Voices from the Field: Sportsmen Speak Out

This week the National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Izaak Walton League are hosting sportsmen and outdoor business leaders for a two-day visit to Washington, D.C., to meet with their elected representatives about the importance of clean water to hunting and fishing. Sportsmen and women will visit with Members of Congress from their state and district to speak out for clean water.

pin tail duck
Pin tail duck. Photo by Jerry McFarland via Flickr Creative Commons
The federal government recently finalized the Clean Water Rule, a measure to clarify and restore critical Clean Water Act protections to small streams and wetlands. Unfortunately, some members of Congress are now working to undermine this historic new rulemaking.

Migratory birds, like the pin tail duck and anadromous fish like wild salmon depend on clean water each year as their journey through sea and sky, rivers and wetlands — water and land depending on the protections provided by the Clean Water Rule. This week hunters and anglers from across the U.S. are heading to Washington, D.C., on their own journey, to tell their elected representatives what clean water means to our shared hunting and fishing heritage and to ask for their support for the implementation of this rule.

Follow one participant’s journey through the nation’s capital as he speaks out for healthy waters, fish, wildlife and our sporting heritage:

A Sportsman’s Story

I grew up in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area, along the Conodoguinet Creek, a tributary to the mighty Susquehanna. When I was older, the big river beckoned, and I answered.

My first indication that the Clean Water Rule (CWR) was affecting me was something that I came to realize later in my life. Somewhere in the late 70s, the lower Susquehanna Valley discovered that gnats, or more properly named black flies, had returned in large numbers thanks to restored, healthy waters.

Prior to the Clean Water Rule, the waters of the Susquehanna were so impaired that black flies couldn’t thrive. The clean water, restored by CWR, benefited the black flies and also sportsmen, or in my case, a youngster who aspired to be a sportsman.

Smallmouth bass. Photo: National Park Service
Smallmouth bass. Photo: National Park Service
I was able to spend a significant amount of my leisure time fishing a world class smallmouth bass water. It was something special in my life. In the intervening years I added to my outdoor recreational experience by becoming an upland game hunter, an occasionally successful deer hunter, a kayaker and canoeist, a hiker and occasional backpacker, and became a birder. All these things that I enjoy are possible only when our waterways run clean, there is no substitute for habitat, and habitat either is clean water, or relies on clean water.

I have now spent nearly a half century enjoying the outdoors. It has been a big part of my life, and I can’t imagine how diminished my life would have been without those opportunities.

The mirror tells the tale. The young boy is long gone, but more young boys and girls arrive to take his place. Don’t they deserve a chance at the same experiences I had?

I am now at the stage of my life where I am in position to help insure that generations of sportsmen and women will have the chance that I had. The best way I know to accomplish that is to fight for clean water, and that is why I am in Washington, D.C., to tell my representatives that clean water is vitally important,  not just for the recreation it provides, but also because clean water is a right.

Meeting for Conservation

The fly-in participants, a diverse group of outdoors people from around the country, converged in D.C. to tell our representatives that we need their support for clean water. We received our initial basic training at Trout Unlimited headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. We were briefed on the status of the clean water rule, and given guidelines for our visit. From there, we dispersed to our scheduled meetings.

A significant number of us met with Ken Kopocis and Matt Fritz of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We were briefed on the status of the rule and I personally was encouraged by what we were told. Both Ken and Matt mentioned how crucial the voices of sportsmen and women were in getting the rule across the finish line, but acknowledged that our job was not done.

Next up for the Pennsylvania contingent were meetings with the staff of Congressman Barletta, and Congressman Dent. Brian Wagner of TU and I were accompanied by Aviva Glaser of NWF in our meeting with Congressman Barletta. We were accompanied by Katy Dunlap of TU in our meeting with Congressman Dent. The meetings were cordial, candid, and productive. In both offices we were told that they had not heard much from sportsmen and women, reinforcing the importance of participation in the democratic process.

Brian Wagner and David Imgrund meeting with Senator Casey to advocate for the clean water rule. Photo by David Imgrund
At the end of a long day, all fly-in participants attended a reception in the Dirksen Senate building. It was a chance to celebrate the birthday of the Clean Water Act and to mingle with congressional staff and the staff of NWF, TU, IWLA and others. We were inspired by speeches given by Senator Cardin, and Congressman Tenko, two champions of the Clean Water Rule. (I need to mention that J.T. Thompson of Smuttynose brewing spoke, and was a sponsor of the event.) Sportsmen and women aren’t the only people fighting for clean water, we were joined by representatives of the Craft Brewing Association. A good cold pint starts with good clean water.)

Just being in a crowd of dedicated advocates for clean water – from sportsmen to conservation agencies to Congressional staff to brewers – was awesome. We enjoyed the chance to sample craft beers, celebrate how far we’ve come, and toast to our commitment to continue on.

As you read this, consider the next time you are asked to participate in the fight for clean water, that this is our fight to win, and to win we need active participation from all quarters. When asked, please step up.

Take Action

Support clean water for wildlife and sportsmen and women today!



About the Author: David Ingrund is a lifelong resident of Pennsylvania and has been hunting and fishing for nearly 50 years. He believes that it is his obligation to do what he can to ensure that future generations will have the same opportunities he had. He advocates for clean air, clean water, and continued public access to public lands, and is active in many conservation groups such as Pheasants Forever, Trout Unlimited, Appalachian Trail Conservancy. He currently does advocacy and organization of sportsmen and women for National Wildlife Federation.

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Published: October 23, 2015