Yesterday I reached my tolerance limit for a keyboard when my dog kept looking at me with a pouty face and the emails just wouldn’t stop flowing. Enough! Off we went for a long walk along one of my all time favourite little rivers, the Englishman.
Apart from digital burn out I had a couple of other reasons for the walk. One was to assess the changes that would inevitably have resulted from a historic flow event on Jan 29. The Water Survey of Canada web site told me the highest flow ever measured occurred just after midnight on that date. I felt compelled to grab my camera and visit a few sites where I have photos going back to the early 1970s to compare with what 2018 had delivered.
My other reason for the walk related to a conference call in which I had participated the evening before. A subject brought forward on that call was a group conceived a dozen years ago and known as the Steelhead Futures Caucus. At conception that group consisted of back bench Liberal members of the Provincial Legislative Assembly (MLAs). Looking back over the history of the Caucus I find it hard to forget it was on their watch that the provincial agency responsible for steelhead was eviscerated and buried in the deepest recesses of the forest management agency. Worse still, responsibility for liaising with the federal government re steelhead interception fisheries was solidified as the purview of the agency charged with licensing fish processors and marketing seafood. There was an abundance of process on their watch though. A history of Caucus non-performance didn’t dissuade our conference call voice from extolling its virtues and campaigning for strengthening relations between it and the steelhead advocacy community. I’m left to scratch my head given the reality these steelhead saviours accomplished virtually nothing when in power and obviously have even less influence now that they are on the outside looking in.
So, how does this link to my walk up the Englishman? Well, one of the major steelhead related undertakings of recent times was a program known as the Greater Georgia Basin Steelhead Recovery Plan (GGBSRP). That Caucus group was a strong proponent, although the money involved did not come through them or their Liberal masters. It was good public relations to be seen as a central player though. They still like to hold up their strong endorsement of the GGBSRP as pivotal in the steelhead management scenario. The premise on which the GGBSRP was sold was that freshwater habitat improvements were critical to maintaining and enhancing steelhead smolt production to offset persistent declines in ocean survival and sustain stocks until ocean survival improved. I was never supportive at the time because I understood from many days afield on some of the rivers targeted that it was impossible to “fix” habitat that continued to be devastated by the impacts of logging. The well worn line that an ounce or prevention is worth a pound of cure never entered the consciousness of those involved.
The Englishman was one of the rivers targeted for relatively massive expenditures to install rock and log structures that were supposed to stabilize habitat and create premium rearing space for juvenile steelhead. My question of the day was why would you build luxury condominiums in a ghost town? Such nay saying did not go down well with the army of zealots involved. Yesterday’s walk can be told in pictures. Meanwhile, the GGBSRP is a distant memory and the Englishman River that was closed to fishing for conservation purposes almost 20 years ago remains closed………unless you’re one of the favoured few who gets to go bait fishing there and tag steelhead under the guise of research on the efficacy of snorkel surveys as a population estimation technique. (I’ve asked for the reports a number of times but have yet to receive a response.)
And now for that walk down memory lane. My baseline begins in 1972.
Perhaps the Steelhead Futures Caucus should devote some attention to an independent review of the costs and benefits of the program that they so heartily endorsed. More importantly, they might also want to turn their minds to the value of protecting habitat before it unravels to the extent that the Englishman River has.