In Montana, and other states in the US, our fish and wildlife management agencies are continually adjusting regulations in order to, ideally, best protect fish and wildlife populations while also providing opportunities for the public to fish and hunt. We have access to so much public land and water here in the western US. It’s fantastic, and hopefully we can keep it that way. We all care about our fisheries, but are we all doing enough to consider ourselves stewards of the resource? As members of the public, we are all co-owners of our public lands and waters. We have the right, and perhaps the duty, to be involved in the process and decisions which influence management of public land and water and the creatures which call those places home.
Getting involved here in Montana is easy, and I assume it is similar in other places. Our agencies all have protocols and processes in place which allow for public input and commentary on issues both simple and complex. As such, it is surprising to me how few sportsman are informed and actually get involved. Being involved starts with being aware. Keep an eye out for news of proposed regulation changes and public hearings. Watch the newspaper, social media, or other information sources. Get on agency email lists. Pay attention.
The next part requires more effort. Do your homework. Research the issues. Formulate questions and opinions. Discuss the issues with your friends and angling companions. Then, you need to SHOW UP and participate. That may mean writing emails or letters to fish and game agencies or your government representatives at the local, state, or federal level. It may mean missing that big football game (round or oblong ball version) on TV so you can attend a public hearing. It may mean missing out on a day afield or on the water. It may mean making your friends and fishing buddies aware of the issues and encouraging them to get involved as well. Setting an example takes time and energy, but ultimately I believe it is worthwhile.
Through involvement, you will meet plenty of good and interesting people with both similar and differing opinions to your own. It’s important to listen and try to understand all the views involved and all the user groups concerned with the issues. I think that through this involvement you will learn a lot about people as well as the process of local rule making. You might also make some great friends and contacts who invite you to enjoy some great angling that you never knew about. Most importantly, by getting involved, you will have your voice and opinions heard and included in the overall decision making process – something that is important, relevant, and ultimately very satisfying.
Take Care and Fish On,