Conservation: Doing Your Part

 In the United States, our fish and our wildlife are publicly owned. As a fishing guide, you will be one of the lucky people that can earn a living off a public resource. Because you are earning your living on a public resource, you have a special responsibility to become involved in the sustainable management of our fish and wildlife resources. Similarly, because the public is allowing you to earn a living on the public resource, you have a special, and heightened, responsibility to minimize the impact of your activities on the public whether they are fishing or just enjoying a quiet day on the river. Becoming a steward of the resource and becoming an ambassador for our profession is both good for business and the right thing to do. We exist at the pleasure of both.

How do you become a steward of the resource?

There are a number of non-profits in the fishing world. Obviously, the most prominent cold-water conservation organization is Trout Unlimited. Every state in the Union has a chapter, and, in fishing regions, most towns have them. Here in MT, we have chapters in Billings, Livingston, Bozeman, Butte, Missoula, Kalispell, Great Falls, Helena, and Lewistown. Unfortunately, despite the fact guides and outfitters should participate, they generally do not.

By joining, and participating in local TU chapters, you will have the opportunity to develop a relationship with members of the public who are equally committed to long-term management of the resource. Developing this relationship will increase your knowledge of the resource you guide on, and, consequently, it will make you a better guide. Similarly, the community members you get to know as a part of your involvement with TU will become your advocate and will help defend your commercial use of a public resource when those threats arise. This will not happen all at once but will occur if you meaningfully participate in the organization.

Other non-profits to consider

Consider supporting the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, local Rod and Gun clubs, National Wildlife Federation subsidiaries such as the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, the Montana Wildlife Federation, and any local groups that are actively involved in management of our natural resources.

Public Resource Management through Politics

The second really important avenue for insuring that the public resources we depend upon are carefully managed is politics. While the present political environment does tend to turn a lot of folks off, it is still where the laws are passed that dictate how our resources are managed. Think about the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, etc. . . These are laws that protect cold water resources such as Bristol Bay and Montana’s Bull Trout. Similarly, they also provide the legal foundation of Montana’s remediation economy that is cleaning up decades old mining waste, insuring that new development is done responsibly, and insuring that your workplace will remain one that attracts guests from around the world.

Here in Montana, the legislature is starting to look at how we can balance commercial use like guides with the public’s use of the same resource. These are very difficult conversations since they generally pit the public against the business that employ fishing guides, hotels, restaurants, etc. . . Agencies like Montana’s Fish, Wildlife, and Parks follow the guidance of the legislature when deciding to balance these interests. So, if you are not involved in the political process, you might find yourself on the outside looking as changes are made to how use is balanced between the public and the commercial users.

We All Love to Fish

The bottom line is that we all love to fish. We are the lucky ones who get to make it our living. It is not a way to get rich, but it is certainly a great way to make a living. Remember, we are making our living on a public resource that is owned by everyone. It is not ours alone. With the opportunity to make a living on a public resource, comes the extra responsibility to become involved to make sure the resource is properly managed and that the relationship between the public and the outfitting industry is a partnership. Whether you decide to become involved with non-profits that are out there defending our public waters, or whether you decide to become involved in the political system that makes the laws that govern our resources, your long-term business interest should compel you to become involved.

Get Involved

If you would ever like to talk about involvement with these issues in more detail, please feel free to call Dan Vermillion, Vice-President Sweetwater Travel Company: 406-222-0624. Or email