Hunting and fishing clubs lose relevancy, conservation orgs and online fill the gap

I posted a survey on the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog about the biggest threats facing our fisheries in Oregon. It was a request from a contact at the Sierra Club, part of its campaign to bring hunters and anglers into the organization’s fold. It’s part of a broader trend I’ve been watching over the last couple years — enviro groups bringing in the hook and bullet community to fight for wildlife.

Recently, I’ve watched groups like Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation and The Wilderness Society tap into these communities to find some strong allies. And I think it’s the most interesting thing to happen to the conservation movement in a long time. Hunters and anglers have the politicians’ ear. We spend money, we’re activists and advocates, and we have a history in these organizations as the first conservationists — as you’ll surely notice each group trotting out Teddy Roosevelt. I don’t expect GreenPeace to come knocking.

I do think these orgs are having success with sportsmen because the old-school hunting and fishing social clubs are dying, or worse, clinging to life and planting a few trees and calling it good. Most of these groups don’t have the spine to stand up for their favorite species and places for fear of political backlash.

And when you’ve got Web sites like Moldy Chum rounding up steelhead fly tyers to raise money for the Steelhead Society in BC, who really needs the guys sitting around the local clubs, bitching about how good the fishing used to be?

I don’t remember the clubs in their heyday. I wasn’t here. Anybody have any input — is this just ageism on my part?

Oh yea, fill out the survey on the Fly Fishing Blog if you want to contribute.


About mstansberry

Matt Stansberry currently lives in Eugene, Oregon with his wife and son.
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One Response to Hunting and fishing clubs lose relevancy, conservation orgs and online fill the gap

  1. Moon says:

    I belonged to a club I once loved, now I see that club as an embarrassment to them selves. I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to care about wild fish stocks or habitat degradation – it came on gradually as I have spent my entire life on the water fishing. I can remember filling gunny sacks with sunfish at age three on a farm pond for dad’s garden and I’ve never looked back. I was never brought up to ever even think about conservation of any kind, it just was not an issue in our house hold or anyone else’s that I knew. It was all about the kill, filling the freezer and I am said to say – I was good at it. I was a bad guy for a long time, methods, regulations didn’t matter – I filled the damn freezer. I did a lot of harm to our resources, but one day I started to change – it was a slow gradual change, but change I did. So I also now believe in other things like ethics, education and fighting apathy… my change came after having children. I remember a day when I was holding my second child in my arms, my baby girl – and I began to worry about “What am I to leave this child, what will the future hold for my baby girl”…. That may sound all mushy, but – it was the love for my kids that started me on my turn around. So what was it, why didn’t some mentor find me along my life’s path, why was I left to my old ways for so long? Sometimes I think apathy is our number one enemy, I’m middle age now and still working on some questions.

    So I belonged to this fly-fishing club and the words on the club brochure and web site that say – XXX FlyFishers is a group dedicated to improving our local waterways, preserving this precious resource for future generations, (among other things). Well, it’s a bit misleading to say the least, and if my opinion counts for anything – it’s an out right lie…. It basically boiled down to this – “If you want to take up conservation agenda’s, we won’t stop you”. But if you want the club as an organization to get involved directly in a possibly controversial issue, then we will hedge and squirm and worry that maybe not everyone will agree and maybe it would be better to just stick to pizza parties.

    So, they clean up boat ramps occasionally, and get involved annually in planting trees at XXX Island. There’s been talk about a joint river cleanup with another club. Usually, some club members will jump on the ODF&W’s activities. Which is all fine but when it comes to issues that really matter like regulation changes, fighting a developers plan on a river, or pushing for legislation god forbid to protect the future generations to come. Then they don’t want to commit.

    This club and a few more that I can think of ARE DYEING…….hell, they struggle every year just to seat board members and fill club officer positions… then bitch and moan and wonder why… well, here is a letter that I wrote but never sent – to that club when I tired of the bullshit and knew it was time to try and save something for my children.

    Dear XXX club:

    You and I know that like many clubs, the XXX have to beg for people to step up and take charge or fill leadership positions every year… well, maybe that’s because – you/they run off the most passionate? And just how long do you pay homage to those who still want to do things the old way? If you look at the clubs who do take on hot topics like the XXX Oregon fly-fishers, I think you’ll find that they have much less trouble filling leadership rolls… the younger generation doesn’t want to set around and watch the old guys grow moss, and talk about how they remember when the fishing was good. Back when they use to toss bull trout up on the bank in the rocks to die and could fill the trunk with big dead trout…

    So where do you think your club/clubs would be right now if you/they had let a few of us write a letter about saving the Met on club letterhead or raise a little hell with the ODF&W about protecting the wild fish. I think the old guard would still be sett’un right where they are now, but the club would be full of energetic can do people and they would also be the ones on the board and in office… and the others would still be sett’un right where they are now w/the social club set and wouldn’t even care… hell, most of their eyes would glass over while the conservation officer gave his report anyway. But as soon as the go stand here in Alberta and catch giant whatevers presentation started – they’d pip right back up and everybody would be happy and proud of the club they have.

    Maybe not, but I think so…

    I never sent that letter, but I wonder if it wasn’t a mistake…. And I even found my mentor. A fine gentleman who has spent his lifetime fighting for everything I now believe in. I only hope I can accomplish just a tenth of what this man has done.
    So yeah, I think it’s high time for new thinking….. that or we can all just go have a pizza party.


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