Earlier this week, it came as a surprise to find Trout Unlimited in the crosshairs of misguided anger directed at the “rhetoric” in which they employ, on behalf of coldwater fisheries nationwide. It was implied that not only is Trout Unlimited back-dooring its members by the language they use as a political tool, but it was also implied, that its mission to protect and restore coldwater fisheries through such tactics was wrong. The argument left TU holding the bag as a member based organization that had confused its core belief and moral obligation to trout and its fisheries, overturning its mission statement by becoming a political mob of extreme environmentalists. Thus, leaving anyone sitting at their table, one shade of blue.
To me, the real question at hand is two-fold; Is Trout Unlimited misleading members by the work they do through political channels locally and nationally, and is their “rhetoric” appropriate in regards to their mission statement and politics? I could give you the simple answer in one word, but I’ll try to expand on my opinion a little more in depth, if for nothing else than to hear myself talk.
Trout Unlimited was founded on the belief that protecting trout and coldwater fisheries was worthwhile, but more importantly, worth ensuring its heritage for future generations. Over the years, this organization outgrew its banks in Michigan and became a national organization with local chapters participating in the good stewardship from which Trout Unlimited was formed. These local chapters (mine is the Rocky Mountain Flycasters in Fort Collins, CO), are the boots on the ground operations that find local projects to get involved with, whether it’s Trout in the Classroom, river cleanups, restoration projects, youth camps, etc. These chapters have a vested interest in community and their members on a personal level. And for most of us, we selfishly like the movies, speakers, and camaraderie that these chapters provide. This is our vision of Trout Unlimited. The national arm of Trout Unlimited on the other hand (as I understand it), is a different beast, and their business model runs on a slightly different wave length. They understand that a strong chapter level will get things done locally, while their voice will be focused on the all-encompassing issues, such as; Bristol Bay, the Clean Water Act, the Farm Bill, Fracking, the Colorado River, Million’s Pipeline (I am from CO after all), the Sportsman’s Conservation Project, etc. And this is where politics enters the arena, not because it’s wanted, but rather it’s just part of the landscape.
Politics is just part of the deal. And when you think about how TU advocates its politics, it’s out there for the world to see. Just go to their website and take a look around.
There was an article written on the TU website, entitled “Nothings More Important than Clean Water”. A piece that had received particular heat for its incendiary language, blatantly claiming that, “nothing”, is more important than clean water. Some argued that TU had overstepped its bounds by simply using that phrase, especially during a time in our country when there is a lot outside the world of trout to worry about.
Maybe Trout Unlimited should start focusing their efforts on the economy, job creation, women’s rights, and the like. Forget coldwater, we’re in an election year.
This article shared TUs frustration with some guidance language that was omitted from part of the Clean Water Act, and here’s a small quote from said article,
“The guidance language pertains mostly to small, headwater streams and irreplaceable wetlands all over the country–as anglers, we know these fragile streams are home to some of our best wild and native trout populations, and they’re where the bulk of our salmon and steelhead spawn...Hopefully the Senate can put politics aside and vote for clean water. Is that too much to ask?”
It’s hard to believe that Trout Unlimited would be so reckless, and actually voice their concern over such small potatoes. And then have the gall to go as far to ask all that care to do so, to write a letter to their state representatives in support of clean water, headwater streams, and wetlands.
But the reality, politics and all, is that's what they are supposed to be doing. That is what we pay them for. We pay them to look out for our best interests as members of their organization (within the scope of trout and coldwater fisheries), and to fight for a membership base in a centric manner to ensure that these fisheries don’t fall by the wayside to a poorly written bill in congress. Politics is necessary, and from my standpoint, Trout Unlimited is certainly not hiding an extremist agenda.
We all know that there are important issues facing this country outside the world of all things trout. To get upset at any organization for fighting for its beliefs is absurd. The tone of their rhetoric is on point, and shouldn’t have to be apologized for, to anyone, especially its members.
We’re taught from a young age that there is always middle ground to be found, and that if you work together to find solutions to a problem that it can and will get done. In most cases, this holds true. But increasingly, it would seem, that some people don’t want to do the work. They have made up their minds that an all or nothing outcome is better than compromise. People pass blame on others for this laziness, while taking the easy way out. Pleading the one side of the story that fits neatly into the beliefs and ideas in which they feel are right. And when things narrow in scope to one set of ideals or morals, the carnival barkers cry foul, puffing their chests and screaming they’ve been wronged by another. They criticize, instead of thinking, not understanding that you can’t always have your cake and eat it to. I’ll blame Burger King for this. The “Have it your way” mentality makes things way too easy, way too one sided. Even Dominoes is selling pizza you can’t personalize. “No peppers?”… Not a chance. Sorry for asking.
*I guess the point to all of this is that if Trout Unlimited wants to continue to get things done in the name of coldwater conservation, neither their rhetoric or politics can afford to be right or left in the political arena. Their work would suggest that they have yet to fall into that trap, and during a time where congress can't seem to agree on anything, I would argue that Trout Unlimited has gone above and beyond to wade somewhere in the middle. After all, it seems that despite politics, they are able to get some pretty impressive work done on behalf of sportsman everywhere.
**I don’t rant very often. What do I know? I would like to hear your opinions on the subject, for the opinion above is simply my own. And if I’m wrong, I’m wrong, it would most certainly not be the first time.
Research from the Trout Unlimited website, with one exception: