What a year 2020 has been—the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, impeachment, the largest protests in American history, Tiger King, Murder Hornets, COVID-19 and the thousands of lives it has claimed. It’s been a weird, frustrating, and eye-opening year on all fronts. And now, the country will hold an election in less than 60 days. Americans will vote to either reaffirm President Trump or install former Vice President Joe Biden. They will also vote for their respective United States Congresspeople and make important decisions for their local governments.

Before you completely discount this article with “leave the politics out of fly fishing,” understand the fact that fly fishing is inextricably connected to politics–everything is. What happens in Washington, DC can directly benefit or harm the quality of your fishing all throughout the country. Consequently, your vote does in fact matter a great deal to your fly fishing and time spent outdoors.

Just look at instances of politics impacting your fly fishing. In the last three years, the current administration attacked bedrock environmental laws that ensured clean water, promoted responsible construction, and prevented vulnerable species from going extinct. These laws—the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Endangered Species Act, respectively—safeguard clean and free-flowing waterways that support some of our favorite fish species, but they have long been the target of large corporations and environmentally-harmful industries. More public lands have been opened up to extractive industries in the Trump administration’s three and half years than by any presidency in history. The Center for American Progress quantified the sustained attack on public lands: “Put differently, President Trump has eliminated protections on 16 times more land than President Teddy Roosevelt protected as national parks and monuments.”

Bears Ear National Monument, a target of this Administration (DOI.gov)

Conversely, politics can improve your fly fishing—just look at these recent examples. The Great American Outdoor Act, which fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund and addresses a mounting maintenance backlog on public lands, became law because it was a great bill, but also because it gave an electoral boost to vulnerable Senators. Additionally, the lunacy of Pebble Mine broke into the national spotlight, after several high profile political figures indicated their opposition to the mine. Just a couple weeks ago, the Trump administration finally stood up and opposed Pebble Mine. And just last night (September 16th), President Trump tweeted about Pebble Mine: “Don’t worry, wonderful & beautiful Alaska, there will be NO POLITICS in the Pebble Mine Review Process. I will do what is right for Alaska and our great Country!!!” The millions of individuals who wrote letters or signed petitions are responsible for this major victory for clean water, healthy fisheries, and sustainable economies.

Ceremonial signing of the Great American Outdoors Act (White House Flickr)

This is exactly why it is important to vote. Politicians care what you think; your vote either helps or harms their chances of reelection, which is an elected official’s number one priority.

Voter preferences hold even greater influence over vulnerable politicians. Senators Cory Gardner and Steve Daines, of Colorado and Montana respectively, serve a perfect example. Both face intense elections this year, and their positions on the environment and public lands are being ridiculed by portions of their constituencies, and certainly by their opponents. Further, many link their vulnerability to the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act and the withdrawal of William Perry Pendley’s nomination to lead the Bureau of Land Management. I will not speculate too much as to whether or not these conservation victories would have transpired in a non-election year, but both Senators have dismal lifetime ratings according to the League of Conservation Voters.

If that is not enough to demonstrate the power of your vote, think of how much money goes into elections. In 2016, more than $6,511,000,000 billion was injected into the general election. The fact remains, however, the SuperPACs and corporations that seek to influences elections do not enjoy the right to vote. That is left and trusted to the American citizenry–regular folks with diverse perspectives, preferences, backgrounds, and ideologies. Further, your vote can be the difference because many elections have been won or lost with razor-thin margins.

So, regardless of your personal ideologies or party allegiances, go out and vote. Obviously, there are bigger issues than fly fishing on the ballot, such as foreign policy, health care, the economy, immigration, broader climate change policy, etc. But remember: what happens in Washington, D.C. directly impacts the quality of your fly fishing for better and worse. So, outside of directly endorsing a candidate—which we will refrain from—take heed from Backcountry Hunters & Anglers’ recent campaign: VOTE PUBLIC LANDS AND WATERS. I think that’s something ALL fly fishermen and women can agree on.


Patagonia Premiering Documentary, “Public Trust”, on September 25th

The West is on Fire

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