Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna L. Birkholm

March 22nd, 1999


Terry Sonnabend is the President of the local Bremerton WA, TU Chapter. There have been a few of Terry's writings in the Readers Casts section here on FAOL. Those usually have been taken from "The Catch & Release" monthly newsletter.

This month's issue really twisted my twig. He puts a name on those people who so influence the fly fishing (and outdoor world) without ever being physically, personally involved in it.

Do you know who we are talking about here? The people who start, promote, sign and vote for issues dramatically affecting fishing, hunting, and use of public lands. Those individuals who outnumber us significantly.

Terry's name for them is "NON TRACKERS." His comments were made especially with reference to a particular region in Washington state, but they apply in every state, county and country where the public vote controls the population.

Quoting Terry, "Non trackers exist in that I-5 corridor from Olympia to Everett in their homes surrounded by lawns, pavement, sidewalks, parking lots, malls and other non pervious surfaces from which the winter rains run off leaving no mud or silt to capture the imprint of their steps.

Yes, they leave no tracks in their totally manmade habitat. Most of them never venture afield or walk a stream bank; never do they carry a gun or fishing rod. Yet these non trackers take interest in the lives of hunters and fishermen. They gather signatures for initiatives to put on the ballot to control hunting and fishing and other things of which they have no knowledge. On election day they save the world and the environment by placing restrictions upon sportsmen and in some cases cause their own grief by stopping the controlled hunting of dangerous animals such as bears and cougar.

It is a wonder how that few percent of that populous that [do] get out into the wilds and off the beaten tract of urban sprawl can stand to be associated with their home environment. . . ."

Terry further explains that the non tracker population has the rest of the state out-gunned when it comes to voting. As an example, "More people live on Queen Ann Hill in Seattle than all of Adams County."

This is a real "WAKE - UP" call!

As our friend Bob so adroitly observed, fly anglers seem to be very against being politically active. I think we have a real problem. Who speaks for us? FFF? TU? Your local senator or representative? Your elected representatives to the Federal Government?

We complain when things don't go our way. I called, and emailed our local PBS TV station when they ran a second "Special" on the plight of the Pacific Salmon. Neither program mentioned one word about commercial fishing or the fact the commercial fishing still goes on today when the Pacific Salmon have been listed by the Feds as threatened or endangered. And no one wants to talk about "by catch" in any meaningful way.

Obviously banning near-shore netting isn't even being considered! While another initiative to ban near-shore netting is out there gathering signatures, the reality is the votes on Queen Ann Hill in Seattle alone could drive it off again.

It seems to me the only solution to keeping the non trackers from doing further damage, and maybe get back on track is through education. I don't mean yet another dumb-dumb federal or state program. I do mean the one on one contract with the people we know.

The next time you have to wait for anything - a prescription, oil change, doctors appointment - say something to whomever is available about the value of teaching a kid to fish. Use the words, Clean Water! That's the phrase that made TU!

Tell others what a neat time you had on your last fishing trip, mention what a great release and stress reliever it was. Share how you are looking forward to the next outing. Take a friend fishing.

Why? Because the numbers of people who do spend time in the outdoors is a tiny fragment of the total population. We have to let that huge group of non trackers know that what we value is worth valuing. In fact, they might be missing something! No, I don't want to make them all into fly fishers - but maybe someone ought to have a conversation with Robert Redford about making another movie. The last one made more folks aware of fly fishing than all the combined advertising efforts of the whole fly fishing industry.

You can help. It may not seem like much, but one person informed, educated is one less vote from the non trackers! ~ Deanna Birkholm

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

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