Happy Birthday Wild Steelheaders United

In Alaska, California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington by Shauna Sherard

WSU 1 year slider_low res

By Shauna Sherard

We made it.

One year.

365 days passed. 365 steps toward a better future for steelhead.

One year down. So many to go.

There are those who thought we were crazy. Crazy in what we believed. Crazy in our attempt to unite anglers, to try to solve allegedly unsolvable problems that had plagued steelhead rivers for decades. To rest on science. To support sensible solutions.

Compromise, some have said, is nothing but veiled loss.

We don’t believe any of that.

Maybe we are crazy. But it’s a single-minded sort of insanity—the restless kind that possesses our imaginations into the wee hours of the morning … the kind that drives. Torments. Makes us get off our butts and act, not just in our own self interest, but in the interest of others. The serious kind of crazy.

Because at our core—as steelheaders—this isn’t just a campaign or a mission statement, or a job. It’s not just volunteer hours or a social club.

It’s who we are. What we do. What we believe. It’s branded on our brains, tattooed on our hearts: What’s good for steelhead is good for people. What’s good for people, is good for the world. And round and round we go.

There are many who have come before and done good things. We thank them. But today is a day for reflecting on what we, the Wild Steelheaders United have accomplished in one short year. And the list is long. Here’s a few highlights:

We created our driving document, our Credo:

This is the foundation we stand on. Ten simple statements to outline what we believe. And what you believe. Thousands of you have signed. Thousands more must to create the kind of lasting change we need.

We got the right people for the job:

Dwayne Meadows, one of the best on-the-ground organizers in the West. Nick Chambers, a talented young angler, guide and biologist. John McMillan, arguably the Pacific Northwest’s foremost steelhead scientist and one damn good angler. The WSU would not exist without them.

We formed important partnerships:

We formed essential partnerships with the angling industry, because as Travis Campbell CEO of Farbank (Sage/Redington/Rio) said, “One of the reasons we partnered with TU, is the goal is to have fishable populations of steelhead. We are a resource dependent business. If there is no fish, there is no fishing. There is no us.”

We restored and reopened habitat:

From Alaska to California and deep into the heart of Idaho, TU put millions of dollars on the ground improving habitat and water flows for steelhead on hundreds of miles of rivers this year. Each dollar, each mile, it all adds up to make the difference.

We advanced important policy goals:

In its first year, WSU advocated to have Washington’s Skagit, Elwha and Puyallup/White rivers managed exclusively for wild steelhead, and to have the Skagit River’s catch-and-release fishery reopened; to permanently protect Oregon’s Elk River, to increase riparian buffers from 20 feet to 80 feet on 14,000 miles of Oregon streams; to create the Frank Moore Steelhead Sanctuary in the North Umpqua Basin; to improve steelhead fishing regulations on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula; and to draw international scrutiny of massive new mine proposals in steelhead rivers that originate in BC and meet the salt in Alaska. And this is just a partial list.

We educated:

We blogged, tweeted and posted on everything from best angling practices to the science behind hatchery and wild fish interactions. We surveyed anglers with the first ever poll on anglers’ preferences and opinions on steelhead management. We created The Steelhead Files, a look at the science that explains everyday questions from what are the best catch and release techniques to why steelhead like the color blue. And we held Steelhead Science for Anglers workshops in California, Oregon and Washington.

Above all, we found you, like-minded anglers who feel the call to act. Which might be the biggest accomplishment of all because at the end of the day it represents hope; hope that we will make a difference, that we will restore wild steelhead in their native range. Hope that one day we will step into the current and feel that untamed tug at the end of our line, knowing that finally—finally—this river, this fish, no longer needs our help.

Happy birthday WSU.