Friday, November 07, 2008

Northwest Steelheaders....What Happened?

I have been involved with the Association of Northwest Steelheaders (ANWS) since 1973 and I am a life member. I also served on the ANWS executive committee for two years as secretary so I know more than a little bit about this group.
This organization has been, in the past, at the front line of wild fish conservation issues. They spearheaded the drive to make steelhead trout a game fish in Oregon and I can remember collecting initiative petition signatures at Portland's Rose Parade to get this measure on the 1974 ballot.
The ANWS was a very vocal grass roots wild fish advocacy group in Oregon, Washington and Idaho with thousands of members all with a common goal!
Through their association with Trout Unlimited they became a force to be reckoned with.
Look at ANWS today!The ANWS is no longer active in Washington and Idaho and their association with Trout Unlimited is just a distant memory. When taking on important conservation issues of the day the Steelheaders are no shows! When trying to save wild coastal cutthroat trout from harvest the Steelheaders were actually in favor of it with one of their most "legendary" members actually testifying in favor of killing these wild fish. They "canonize" people for enshrinement in their Hall of Fame who are not deserving while ignoring those warriors from the past who made them what they once were.
Their focus now is river access and they have indeed made some progress in that fight. At the same time though, they have succeeded in alienating landowners who could have been worked with. Some of their members are confrontational and belligerent when dealing with river front landowners and have generally set back the cause for access.
In 2002 they initially backed a ballot initiative that would have provided riparian protection in the upper reaches of north coast rivers that would have protected wild salmonids. When members of a couple of mid-Willamette valley chapters threatened to pull out of ANWS because of their support the executive committee backed down and rescinded their support and it was then I left.
There are many fine and dedicated members of ANWS but by in large they have become little more than a big fishing club. They no longer have any clout in fishery politics and seemingly care little about wild salmonids except to increase the sports harvest of these same wild fish.
Too bad! I miss this group and their fight for our fishing resource and am no longer an active member. Maybe someday they will return to their mission statement of "Anglers Dedicated to Enhancing and Protecting Fisheries and their Habitats for Today and the Future"

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