Sunday, November 4, 2018


Just in case the stories on every news outlet, the robo-calls and the countless pieces of glossy junk mail haven’t tipped you off already, I’ll note that there is an election on Tuesday, when a host of local, state and federal officeholders will be seeking your help to keep or begin jobs in government service.

Naturally, as in any competition, there will be winners and losers.  Those titles don’t just apply to the candidates themselves, but to various constituent groups who will be impacted by each race’s outcome, and also to our public lands, waters and living natural resources which, depending on how things work out, will end up being either beneficiaries or victims of the electoral process.

There is little doubt that fish and other marine resources are seriously impacted by election results.  

“benefit the long term recovery of the red snapper stock while maximizing the economic benefits from recreational fishing in the Gulf region.”

That's the kind of settlement that government agencies make when they know that their only alternative is to lose the case outright.

On the other side of the country, in Bristol Bay, Alaska, the world’s largest native salmon run is threatened because Scott Pruitt, the now-disgraced former Adminsitrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,  held a perfunctory meeting with the chief executive officer of a mining company, at which he agreed to reverse the previous administration’s decision to block the so-called “Pebble Mine,” which threatens to permanently degrade the greater Bristol Bay ecosystem, including the rivers in which such salmon spawn.

Should that mine be built, one of the world's last, great runs of anadromous fish will probably fall victim to a polluted slurry of mine tailings and chemically-fouled water.

Such a shift can only bode ill for fish stocks.

But it’s not only decisions at the top of the ballot that impact fish stocks.  Lower races can also have a real effect on fisheries policy.

Taking a broader view, the current makeup of the House of Representatives resulted in passage of H.R. 200, the so-called Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act, on what was largely a party-line vote.  Rep. Zeldin was one of the 222 congressmen voting for that bill, as was my own congressman, Rep. Peter King (R-New York). 

I mention Rep. King’s name not to emphasize his vote on that particular bill, which was consistent with his record of hostility to conservation measures (he has an underwhelming score of 16 out of 100 on the League of Conservation Voters Scorecard) but to point out an additional bit of absurdity as it relates to constituent service. 

When you send Rep. King an email through his website, with respect to a particular issue, you’re asked “Would you like a response?”  I responded “Yes” when I sent the futile email asking him to oppose H.R. 200.  But the response I got wasn’t what I expected.  Instead of the usual “I’ll take your opinions into consideration when I vote on this issue” boilerplate, or maybe something a little more tailored and personal, I got a three-line email with the primary message

“I receive over a thousand phone calls, letters and e-mails every day.  While I make it a point to read every contact that comes through my office, I cannot always respond to each one but I will certainly do my best.”
In other words, “I asked if you wanted a response, and my response is that you’re not going to get one, but have a nice day.”

That’s the kind of answer you get from someone who is arrogantly certain that he will be reelected, regardless of how he treats the voting public.  A good argument could be made that folks who provide such answers are folks who have been in office too long.
There are more than a few of them out there...

And it’s not only federal elections that matter.

It’s not hard to imagine that changing some of the pro-Omega voices in the next election might do the menhaden some good.

Unfortunately, Virginia’s legislators aren’t up for election this year, but those in a number of other states are, and anglers would be well-advised to hold their state-level representatives accountable for their actions on fisheries issues.

“With public lands issues taking center stage in numerous races around the country, the votes of sportsmen and women represent an increasingly powerful voice.  Your vote is the single most powerful way to make sure your voice is heard—in Washington, D.C. and state legislatures across the country.  Like you, our members are hungry for information about the values of those who are seeking our votes.  And as for the candidates themselves?  We’re putting them on notice:  We hunt, and we fish, and we Vote Public Lands and Waters.”
That’s a good message.

Although I’m speaking here only for myself, and not on behalf of any organization, I have to observe as I write this that our bays, oceans and estuaries are public waters, too.

Thus, I suggest that anglers take a good look at the ballot, and choose candidates likely to keep our public waters, including our public salt waters, clean, accessible and filled with life.

Because elections have consequences, for you and for our fisheries, too.

It would be nice if the consequences of the 2018 vote were good ones.

No comments:

Post a Comment