“…dedicated to increasing the return of wild steelhead to river and waters of the Pacific Northwest.” That is an audacious goal laced with a high dose of passion. A true passion for wild steelhead is dedication served by not just pursuing them with rod and reel, but dedication to their conservation and commitment to ensure we have them in our future.
Since the founding of the organization in the basement of Ted’s Sporting Goods 13 years ago, I am most proud of the grassroots nature of the organization and the many successes the WSC has achieved to benefit wild steelhead. These achievements were accomplished by learning to understand the issues and science, and building a broader awareness to engage the public and anglers to bring effective change for wild steelhead. At the same time many lessons were learned along the way that made many of us wiser. In this conservation journey I am humbled by the many talented and committed individuals who helped found the organization and the many that had a hand in developing a respected organization and value it has brought to the steelhead conservation world. I deeply appreciate the many organizations and businesses that stepped forward, with some eventually becoming partners and increasing the visibility of our mission to a broader audience. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities, friendships and relationships developed in my tenure as the leader of the Wild Steelhead Coalition. I look forward to the future as the organization continues to grow and watch it benefit a fish that has been my passion since childhood.
We are thrilled to have Bob Margulis as the organization’s first Executive Director. Bob’s passion for wild steelhead, nonprofit, and organizational experience as well as strategic abilities were deemed a great fit for our organization moving forward and continuing our mission. We are confident in Bob’s abilities and full-time commitment to our organization to help bring a strong benefit to the future of wild steelhead. Jonathan Stumpf will assume the role of Chairman of the Board and continue his exemplary work with the WSC. I will move forward to Honorary Director and Founder. My plan in this new role is to continue to support the organization through advisement and projects.
From the start, many of my personal commitments and goals to the organization, as a volunteer and before transitioning from President, was to ensure the groundwork was solid and foundation in place to ensure the organization would be sustainable and successful for wild steelhead in the long term and not fade away. The hiring of Bob as our new ED is a reflection of that commitment. I am reaching out to all of you to provide him the same level of support and commitment you have shown to me through the years and welcome him as a partner in our mission.
Since this is my last installment as president and I would like take the opportunity to share a top 10 list of some personal insights I have learned along the way:
- You can find and budget the time in your life to become a wild steelhead advocate and can personally make a difference
- Science provides the best truth we have, but politics and agendas are the impediment to apply the truth.
- There is a sense of conservation freedom when you don’t view wild steelhead as a product or commodity to make money from. Always look to your soul and remember your first connection and what it stirred.
- Never give up. Always let the decision makers know you are around and that wild steelhead are worth the effort.
- Check your ego at the gate, be humble, surround yourself with brilliant people and always say thank you—collaboration is the key.
- It is impossible to please everyone and there will always be critics and detractors of what you do. Let it go. You’ve already convinced the first 20%, work on the 60% and realize you will never convince the last 20%. Let the detractors keep talking instead of doing and keep your eye on the ball.
- Wild steelhead have few friends, but many enemies. There are no tours to view steelhead or engage advocates in the general public. Wild steelhead do not have the “panda” effect of other species. Anglers will be the advocates for their future.
- Ask not what Wild Steelhead Coalition can do for you, but what you can do for the wild steelhead, even if it means taking time away to angle for them.
- Learn to celebrate the small victories and incremental changes that benefit the fish. Seldom is it all done at once.
- Your voice matters! Stronger attendance is needed to attend commission hearings and other meetings to speak out on behalf of steelhead conservation. Apathy is killing the future of wild steelhead.
In the end there is no silver bullet to turn the plight of wild steelhead, there is only you who can help change the course and change the mind of public opinion and decision makers. It means giving up some of your time on the water to attend a hearing or write a letter. It means challenging your buddies to do the same. And it means never giving up. It is easy to criticize what should be done or not being done, but at the end of the day we all need to be part of the solution and not just talk about it or who’s at fault.
As I close I hope you be willing to put the time into wild steelhead conservation. My final request for you is to take some your personal time and write and submit your comments or help fill the room at the Commission meetings in the future. Provide a testimony and message, once and for all, that we are serious about steelhead conservation and won’t settle for anything less.