June 28th, 2004

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Any Fly Fisher Who Isn't Political Is a Fool
By John Colburn, Washington DC

That's a paraphrase of "Any Sportsman Who Isn't Political Is a Fool," the title of an editorial that appeared a Spokane, WA, newspaper several years ago. It was true fifteen years ago, and it's just as true now.

When you think about it, almost everything related to the sport of fly fishing is controlled by elected officials from the President and the Congress to the state governors and legislatures. These politicians in turn appoint the heads of the agencies which write and enforce the policies and regulations that control just about everything except the weather.

These politicians, despite what they'd like us to believe, don't know everything—far from it. They rely on input from their constituents, lobbyists, and their staffers — all of whom also do not know everything. Based on this mixed and often contrary information, the politicians make decisions that affect our lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness — our sport of fly fishing.

Many of the decisions affecting our sport originate with the interests that would diminish or destroy the environment and the fishery resource for their benefit and financial gain. Often these interests are large, well financed corporations and groups who make large contributions to the politicians' war chests and employ lobbyists who provide the politicians and their staffers with biased information.

Unless the politician gets opposing information from constituents (you and me, fellow fly fishers), he or she may very well cast a vote that will diminish or destroy our fishery resources. But the politicians are also strongly influenced by what put them in office and what will help them get re-elected—money and votes.

The special interests can and do make large contributions, but they can't vote, and that's where you and I have a tremulous advantage! We can vote and make contributions, not as large monetarily, but more important because it can be in the form of our time and work.

The first thing we must do is keep track of what laws and regulations will affect our resources and the environment and let the senators, representatives, legislators, and other officials know our desires. Personal visits, telephone calls, personal letters, and personal e-mails are the best means and in that order. Petitions, form letters or postcards, and e-mail attachments are next to worthless.

If you don't let the politicians know what you want, they will only know what the other side wants, and guess how they'll vote!

Second, with the election of a president and vice president, one third of the Senate, all of the House of Representatives, and many of the state and local legislators and officials coming up this fall, we must get familiar with the candidates and let them know what we want. Visit them when they come to your area, call or write them and, when you get a chance, pin them down on issues that concern you, especially publicly.

Third, and this is the hard but most effective thing, make contributions to the candidates who best meet your needs and do it as early in the campaign as possible. Money is always welcomed (watch the campaign finance laws), but working for your candidate is infinitely more valuable and rewarding. Let your candidate and his or her staff know that you're willing to help and then do it. You will be remembered when you want a vote or decision to go your way. And don't be afraid to remind the candidate, after he or she is elected, that you helped him or her in the campaign.

In a perfect world all of our elected officials and representatives would vote correctly, but we aren't in that perfect world. We must tell them what we want and work to get them to do it.

Don't be a fool. Remember, if you wait for someone to do it for you, someone will do it to you first. ~ John Colburn

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