Protecting the Great Lakes

I wasn’t really sure what to think about the email I just received from Kevin Naze. Kevin is from Algoma, and a writer, part-time guide and champion of the outdoors. He’s a real good friend, but what was this nonsense that he recommend I go to Washington D.C. to meet with legislators? He had to be joshing me (as he sometimes does). What would Congress want to hear from a small town charter captain? I started thinking about the family trip we made to D.C. to visit my uncle back in 1970. Lots of concrete, people, monuments, mass transportation and well, you get the picture—not too much in common with my lifestyle and certainly out of my element. This had to be a joke, I thought as I sent him a “ha, ha” email back.

I no sooner touched off the send button and my phone rang. It was Mike Carlson with Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts. It was no joke, I guess. They were asking me to be a part of a Wisconsin contingency to represent sportsmen and everyone in Wisconsin and throughout the entire Great Lakes region to speak to legislators about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). I asked Mike what they thought a small town conservative charter captain could do to help their cause. Now I do sit on some statewide boards and take an active role on local and regional issues within the outdoors and tourism industry. And it turns out that was exactly what they were looking for—just my luck. How do I explain this one to my wife? Humbly, I agreed. Now my work will begin and I had only a month to learn all I can about GLRI and what it means to me and to the rest of us.

My first step was to break the news to my wife, trying to act like I really didn’t want to go. I expected some hard convincing, but instead I got the, You’ll do fine, you always do. Somehow, this will cost me. But no time to waste, work is very busy, fishing is wrapping up and the boat needs to get put away and I have some studying to do. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world. Now this seems at first to be a broad, but very important issue. I live it every day, as does every person who swims, fishes, hunts or drinks in or on these waters. GLRI concentrates on five main focus areas:

  • Cleaning up toxics and areas of concern
  • Combating invasive species
  • Promoting nearshore health by protecting watersheds from polluted run-off
  • Restoring wetlands and other habitats
  • Tracking progress, education and working with strategic partners

It doesn’t look too bad, I’ve attended many seminars on these topics over the years and I’ve been involved in many discussions at several state meetings.

My traveling partner for this trip was Bruce Deadman from Dykesville, just a short 15 miles across the peninsula from me. It turns out Bruce’s background is hunting and he is national director for Ducks Unlimited (DU). We had about 36 hours (airport to airport) to accomplish our goals and it started the moment I picked up Bruce in his driveway. It turns out we have a lot in common and most of it surrounds the waters of Lake Michigan and the bay of Green Bay. DU is a strong supporter of the GLRI and most of the time any funds that are directed at their habitat programs, DU finds matching state and local funds to double and triple the benefits of the tax dollars being used.

Our first day consisted of briefings and strategy meetings to prepare us for day two, which was filled with legislative office visits. We met at the National Parks Conservation Association conference room and Senior Director of Water Programs, Chad Lord, briefed us on what was going to happen the following day and what we needed to emphasize in our meetings. The room was filled with stakeholders from throughout the Great Lakes region. Our main emphasis to get across was that the Great Lakes are a unique national treasure and the largest system of fresh surface water in the world, providing drinking water for 40 million. They are also an economic driver that supports jobs, commerce, agriculture, transportation and tourism. It turns out we all had a special story to tell our legislators.

While continuing discussions in small groups, we toured a few of the capital’s sights and kept informative strategy sessions going through dinner and well into the evening. Tomorrow would be the important part of the trip; our Wisconsin group had eight legislative meetings scheduled in seven hours across several office buildings of the House of Representatives and the Senate. It would be a short night, almost like Opening Day.

Our morning started early, with a final strategy session at breakfast. With each legislative stop, Mike would introduce Bruce and I, state our cause and we would tell our story from there. We were off to Capitol Hill. Seems pretty simple, but each office we walked into, we had one chance to speak for a few moments and impress upon them the importance of GRLI and that was it. Almost like having that trophy buck of a lifetime, skirting just outside of bow range, then stepping in for a moment, one chance, one shot, make it count!

We would start with our home district, Congressman Reid Ribble’s office. We met with Jeff Kuckuck, his top assistant. Once we started, the nerves calmed and experience and knowledge took over. We spoke from the heart. It was easy to have passion when you make your livelihood and spend so much of your free time on the water. I know now why we were chosen to tell our story. Bruce was impressive with his dedication to Ducks Unlimited—his knowledge of DU’s many restoration projects nation-wide showed what an organization can do to improve the habitat. And everything is related: Duck habitat is also spawning habitat, sanctuaries for young animals, birds and fish. A system void of invasive species is much easier to manage and most importantly, clean water for our kids to swim in and to drink is monumental to everyone.

As it turned out, it was a pretty passionate, heart-felt experience and seemed like an easy sell. Most notably was the reception we received on a totally bipartisan level. I felt very confident that our legislators seemed in total agreement that restoring and keeping the Great Lakes clean was an important task and we’re hoping that a long-term solution can be found and funding can be allotted 5 years at a time instead of annually. After all, clean water is everyone’s business.

 

Capt. Lee Haasch is a charter captain out of Algoma, Wis. Capt. Lee has over 40 years of great lakes angling experience and has been instructing anglers for over 25 years with education seminars and timely freelance articles in outdoor publications.

Tip of the Month
Late-season bowhunting is a special time for me. I enjoy the solitude and the special feeling when a fresh snow blankets the ground and the woods take on a clean and quiet appearance. The second rut occurs in mid- to late December and bucks are looking again for any un-bred does. But with cold weather comes heavy clothing, and it sometimes becomes harder to pull your bow quietly and smoothly. By retuning your bow to a lighter draw weight you will have an easier time drawing quietly and with less effort. I will lighten my Mission Blaze by about 5 pounds, and with practice and re-sighting, that is enough to once again be smooth, quiet and ready for that 12-point buck.

For more information…
For current fishing reports or information on charter fishing check out Capt. Lee Haasch’s report page at fishalgoma.com or 888-966-3474.