions.
1. Colorado River Crisis Deepens
The Colorado River system is at historically low water levels, which threatens everything from fishing to drinking-water supplies throughout the Southwest:
It’s an unprecedented challenge for the Colorado River Basin. Drought and rising temperatures due to climate change have accelerated evaporation from reservoirs, melted snowpack faster so that rivers run dry earlier in the season and parched the soil so it soaks up precipitation before it even reaches the river. This means less water available for agriculture, wildlife and people. At this point, even years of good precipitation won’t be enough to restore conditions in the river.
From its headwater in Rocky Mountain National Park, the river serves many masters, including fly fishers. The future is uncertain, and many hard choices will be made in months and years to com.
2. Oil and Water Don’t Mix in SW Montana
Southwest Montana’s public lands and waters may now be under greater threat of industrial oil and gas development. That’s because there are stipulations in the new Inflation Reduction Act requiring the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to hold quarterly oil and gas lease sales and offer huge amounts of public lands for leasing each year. In southwest Montana – where nearly 90% of public lands across the Big Hole, Beaverhead and Centennial valleys are currently open to leasing despite the area largely having little to no potential for oil and gas production – this means putting our public lands at harmful and unnecessary risk, unless important steps are taken to protect this treasured landscape.
3. Battle Between Colorado Landowners and Anglers Heats Up
Western water and land rights can be inscrutable to those of us in the rest of the country, but anglers in Colorado are challenging landowners’ claims to riverbeds across the state:
Roger Hill, an old-school dry fly fisherman, is particularly angry. And seeking to do something about it. In 2018, Mr. Hill, 81, a retired nuclear weapons scientist, filed a lawsuit asking the state to clarify its notoriously muddy stream-access laws vis-à-vis one of his favorite trout fishing grounds. To the ire of many landowners, who see it as a threat not only to their privacy but to their property values, that suit has been progressing through the state court system like a slow-moving missile.
4. We Must Leave More Menhaden in the Water for Game Fish
More menhaden are commercially harvested each year than any other fish in the lower 48 states—more than a million are caught per trip and more than a billion metric tons are caught per year, putting predators at risk and undermining the health of the marine ecosystem. A great web experience on the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership‘s site explains the problem and what needs to be done to fix it. Anglers who fish for striped bass, false albacore, redfish, or any of the other myriad species that depend on menhaden, you need to make your voice heard.