Tuesday, July 25, 2017

No Stinking Merit Badges for the Cheeto-in-Chief




By Bob Ferris

I did the Boy Scout thing.  It was basically fine.   I absorbed what was good about it and let the other stuff fly on by.  It is not an experience I think of daily but it is there on occasion when my fingernails are dirty or I feel the need to help someone cross the street.  Knots and compasses along with the camping trips in canvas tents that always leaked come to mind too.  But a lot of it was about being with other boys and learning not to be…a dick.  Donald Trump was never a Boy Scout which makes me all the more angry about Trump’s political dog-and-pony-show at the National Jamboree in West Virginia.  

Boy Scout Oath:
On my honor, I will do my best 
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; 
To help other people at all times; 
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight. 
The above is the Boy Scout Oath we memorized and took at every meeting.  I can think of few in public life who live their lives less in line with these principles than Trump.  And while most presidents see their obligation to the Boy Scouts as one of setting an example and talking about principle-driven behavior and citizenship such as President Obama did in 2010, Trump took a wildly different road.



Boy Scout Law:
A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.
For those not familiar with the Boy Scout Law I have included it above.  Read the expected traits and let them sink in starting with trustworthy.  It is truly hard to see intersection points between this president and these desired characteristics.  In this I find myself surprisingly agreeing with Trump’s new press secretary Anthony Scaramucci who in 2016 condemned Trump for his demagoguery.  

Trump’s Boy Scout Jamboree appearance was a green-wood campfire started with gasoline.   All of it was wrong.  It exploited children and its campaign-style tenor violated Boy Scout policies about keeping out of the political sphere.  It should embarrass the organization as it did the nation (1,2,3,4).  And Trump's words and actions stomped on pretty much every principle imbued by this century old organization.  It does not take much to get a bunch of exited young males to roar, what does take skills and character is leadership and in Trump we have far too much of the former and absolutely none of latter.  Poorly done indeed.   



Saturday, July 22, 2017

Trump and the Foul Winds of Mrs. Kissell


By Bob Ferris

I used to have a friend who when faced with nonsense or ill-placed blame would say: We always kick the dog when the old lady breaks wind.  This could have been a recasting of the above clip from the movie 10, but might have come from something earlier.  I think about this as I watch Trump try to lay off some of his son’s blame on former Attorney General Loretta Lynch because she, after all, let the Russian Attorney in the country in the first place.  Hmmm.  
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence [sic].” US Constitution Bill of Rights Amendment VI
Let’s think on this for a moment.  The Russian lawyer in question came to this country under what are considered emergency and deeply American conditions.  She was allowed into the US because her client—the son of a Russian oligarch—needed representation in a federal court case involving money laundering among other issues.  The judge in the case asked for this emergency immigration parole because we in the US believe that anyone deserves representation (see 6th Amendment above) when tried or testifying in the US.  So this woman was in this country because of that pesky document we call the US Constitution.  

This immigration parole was for a single, expressed purpose and had an expiration date like all of these paroles.  The expiration date was extended, but the purpose was not expanded.  Yet here she was with a support cast of Russian-born and Russian-connected helpmates meeting with members of candidate Trump's inner circle.  Loretta Lynch did not set up the meeting and the Secret Service did not review or approve the action.  But Trump still “kicks the dog.”


Two recurring themes are raised here.  The first is that Trump knows very little about the American principles embodied by our Founders or how government actually works.  This idea of a democracy or even a republic is fundamentally at odds with his apparent preferred state of a dynastic monarchy.  For how can we have King Donald I or Princess Ivanka and her consort Jared if they can be bound by the rules or norms of common folk?   

The second and perhaps sadder reality is that Trump and his gruesome gaggle of adoring family and sycophants seem as incapable of accepting responsibility or fault for anything as they do of embracing truthfulness.  For his entire career Trump has been the “bull in a china shop” leaving destruction in his wake never once owning his part in the wreckage.   One wonders in this if he even senses the broken plates and saucers or simply sees the shards and fragments as a logical by-product of the world enjoying his magnificent Trump-ness.  


Frustration and meanness bubbles up in me when I think about what we are seeing in DC.  Without much effort the classic cartoon sequence from Fantasia of a hippo dancing in a tutu comes to mind.  It is comical for a while but my smile leaves as I start to see modern-day parallels.  The circling hippos, for instance, isolate and enable the central hippo creating and reenforcing the false impression of true skills and grace.  That is before a lack of functional stamina forces a collapse on a fragile day bed or what is classically known as a fainting couch.  This last collapsing couch imagery compares much too closely for comfort to what Trump and his allies are doing to our expectations for the presidency and our system of government which are both strained to their limits by the weight of his corruption and ineptness.    


The movie 10 was a comedy and Fantasia was a cartoon that used absurdity to draw people to neglected classical music like the hippo piece—Amilcare Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours.” This was fine music that Walt Disney felt that most would sadly fail to hear or appreciate.  That was unless they were eventually fans of a 1960s era parody song by Allan Sherman.   But the presidency cannot be a comedy or descend to absurdity if we hope to remain a world leader or vibrant nation.  



Moreover,  there comes a time in everyone’s life when they finally have to face the music for their actions.  And if we want to regain credibility, this should be Trump’s.  We simply cannot have a shell-company or LLC-type of presidency.  I am encouraged by this discovery of a memo indicating that the president can be indicted and agree with those who are wearing t-shirts or caps emblazoned with the slogan “It’s Mueller Time.” In point of fact it is well past time.



Monday, July 17, 2017

Wolves: A Fierce Green Fire or Beasts of Waste and Desolation (from April 2012)

By Bob Ferris
Mark Johnson DVM training me to listen to wolf's heart beat on animals being processed for release in Yellowstone in 1996.
I once read a piece written by astronomer Timothy Ferris (no close relation) about science and politics.  Part of his argument was that science, true science had to be conducted in a liberal setting.  He further argued that conservative and liberal were not polar opposites.  He put forth cogently in the piece that progressive and conservative were on opposite ends of the political spectrum with conservatives being people who were more comfortable with the past and progressives being more at home in the future and embracing change.

Add to this linear construct measures of the relative degree of political system constraints from totalitarian to liberal and you end up with a model that allows you to efficiently map political regimes.  Under this design conservative totalitarianism would be fascism and the same restrictive approach embracing the future (progressive totalitarianism)would represent communism.  Libertarians would actually be liberal conservatives (i.e., don’t tread on me and I love the past or status quo) and socialism would hug the progressive end of the plot somewhere north (more liberal) of communism.

I have often shared this with folks when they start calling me names like Nazi or Commie—sometimes both simultaneously—as a method for clarifying my position and adding a common language to these often acrimonious and sometimes silly and artificially polarized conversations.  Today as I was participating in some debates between wildlife biologists about wolf recovery, it hit me that we could probably map biological philosophies and biologist types using a similar method.  But what would or should we use as the scalars?

Here I think that conservative and progressive could also apply but those could be replaced easily by Teddy Roosevelt (yes, I know he founded the Progressive Party) and Aldo Leopold and the totalitarian versus liberal could be replaced by applied versus theoretical.  The conservative side of this could also be thought to be grounded in wildlife management primarily for human benefit such as hunting or prevention of crop or livestock damage.  And the progressive could be linked with a desire for understanding rather than controlling.  These are obviously gross and not completely accurate representations, but useful nonetheless.


Before you start going on and on about the problems of generalizations and stereotypes, think about wildlife and conservation biologists you know and see where they might end up on this diagram.  In my experience, biologists found in the lower right hand corner of this diagram are much more likely to see predator control as a viable and necessary component of wildlife management.  Someone in the upper left is much less likely to hold those same beliefs.

I have purposely narrowed the gap between theoretic and applied because I think that the philosophical divide between TWS and SCB members has narrowed as well over the years.   This is in part because Michael Hutchins (TWS CEO) has been trying to push his membership more in that direction.  The soon-to-be-released analysis of predator control programs by TWS is a case in point.  I am not sure that we would have seen something along those lines in the mid-1980s when I initially joined TWS.  That said, the proof in this particular pudding will be the content and thrust of the analyses contained in the report.

The above is not to say that there are not some wildlife or conservation biologists who are off the charts in all directions, just as there are climatologists who do not absolutely embrace the reality of climate change or our role in that phenomenon.  But this is really not about those souls more than two standard deviations from the norm; it is about the rest of us and seeing how grounding and professional entry points might subtly or profoundly influence our relative takes on predator value and management.
With Steve Fritz and Dave Mech in Fort Saint John, British Columbia.  Minus 45 degrees F is pretty cold for a boy raised in California.

I have through experience and age a foot solidly in both camps with my early technical exposure coming from khaki-shirted deer and fish maximizers when Nixon was still president and my graduate work on the eve of the Clinton candidacy.  It puts me in a spot where both factions have made me cringe at times.  And that is OK and all part of a healthy discipline and dialog.  So where am I going with all of this?

The wolf debates in the Intermountain West have jumped off the logic tracks and been driven there equally by hysteria and dismissiveness.  My plea is for biologists from all parts of this construct to first have some self-awareness about where you might fall in this philosophical dynamic and how that might color your view.  And then, regardless of how uncomfortable it might make you, speak out publicly and call for an end of the hysteria (i.e., wolves are driving elk to extinction) and dismissiveness (i.e., nothing is happening) in favor of an honest and rational examination of what is transpiring and why.

The two exemplars I used above—Aldo Leopold and Teddy Roosevelt—and others helped to draw many of us into our profession.  These two in particular are important because they were also very principled players who staked out defensible positions and then defended those positions in the face of robust opposition.  We should all remember that the next time someone says that wolves have decimated elk populations in the Rockies or that predation is always compensatory and never additive.  We have a responsibility and an obligation to set them straight and demand that they support their claims.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Trump and the Secret of Quail Hunting


By Bob Ferris

In the late 1970s when I was vacillating between vocation and avocation I took the insane step of buying a feed and seed store and then another.  It was the initial step in transitioning from office work in a suit and tie with higher pay to returning to my wildlife conservation pathway with its own set of mostly non-monetary rewards.  One of the few perks of the feed store gig was that I was occasionally asked by ranchers who grew alfalfa, oat hay or straw for the store to hunt their harvested fields with them.  This is where I was first exposed to California quail.  It takes an adjustment.

My mother was born in Willows, California.  This is rice country near the refuge so we would hunt ducks and pheasants on our fall visits.  I would do the same with ducks and doves visiting my relatives in South Carolina.  But quail…quail are different.  They do not fly so much as burst and explode.  It is adrenalin-dripping, startling and distracting.  Much like this drama we are seeing with Trump and the Russians. (Below is a video of a different species of quail in New Jersey likely filmed during census work.  Imagine a covey three or four times this one and flying faster.)   



My first experience yielded two birds and more spent shells than I care to recount.  My pair looked meager next to the pile of birds one of my compatriots was plucking.  I sat and he turned to me and said one word: Focus.  I must have looked confused so he continued: Focus on one bird and then move on to the next.  He went on to argue that coveys were primarily air so random shots at a covey got you mostly atmosphere and not birds.  Somehow this got me thinking about the same being true for atoms and electrons, but I saw his point.  And it had broad applicability.  


So if we think about the Trump Clump as a covey of quail, we see what is so frequently transpiring.  When we come close they scatter and flap loudly causing confusion hoping that we take aim at air rather than any one individual.  To be crystal-clear this analogy ends at drawing parallels between the actions of flocking birds wishing to evade predators and this cadre of casual or conscious colluders and does not encourage violence of any sort beyond that wrought in courts of law and voting booths. There is a hope in this that those investigating and pursuing this “covey” maintain their focus and are not distracted by the flapping wings of those in flight or others who would like to see those in this covey fly free without consequence.  This latter happenstance would seem tragic given the great damage this covey and their allies have done our country and our democracy.

Interestingly, I have not hunted quail since then as I left the sweat and growing debt of that enterprise to return to school and enter this more natural realm for me.  But I always appreciated the opportunity and those who provided it.  I appreciated the lessons too and stuck them along with others in my mental filing cabinet.


Processing one of the captured deer on my study site in the 1980s.
Coincidentally, nearly a decade later when I was in graduate school part of my research area abutted a ranch held by the same family.  They were donating this land to the state park system.  I had special access to this additional area and often tracked my radio-collared deer through the oak-studded rangelands.  And one day while walking the fence I spied one of their calves that had somehow slipped through the wire to the road side of the fence.  The calf was a long way from being weaned and was bawling for its agitated mother.  I scooped the calf up and deposited where it need to be.  I felt good about the act as it seemed like some sort of minimum re-payment for the hunting trip and access.   And it was the right thing to do.


I mention this calf and act as a lesson too.  As once we deal with this destructive covey and those that have enabled it, we will have a massive amount of repair work to undertake. During that process we will have to remember and remind others that we are part of a community, culture and country that looks out for each other and can pull together in times of crisis.  We do not take the calf that has wandered selfishly keeping it is as ours, but put it back where it rightfully belongs.   

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

It Did not Start with Sergeant Schultz


By Bob Ferris

As I sort through this recent Pew study that looks at Republican and Democratic views on a variety of issues I am struck by three factors that are interrelated: Religion, Media and Higher Education.  I am disturbed by the Democratic numbers on these issues but truly terrified by the Republican.  There is a political echo here because we have seen this all before with minor alterations in the 1850s.  Then it was first known at the Native American Party which was re-designated the American Party.  But most knew it because of the response party members gave when asked about their group: I know nothing.

From Pew Study

The so-called Know Nothing Party preached hate and demonized immigrants.  In their case it was the dreaded “Romanists” or the Roman Catholics that  were the target of their disdain mainly those coming from Ireland and Germany who were "taking jobs" and perverting belief systems.  The Know Nothings pushed for true American and traditional religious values that they felt were in jeopardy.  



The semi-secret party backed a weak presidential candidate named Millard Fillmore who campaigned early in his career as an anti-Masonic candidate.  The irony of being backed by a secret society when you campaigned against a secret society seems oddly like being anti-immigration when you are the son on an immigrant and have married two immigrants. But politics is not always driven by truth and logic.


The Know Nothing Party did not last long.  Its demise was the result of weak national leadership in spite of strong local efforts.  There are many lessons to be learned here and also hope.  My sense is that we have yet to snap our fingers loud enough to release many from this destructive hypnotic trance.  Republican should also look to the history of the Whig Party once exposed to this died soon after.  But we must, because we cannot be a world leader if higher education and media are our enemies and we accept too readily what we are told by those who would control us. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Even the Devil Gets Disgusted at Some Point


By Bob Ferris

I remember having a discussion at some point during my career about personnel manuals.  These are basically documents that evolve over time and their complexity is directly related to the general acceptance of common decency and good sense with an organization's culture.  Personnel manuals grow when employees transgress stepping over invisible lines in the sand that most know are there.  The additional rules become the burden of those who follow and likely affect little those who catalyze them and typically leave.  I am generally in favor of thin manuals made adequate by rigorous hiring and strong management.  I think about this now as I look at the Trump Administration and how the current guidelines for behavior for the Executive Branch are sorely inadequate for this crew on way too many levels.

It is remarkable, but not unsurprising, that we see the head of the Office of Government Ethics resigning right on the heels of a high-level Department of Justice employee because she no longer could pursue ethics enforcement actions in proximity to the bigger and worse transgressions happening where they should happen least.  Perhaps it is a challenge to “drain the swamp” when the water is rising above your head.


In the corporate or private sectors the above conditions should trigger some serious introspection and more often than not a committee to review the rules to make certain they are up to the job.  And if a re-write of the “personnel manual” is in order—so be it.  This, of course, is predicated on the notion that management is committed to the entity in question and its future health and prospects.  Unfortunately the “management” in question is Congress and they have collectively —through the health care debate, posture on climate change and tolerance of things Trump—demonstrated little regard for America and Americans.  But they too, like the Devil, may have their limits.



Although many of us were gladden to see the above video from Australia, the iconic photo of Trump sitting all alone at the G-20 (top), and Angela Merkel’s classic eye roll while talking to Putin (see above), these hardly healed the massive level of disappointment and distress caused by Trump’s continued occupation of the Oval Office or he and his family’s apparent contest to see who can on any given day make our country look more idiotic or corrupt. It is disheartening in the extreme for those of us who take ethics seriously to see Trump and the Trumplings treat the United States much like piranha treat unfortunate capybaras when they try to swim across a South American stream.  

Many of us are like these capybara sitting on the shore waiting for someone or anything to make us feel safe and secure again. 
How can we help but be offended or wince when Donald Jr. and Eric think that they can both be the distant and impartial managers of the family’s increasing wealth while acting as de facto spokespeople and attack dogs for the Presidency?  Similarly Ivanka and Jared’s actions seem never to be far from their own personal and financial interests, with Ivanka’s presence at the table with world leaders at the G-20 some perverse, dangerous and unappreciated take-your-daughter-to-work-day miscalculation.   And the assembled cabinet secretaries chomp, chomp, chomping their way through our fiscal, medical and educational safeguards as well as treating our public amenities like they are unloved and not treasured creates a palpable discomfort deepening the national discord.

Many of us have hope that there will be a legal solution but justice, while wielding a sharp sword blindly, is also painfully slow to act.  But given the our world standing trajectory and the ridiculousness of the situation “swift” justice may come too late and too dear.  So perhaps we are left with the Devil in the form of Congress finally feeling our collective discomfort along with the World’s disdain and acting either affirmatively and collectively via legislative action or individually and publicly with the proper disgust and pointed resistance.  Leadership needs to erupt from those chambers and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.  


And circling back to the beginning, my sense is that we need some sort of change to the nation’s “personnel manual” that better defines conflicts, establishes some baseline understanding of minimally-acceptable ethical behavior and stops this and any future President from thinking that this office, campaign funds or diplomacy are anyone’s personal ATM.   We are in a deep hole and our patience has long since expired.  

Monday, July 3, 2017

Trump Must Hate Hunters and Anglers

Theodore Roosevelt on the River of Doubt Expedition.  The river was re-named Roosevelt in his honor.
By Bob Ferris

I have been engaged in a particular dialogue about predators and prey for far too long on Eastmans' (sic) Official Blog an electronic hunting publication (see here from 2013).  I do this to keep a hand in and also because I do not want silly arguments to go unanswered for then they tend to ferment and only get worse. During one recent exchange the closing argument was that I had no credibility in this hunting community because I was anti-Trump ergo anti-sportsman.  Hmmm, how exactly does that work?


Now  I will have to admit that when I look at pro-sportsman politicians I tend to think about Theodore Roosevelt and use him and his actions as my yardstick.  So how does Donald measure up to Theodore?  Roosevelt was a consummate outdoorsman with a huge interest in all things natural.  It is hard in this analysis not to compare Roosevelt’s experiences on the River of Doubt (see here and here) in South America with Donald Trump’s resistance to spending weekends at Camp David because it is "too rustic" for his tastes.  Granted the great out-of-doors appeals to some, but is not for everyone.  Fine.   And a lack of affinity for things wild does not automatically mean Trump is ignoring or hurting hunters and anglers so let’s look at other elements.
"There is a delight in the hardy life of the open. There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm. The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value. Conservation means development as much as it does protection.” Theodore Roosevelt president and conservationist
According to most interpretations of the US Constitution, wildlife is owned by each individual state so is primarily affected on the federal level where federal lands are involved or multi-state, systemic issues arise.  The federal lands issues are mainly about quantity and quality of habitat.  On the quantity side what we are seeing from the Trump Administration is quite removed from something Rooseveltian in nature.    Far from aggressively adding to the conservation inventory of the federal estate as Roosevelt did, Trump’s Administration is reviewing the status of 27 national monuments and considering a reduction in protections for these federal holdings (1,2,3,4).  This seems counter-intuitive as logic would demand that we increase federal conservation holdings in the face of US population increases (about 0.7% annually) to maintain our current quality of outdoor experience.  A "friend" to hunters and anglers would know that and pursue that path, Trump is not.
Excerpt from Trump's Transition Team Energy Independence statement.
In terms of habitat quality science tells us that oil, gas and coal development on public lands and elsewhere negatively impacts elk, deer, grouse and other hunted species as well as frequently reducing water quality for fish (1,2,3).  So how exactly is opening up more federal public lands (1,2,3) including national parks to these types of extractive industries going to help hunters and anglers in this generation or those to come?  But this has been the the position of this Administration time and time again.  There is nothing in this that is Rooseveltian either.

Trump's approach to the systemic aspects fails to emulate Theodore Rosevelt as well.  For instance, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was set up in 1965 as a tacit agreement that basically traded the impacts of off-shore oil development for enhancing natural assets elsewhere for the benefit of the community that enjoys outdoor pursuits.  It was also a mechanism that was a first step in looking forward to future public land needs as the US population grew.  Trump’s budget proposal includes massive cuts to this program as well as others to manage public lands.  This too is not helping hunters or anglers.
Theodore Roosevelt created 51 wildlife refuges, 16 national monuments and 5 national parks.
Another tradeoff of subsidizing industry via low prices for public resources and letting them externalize environmental impacts now and in the past is that the government sometimes take steps later to clean up the resultant messes.  This particularly true when the impacts get too serious to ignore.  Three areas important to hunters and anglers where that is being undertaken are the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes and Puget Sound.  Trump’s budget proposal cuts all three programs drastically (1,2,3).  What’s more, programs pushing the use of coal or not dampening fossil-fuel use will add more damaging nitrogen, sulfur and carbon dioxide to the Chesapeake and other waterways.  All this on top of removing the restriction on coal companies dumping wastes into streams hurts wildlife.  While I can see why industry might like these actions, they are a slap in the face to those who have worked long and hard to recover waterfowl, fish, shellfish and water quality in these regions and others.  




Clean, clear pollution-free water is essential for many waterfowl and fish species.  Recent attacks on Obama-era Clean Water Act rules and lax consideration of pesticides should be very troubling to those interested in fish and wildlife (1,2,3).  But we knew some of this was coming as many in the hunting and angling community have been critical of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt both before and after his appointment to the agency (1,2,3,4).  It is clear that Pruitt has taken science and dumped it under a figurative slag heap of ignorance and short-sightedness.  But Pruitt is not an administrative outlier as Trump has not seen fit to staff the science office at the White House or bring on-board a science advisor.  
"The numbers are going up in most states gradually," said Schulte, "simply because as we have more global warming the snakes can do better further north.”  Dr. Joann Schulte epidemiologist in CNN piece on increase of venomous snake bites.
The lack of science advisors in this Administration leads us to climate change where the EPA under Pruitt has recently launched an effort to challenge climate science which seems surreal when you consider that the courts are currently hearing lawsuits on whether Exxon Mobil lied to their stockholders about climate change risks (1,2,3).  Of importance to hunters and anglers is that some of the earliest scientific evidence of climate change had to do with observations of seasonal behavior changes (phenology) and range adjustments for plant and animal species.   Some of these are obvious like that of venomous snakes moving north mentioned above or the change of timing for maple sugaring and some are multi-factorial and complicated like moose population reduction as a result of parasite loads (1,2,3) or wildlife disease prevalence.  



One even more subtle and un-noticed by most is the timing of the stop of nutrient migration from plant roots to blades or leaves in some food species that is altered by climate change induced draughts.  Grasses and similar vegetation turn brown as summer progresses signaling this stoppage.  In the West this is referred to as “brown-up” and climate change shortens the time between the most nutritious first sprouts and brown-up.  This shortening likely reduces winter survival and reproduction.  


Duck hunting with my father, brother-in-law and uncle in South Carolina back when hunting was about hunting not fashion and the mornings were nearly always frosty.  
But if you need something a little less abstract and experiential, I suggest that you try early-season duck hunting on the coast somewhere in the Deep South with the expectation of a little frost, fast teal and whistling widgeons.  That used to be nearly always a sure bet but what you frequently get now are a few gators swimming by your blind, some still-active snakes of the fanged persuasion and saltwater mosquitos leaving dime-sized welts on your face and hands.  It brings belief to you in a tangible way.  


Theodore Roosevelt reading.
In recent years I have written a good bit about Theodore Roosevelt (1,2,3,4) because, though not perfect, he was certainly someone deserving respect particularly when one looks at his legacy and what he has provided hunters and anglers.  It should also be noted that Roosevelt was a student of nature with a bachelors degree cum laude from Harvard and an author and authority on birds, hunting and rugged outdoor life (for a list of his books see here).  Moreover, he founded the Boone and Crockett Club, maintained friendships with John Muir and other conservationists, and set the course for land conservation in the US.  His family too maintained interests in this area and I remember meeting his great-grandson Theodore "Ted" Roosevelt IV at an event when I was working on the Louisiana black bears of Teddy Bear fame and he was on the board of the League of Conservation Voters.  
"The big joke at Christmas this year was that the only job in government that I would want is with the Department of Interior," Trump Jr. told Wide Open Spaces. "I understand these issues. It's something I'm passionate about. I will be the very loud voice about these issues in my father's ear. No one gets it more than us." Donald Trump Jr. quoted on CNN 
I mention all of the above about the Roosevelts because I look at Trump and his family for hints of the same.  There simply are traces but nothing of true significance.  Certainly the boys went on safari and Don Jr. hunts a lot and is a member of the Boone and Crockett Club.  My sense is that he talks a good story, but he also (in)famously shot prairie dogs during a political campaign stop which seems less than "fair chase" in practice (he might stop to read Boone & Crockett's statement on "long range" shooting).  I don’t get the sense that either of the boys is very comfortable in the field without support staff in the way that many of us are.  
My younger self fishing with "Aldo Leopold" on Maryland's Honga River.  The first dog I trained totally by myself.  He was a little crazy but I almost cried when he did a triple-blind-retrieve just with hand signals.  Aldo loved to hunt and also obviously liked his comfort too. 
And try as I might, I cannot think that my set of hunting or conservation ethics and those of the Trump sons occupying the same space: Too much posing in brand new clothes near big dead animals on guided trips to make me comfortable. Yet there is still this illogical notion that Don Jr. and Eric (1,2,3,4,5) helped create that a president who does not hunt nor fish and does not camp or even own a dog has some special connection with or obligation to those who do and have.   In spite of Donald Jr's protestations there seems utterly no discernible link or commonality.  

On a more recent fishing trip to Oregon's Drift Creek.  Three miles down and three miles back up a steep trail.   

And although it is amusing to think of the Donald trudging sweating and smiling up a slope with a load of elk meat on his back or with soggy wadders, we are stuck with a president who seems to need a golf cart on a short walk and becomes awkwardly adrift when not sleeping in his own bed.  There is nothing in this or his actions that indicates friendliness to hunters and anglers but much to indicate that he is poised to do much damage to our interests in this generation and the next.  We need to wake up and become more active.

Some Groups Working these Issues on Behalf of Hunters and Anglers:

Backcounty Hunters & Anglers 
Conservation Hawks
National Wildlife Federation
Trout Unlimited

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Baited Expectations

By Bob Ferris

I am thinking about fly fishing today in part because my injured shoulder stops me from taking to my favorite streams and casting for trout this summer.   It makes me a little edgy and angry.  I could probably fake it some by flipping my wrist creatively and focusing on small pools but it is the balance thing that would probably get me.   I could fool myself into trying but not having a stable arm to stop or slow a mossy rock slip could lead to disaster.  And this makes me think about Melania Trump and her response  to the Donald’s very unpresidential (and sad) comments about Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski.  Actually, not so much her response but the response to her response. 


Why?  Since the time of Izaak Walton fly fishing has always been about the throwing out of something showy and attractive disguised as something else.  The feathers, fluff and flashy tinsel also hide great peril for those fooled by the ruse.  It seems a strong metaphor for this situation with Melania, but really applies to this whole administration.  But let’s start with her. 


Our Melania problem is that Americans keep expecting a legitimate first lady and we are fooled just like a trout that mistakes a fly with hook for food when it is not and never was.  In this we are forever hopeful.  And she did appear twice to slap away Donald’s hand and many gained great hope of character from those acts.   But my sense is that this was just the functional equivalent of a rod tip jiggle giving life-like movement to a fly a trout would otherwise swim past because of its artificiality. 

In this I am not endorsing the notion that first ladies (or eventually first men) must live in the shadow of their elected spouses or that they have unpaid obligations that they must fulfill.  My criticism is of the outrage and surprise that some are expressing because Melania Trump is defending these deplorable tweets.  After all, here is a woman who once claimed a degree she did not have and plagiarized elements of her convention speech.  She's also in a lawsuit defending her reputation from slanderous statements claimed that her ability to make money as first lady would be damaged by how she had been characterized.  There is nothing in any of this that indicates that she is a moral or philosophical outlier in the Trump crowd.  She is clearly made of the same fluff and gold tinsel.   We need to keep our eyes open and should not confuse a trademark squint with accomplishment or an attractive figure with fortitude.

This example and the metaphor are important in a broader sense for two reasons.  The first is that we as a nation have to look closer at what is presented to us.  If we do not we will surely perish or be greatly diminished.  Being continually fooled and then outraged does not keep us swimming free.  It only ensures our place in the frying pan or on the grill.  



The metaphor of a fly is important because the image of the fly at the top likely attracted anglers to this piece.  Good, because much of the “barbs” associated with the “hooks” of this Administration such as the attacks on climate action, clean water and public lands will harm the interests of anglers and hunters now and for generations to come.  We as anglers need to learn from this lesson and recognize the false food of this fly.  We need to stir up our various pools and make sure others do not foolishly rise to that which lessens our lives and jeopardizes our pursuits and passions (see above as a reminder of the issues at stake).  Open your eyes and get active.  

In happier times with two working shoulders.  Hopefully we will all heel from our current circumstance. 



Thursday, June 15, 2017

Jerseys Change and We Need to Notice

Willie Mays in New York.

By Bob Ferris

When I was a kid I used to watch the San Francisco Giants back when Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda played.  The Alou brothers and McCovey too.  I watched in part because my father and grandfather watched or listened and because the Giants were through most of my memory the local team.  But it was not always so because the Giants used to play in New York and started out being called the New York Gothams.  Now my scant sports attention is directed towards football and the Seahawks, but the idea here is that things change—sometimes monumentally.    We need to keep up sports-wise or we run the risk of rooting for the wrong team. 

This comes to mind as I see efforts by those wanting to sow doubt and confusion into our political system playing once again on the intellectually vulnerable by trying to characterize the Democratic Party as the party of slavery and racism (1,2,3). The Democratic Party has had a convoluted history to be sure just as the Republican Party once had shining stars like Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt who would be repulsed by the current elephantine crowd. But parties, like teams, evolve and change—sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.  What matters now is where each is currently located politically and who they think about each time they power-suit up and play.  For that we need to constantly look at current platforms and actions and understand them as throughly as we know baseball or football stats or when what team was moved where.

We all need to undertake this action of political awareness.  But at the same time we have to guard ourselves and our fellow Americans from this general class of actions purposely designed to rip our political system to shreds.  While it would be convenient to characterize these actors as liberal or conservative extremists that really describes their targets more than the players themselves who are simply interested in raw wealth and massive power in its various forms.   Folks should understand that these actors or collection of forces are the same that acted as catalysts for our rebellious dust-up near the end of the 18th Century—overly-entitled elite, power-grabbing corporations and hyper-controlling Churches.   The jerseys might have changed and the logos modified but the intent and potential consequences are identical.  



As James Comey pointed out during his testimony and the above clip from the movie Selma exemplifies, we are a country that is often troubled and far from perfect, but while we fight among ourselves in division we also must fight those who would destroy us in a united fashion.  That passage which Ms. Winfrey’s character is asked to quote is the vision statement of the founding document of this country.   This vision was not realized then nor is it now, but this is where we should be headed.  Unfortunately, that is not our current course which brings us back to the posts in question.

Many actions compromised our last election.  If we want our country to adhere to our founding principles and protect Americans from the catalytic threats that formed our nation we cannot afford to ignore the carefully-crafted chaos currently polluting our public airways and bandwidths. In this it is an odd irony that our steadfast support of free speech, enterprise and religion is being used to fill us with destructive propaganda, compromise our average fiscal well-being and restrict our beliefs, behaviors or choices.


While I am encouraged that the Senate is making a clear statement about Russian election interference as the Trump team, the Attorney General and some enabling commentators act like the iconic monkeys portrayed above.  Of note too are poll results showing an American public, including many CEOs, less that amused by these antics (1,2,3). But we still have those who gravitate to these specious news sources thinking they are ultra-conservative or hyper-progressive rather than rabidly anti-American which is what they truly are.  (Hint to those still buying into these stories: They are wearing your favorite jerseys but are playing for a different ideological team.)

The Giants example or the Oilers-to-Titans switch are easy to follow and understand.  But I truly struggle with the logic that catapults a flamboyant, Islamophobic, British college dropout into a position where he becomes any sort of an influence on American politics .  That seems more than a jersey change but not all that different than Americans embracing a Russian-owned news source or a website located in Bulgaria with posts from a person who engaged in insider trading.  Come on! 


But this is also a time when a faith ostensibly based on kindness, charity, tolerance and enlightenment is at least partially co-opted by those forwarding a platform of greed, intolerance, hatred and ignorance (1,2,3).  Shocking? But then I remember a time when the National Rifle Association (NRA) was all about gun safety rather that arming everyone or fighting against the sports enthusiasts who brought them to the dance.  It is hardly a surprise that wealth, power and checkbooks are at play in these changes (1,2). 

So this is where I should insert a shining solution, but I do not really have one.  I could urge folks to check their sources and only promote those posts from proven entities, but many think they are already doing that and even the profound evidence of the failure of this presidency has not seemed to dampen their boundless enthusiasm for unfounded conspiracies, manufactured paranoia and stuff that is down-right silly.   The Giants no longer play in New York, but the likes of RT , Breitbart, The Gateway Pundit, Zero Hedge, True Activist  and others continue to carefully feed some just enough truth so they will also consume the country-killing poison these outlets really want them to eat and share.  We will not proceed with this country’s vision statement of broad freedoms and public welfare unless more of us wake up and realize this.