An Open Letter Re: North-Central Native Trout Survey

 
But hold on a second. Before you do that…
 
In the spring, at Fish Tales Fly Shop’s 20th anniversary, I referenced the Pembina River watershed closure and frankly told the audience that given its acceptance that there would likely be more 5 year watershed-wide closures coming, likely to do with native bull trout, grayling, and cutthroat trout populations in response to the FSI maps. It barely registered with the Calgary audience. If you’ve paid attention to the plight of the west slope cutthroat trout and bull trout of SW Alberta you know how politically polarizing they have become. 
 
Southern Alberta anglers be extremely cognizant of this – your turn is coming very soon if this kind of management is accepted. 
 
It’s not the issue of fish conservation that should concern us. It’s the deliberate dismissive and fragmented approach combined with poor communication and allowed misunderstandings of  management that should scare us. 
 
In a province where we’ve allowed industry development to run roughshod over the environment and change our watershed ecosystems, anglers will now take the blame.
 
Like fishing the lower Ram or N Saskatchewan Rivers? See you in 5 years. 
 
The past 5 years at the provincial Fisheries Round Table meetings we’ve been told the concern is all about habitat, habitat, habitat: but here we are, the anglers taking the blame. For a provincial government so unwilling to close waters during this year’s record heat and drought, for those central Alberta biologists that refused to close our region’s waters this year and last during the heat & drought… for a dept so unwilling to consider angler density and impact during drought as a measure to protect our native species when considering Emergency Stream Closures, they are extremely willing to close waters for 5 years.
 
There again, more recently the government decided to change the rules surrounding there actually being a Fisheries Round Table and canceled them due to lack of a RSVP – though that was never part of process before. You know the spirit behind that, of course. 
 
It’s an hour to walk to formerly remote reaches of the deepest part of the Ram canyon these days.

 

For a government so willing to hand over forestry, oil & gas rights and grazing leases, it’s confusing that anglers pay the price. Remove your rivers’ advocates without so much a hint this is coming? Really? Given the shocking logging operations in the Ram drainage the past several years, one might consider adjustments to AOPs and FMA terms to finally include ecosystem management and proper access management plans. But, like much of Alberta’s industry-first approach, that’s the hard nut to crack. It’s much easier to preclude anglers and all will be fine. 
 
But the question is: “Does something have to be done?” Well, have the bios and the Dept followed its own process? Hardly. Has the management plan been completed? I started the Streamwatch Program on the Ram and was the guy to lobby to have the S Ram dedicated catch & release. I know I’m difficult to deal with because I’m a stickler for process and some don’t like me so maybe there was public involvement without me? If so, who was involved in that process? What was / is the management objective in the Ram/NSR watershed plans?
 
No, there hasn’t been process – so  how did this idea get to this point? Who decided this to be the chosen strategy and where is its support? Is it the same bio that refused to close waters in the region during the last 2 years’ drought? But now that teeters on being personal – but inaction followed by action that follows no process and includes nobody but one, well, that attracts a few pointed fingers, doesn’t it?
 
The blown smoke facade here is that the gov is doing something when reality is they are unwilling to roll back industrial approvals. The communication and messaging coming out of the Dept is staggeringly poor. Our Dept continues to complain about a lack of public input but then hides behind social media and web based surveys without interaction. 
 
 
Look, if you’ve seen the Fish Sustainability Index maps (FSI) for our native species, it’s full of black and red (the native spp are gone or damned close) thanks to habitat fragmentation and alteration: habitat that based on our government’s over-allocation and light on regulations on resource industries is not coming back any time soon. The point is that we need watershed management plans that looks at ATV and all user access, but most importantly a changing of industrial operations that allow habitat sanctuaries – and that mgt will likely further include reach or timing restrictions or limitations for industrial use and angling/recreation use. 
 
The big concern that I cannot stress enough:
What we don’t need is further fragmentation of mgt, miscommunication and misunderstandings in the public by piece-meal management approaches like this.
 
If you take the survey, PLEASE take them to task as to why they aren’t doing watershed management plans that look at all facets impacting the populations including industrial use changes, motorized use, access mgt, recreation mgt, etc. Please ask them why the hell they aren’t including the public in process before this kind of thing comes to this point. 
 
It’s staggering to have been this involved in fisheries this long and to watch the abject dismissal of the concerned anglers in the province to the point we’ve been collectively reduced to social media & web sound bites. 
 
And yes, of course it is fish first, but how we get them ‘back’ isn’t a social media & web sound bite discussion nor solution. As I mentioned in a post not long ago, this style of government management in seeking public feedback is part of our future – it’s much easier for gov to use than to be dragged over the coals in a public meeting face to face and be held accountable for their management and the over allocation of industrial activity and lack of fisheries enforcement. 
 
As always, be sure to take the time to support your local clubs, fly shops, etc so their future is sound so that you can be apprised of needed support & actions and that proper management can be held to account.
 
How gov is handling process is fragmented and dismissive and the more they do this without check the more social media management we’ll be fed. And that should scare the hell out of us all. 
 
Given the over-haul to our fisheries regulations that is coming in 2018, there are going to be a lot of shocked anglers, not the least of which will be the pike regulations. But this harkens back to a few years ago when the concept of simplifying the regulations in conjunction with Fisheries Mgt Objectives (FMO). My first question was “Who is setting the FMO and will there be a public involvement process on that?”   The dismissive answer: “We are” followed by a discussion ending “no”.
 
The great news is that it is an attempt. But it’s an attempt by which the larger government whole thinks that something is being done over in Fisheries when the Sustainable Resource folks are holding all the cards and has 99% of the $ on the table. You can juggle 4 dimes and a nickle but you aren’t winning any $1000 pots. 
 
Meanwhile the Red Deer River Fisheries Management Plan continues to be used as a manipulation piece for positive PR. Lobby and process begun back in 1999 was shelved because of the upcoming regulations over haul. I was 100% correct that it would be 20 years before that process completed, and 2018 is the 20th year since I began. While the actual FMP process was completed through committee several years ago, it included a provision for the first flowing water walleye harvest tag. And given the screaming and gnashing of teeth that anglers will have with the coming restrictions on harvest across Alberta in 2018, you can bet the pot that gov is going to use the Red Deer R walleye as a bargaining chip to buy good faith in providing new opportunity. Again, if you are looking to get involved in Fisheries Mgt process in Alberta, understand that your efforts that you think are in good faith for a specific population can and often will be used to fill a political agenda. They won’t expedite process on legitimate fisheries concerns but if there are political points needed, well, you know how quickly that horse gets saddled up.
 
And no doubt you’ll read positive social media posts about this, that something is being done, etc. That’s all great on that level. Support it. Don’t think for a second that I’m not keenly aware that this post is playing the roll of a key piece on the chess board. Now that it has arrived, someone else can play the role of the other needed pieces on the chess board of Fisheries Mgt lobby in Alberta. If you’re paying attention and involved, you know exactly what I’m saying here. As the bios, techs, and Dept folks know through my days at the old forum and the Alberta Fishing Guide Magazine, I fully support and respect their roles and responsibilities. However, there comes a time that more needs be done in being fully responsible & accountable to those. 

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