Sunday, March 04, 2007

Who will save our ocean fish?

Fish have a way of drawing the best out of people. It’s funny how those slimy and scaly things can turn people into heroes.

World famous fishing guide Frank Moore has lived for years alongside his beloved North Umpqua River. He caught fish, and watched as blind, stupid logging brought ruin to one tributary creek after another. The fish called to him and spoke through him. Frank became a volunteer monitor and environmental activist before there were such things. After he and Hal Riney (later Ronald Reagan’s ad man) made the 12 minute film “Pass Creek” in the 1960s, they turned the tide. Frank flew around the northwest in his private plane and showed Pass Creek to the people in charge. Later, he traveled around the country spreading the gospel. After several governors asked Frank what to do, the fish had a real voice. Frank Moore is a spiritual leader in the great American church of the outdoors. Those steelhead are something special, and they drew the very best out of a very fine man, Frank Moore.

I tried and tried, and caught a grand total of 3 North Umpqua summer steelhead, even with Frank Moore by my side. Later, when Frank had given up on my weak fishing (“you’re not one of those guys who stand on the same rock hour after hour are you” “yes frank, that’s what I do.”), I still kept after it. The river was doing it’s work on me.

In those days, Roy Keene and I were running around in the woods. It was a grand time, the old growth forests were being transformed into American cathedrals. Loggers found their very footing eroded, nobody gets to make a living selling the Sistine Chapel to make toilet paper. We were “tinkering” as Roy would say, showing people what was happening in their forests. This was timber country USA. I was living in a cabin up river from Roseburg, OR, up hill from Glide, and even beyond the outpost of Idleyld Park (see if you can find it on a map). In the heady days of the Clinton “Forest Plan,” when the nation, briefly, paid attention to the native forests of the Pacific northwest. Self-made forester and high-rolling timber broker Roy Keene, in the business of using forests, had the audacity to say “no, not here” when the timber beast went too far. No matter what happened to his business.

Together we looked at logging plans, overlaid the timber sales with topo maps, and went plunging into the biggest “holes,” the deepest, darkest forest primeval. We came back with the righteous evidence of damage done. Bridging the gap between environmentalism and forestry, Roy helped turn the tide. Even though it came with a high personal cost, Roy drew the line in the sand. Roy Keene was ordained by nature in the cathedral forests of the northwest.

Giants do walk the earth. They’re the people with the strength to use their vision-not just their eyesight. They go where the path in front of them leads, and they have the courage to keep going when the faint of heart turn back.

So who will save the fishes of the sea? They need some saving now that we’ve driven them down. Where will they find a champion, someone with audacity and spirit? I think it probably will be a fish person, someone who has been there and seen the sun come up on the water and who has been changed by the experience. Who else will have what it takes to see the path and rally the faithful? Our ocean’s fish need some new American spiritual leaders. Will our ocean fish people show up? Or will they be too busy with the catching of fish?

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