By Lew Carpenter, Regional Representative, National Wildlife Federation. Originally published by Medium.
As a young man finding my way out of college and into a recession, I sought the solace and renewal of Arizona’s high country to give me strength.
With tip money from working at a nightclub on Tempe’s venerable Mill Avenue near Arizona State University, I bought my first real fly rod. And, on my first free day – a warm fall day in the valley – I headed towards Arizona’s magnificent Mogollon Rim in search of the perfect stream.
What I found, still as clear in my mind as it was nearly 30 years ago, was Upper Canyon Creek. The small but dynamic waterway runs down from the Rim into the Apache Indian Reservation. The transformation to higher ground was a relief and bursts of burnt orange, reds, browns and yellows increased as I drove along the empty dirt road coming closer to a stream I’d never seen.
When I found Upper Canyon Creek I was surrounded by fall colors, cool air, and the movement of the water had an impact to my soul like nothing else. A few false casts simply to build rhythm and touch surprised me as a shouldery trout broke the surface in aggressive optimism chasing a dry fly that seemed to want to land on the water.
I let the fly settle to the water, and the topwater explosion was spectacular. The fishing that morning was prolific, solitary and beautiful. The day secured for me a lifetime of sport, a lifetime of appreciation for the natural world and an understanding of the gifts this great nation affords all of us in its public lands legacy.
In Arizona, 51 of the state’s 53 watersheds are 96-percent intermittent or ephemeral streams. And 56-percent of AZ streams are headwater streams, with no other streams flowing into them (top of the watershed). Headwaters streams are not only the foundation of our aquatic system from the scientific standpoint, but they are the lynchpin of fishing and hunting habitat for millions of sportsmen and women.
The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is important to the future of hunting and fishing in America. The agency is often thought of as protecting human health but plays a huge role in whether or not the lands and waters wildlife and sportsmen both need are able to support abundant wildlife populations and recreational activities.
The current nominee to run the EPA, Scott Pruitt, gave no quarter to hunters or anglers in his Senate confirmation hearing or as attorney general of Oklahoma. He didn’t even seem interested in or aware of our issues. And he clearly doesn’t respect the science or scientists needed for the science-based wildlife and habitat management we have all come to rely on.
Sportsmen aren’t looking for a died-in-the-wool environmentalist to run the EPA, but we do expect a professional – someone who supports clean water, who gets outside enough to notice our climate is changing, who respects scientists, and hunters and anglers.
Senators who support sportsmen and women should reject Scott Pruitt and encourage President-elect Trump to find someone with a bit more respect for the outdoors and the tools needed to keep it full of fish, wildlife, healthy habitats, and great hunting and fishing.
Today, I am fighting for the same access and opportunity I enjoyed on that small Arizona stream. The dangers and risks to the places I love – and have yet to love – land squarely on President Trump’s nomination to head the EPA.
I first met Senator John McCain around the same time as my fishing adventure. We were rebuilding a Boys and Girls Club structure and he was in full support and arrived at the site to thank us all. It was the first time I saw a senator directly standing up for a community. My hope is that he will do the same by voting against Scott Pruitt’s nomination.
Now, more than ever, we must be diligent and strong in our principles, principles that are of value to all sportsmen and Americans. Access and opportunity rely on clean water and air. They rely on robust public lands that allow wildlife and people to move freely. They rely on clean water, clean air and healthy soil. They rely on our leaders in Congress to support America’s greatest legacy – its natural beauty.