Friday, February 8, 2013

Wading Into Politics

Just a brief post to share some of the things I have been up to in the last few weeks that have kept me out of waders and in a (tweed) coat and tie.

I have the good fortune to be the president of the the Guadalupe River chapter of Trout Unlimited, the largest chapter in the United States, with around 5,000 members. I am not sure what that says about the chapter's ability to judge character, but I ran with it before they realized their error.

In a state such as Texas where we just endured the worst drought on record, water is naturally a hot issue. Being astute sportsmen and women, we figured out that without water in the river,fishing gets pretty poor. So, we have been busy attending meetings and visiting with our state lawmakers to raise the profile of the needs of wildlife and ecosystems while we debate who gets how much water and for what purpose. It feels a bit like being the Lorax...we are just taller and less colorful.

Arriving at the state capital in Austin before daylight to begin our day

The good news is we have some staunch friends in the capital, and they were very gracious recently to have a day proclaimed as "Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited Day" at the Texas capital. We were allowed to be present on the dais of the House floor while the proclamation was read. It was a hoot to talk fishing with some of the dignitaries while we were there, and see their eyes light up as they told some of their fishing stories.

The "four horsemen" of GRTU listening as the proclamation is read on the house floor

After the pomp and circumstance, we spent the rest of the day visiting as many representatives and senators as we could. We told them about out organization, its financial impact, conservation focus, and invited a few to come fish with us. I was amazed at how few had even heard of TU - which just says we have a lot of work left to do.

In addition to the lawmakers, our friends at Texas Parks and Wildlife spent  good bit of time with us as well, confirming and solidifying the close working relationship we have with them. A chance encounter in the hallway with TPWD exec director Carter Smith gave us some time to renew our acquaintance with him and talk about new ways we can work together. Carter is (as we say on the ranch) good people.

GRTU members with TPWD Deputy Executive Director Ross Melinchuk and biologist Marcos DeJesus

So...just a note to self, that sometimes to be good stewards of our river, wildlife, and ecosystem, we have to step out of our waders, practice our double Windsor knot, and go make friends with the people who make our laws. It's actually a lot of fun.

Of course when mama said that I need to watch out for snakes at the capital. I thought she meant some of the politicians...
A group from Sweetwater, famous for their yearly rattlesnake roundup

What all the cool kids are wearing ...

By the way, for those who have never done something like this, it was very common for the lawmakers to be in committee or other meetings, so most of the time we talked with their staffers. These people are mostly college-aged. For those of you worried about America's youth, I think you can rest a bit easier. I had the pleasure to met some of the most engaged and professional young people in the state that day, and I was encouraged. We have quite a few keepers.

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