When I sat down to write this article, I had to make my peace with the fact that sometimes I’m a hypocrite or, at the very least, not always ‘on message’. I wrote the exact words, “it’s important for us all to stand up for wild places like Bristol Bay…but it’s also important to remember that wild places sit just outside your door. Fish Local, Shop Local, Conserve Local” just two months ago as part of a public awareness campaign for my TU chapter’s film “Local” which sought to encourage young anglers across the country to get involved in their own local TU chapters and other grassroots conservation groups.

At that time, I didn’t expect to be hosting a four-hundred-person event just blocks from the U.S. Capitol. I didn’t expect to be involved in the nationwide efforts to save America’s last great salmon fishery. I certainly didn’t expect to be writing an article about Bristol Bay for Fly Lords, an outlet I’ve followed with interest for years. But sometimes sh*t happens, and you have to act now or never.

Bristol Bay’s headwaters courtesy of August Island Pictures 

I’m guessing most of you reading are familiar with the issues facing Bristol Bay. I’m guessing many of you have seen more than one “No Pebble Mine” sticker on a car window or the front door of your local fly shop. The issue has bounced around the consciousness of the fly-fishing world for what has seemed, based on the demographics of this website’s readership and my own age, for the entirety of our adult lives. But finally, truly, it’s now or never.

I had hoped my first article for a magazine like Fly Lords would be a hopeful one–maybe an uplifting story about how a plucky 20-something became the president of his local TU chapter and helped restore it to glory, with friends made, streams saved, and great times had by all. Instead, it’s this sh*t again. We had thought we were out of the woods. Bristol Bay was saved, and Pebble Mine wasn’t going to bring Armageddon down upon the literally millions of salmon that return to Bristol Bay each year. But, and for what I promise is the last time I’ll say it, it’s now or never.

Bristol Bay sockeye salmon, photo courtesy of Pat Clayton

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Orvis, my organization, the National Capital Chapter of Trout Unlimited, is hosting the largest–and frankly most important–event in our chapter’s history next week, when we bring “The Wild” to Washington, DC. A joint screening with our partners at Trout Unlimited Alaska and the Save Bristol Bay Coalition, ‘The Wild’ issues a stark warning: unless the fishing community–commercial, conventional and fly–don’t band together, the greatest salmon fishery remaining on earth, Bristol Bay, will be forever lost.

Since joining TU as a volunteer leader, I’ve grown increasingly and painfully aware of the legacy that human development and industry have left on the land in my part of the country. Whether acid mine runoff that stains the upper reaches of the Potomac River a deep orange, the loss of Paint Branch–my local trout stream–to development, or the decline of striped bass, the impacts and scars of human activity are ever-present in life on the highly developed East Coast.

Bristol Bay is different; it’s one of the last truly untouched fisheries remaining in the world.  Bristol Bay not only produces millions of salmon each year, it also produces jobs–to the tune of over 14,000 irreplaceable permanent well-paying jobs that mean gainful employment, robust communities and economic opportunity in a rural part of America. All of that is threatened by Pebble Mine.

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard being interviewed for ‘The Wild’

Without wanting to give away the entire film, suffice it to say, the hour is late and the threat is grave. Once Bristol Bay is gone, it is gone forever. This week’s event is only one of many trying to save this pristine and beautiful place for generations to come. I hope that you will join us.

To attend the screening on Thursday, September 19th, please visit NCC-TU.org or ticketleap and use promo code “flylordswild2019” to get 50% off the price of admission (limited to the first 50 tickets). Hope to see you there!

This article was written by Andrew Reichardt. Andrew is the President of the National Capital Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Vice-Chair of the Mid-Atlantic Council of Trout Unlimited, as well as a Fly Fishers International Certified Casting Instructor. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife and dog and is an avid angler who can be found most weekends on one of the wild trout streams in his home state of Maryland. You can follow him and NCC-TU on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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