Life Lessons from the Natural World

  • Early lessons in life help shape the future of our young people. Teachers can help. 
  • My students taught me that nature and conservation are important in today’s world.
  • The students brought in venison, rabbit, squirrel, and pheasant – suddenly, the world was a better place.
I learned that when we allow students to have a voice in the classroom about nature, the whole world learns to be a better place. My students learned to help each other. Forrest Fisher photo

By Bob Holzhei

I was fortunate to grow up on a family farm in the 1950s, in the outdoors.  I learned many lessons early in life that shaped my future.

Daily chores included sweeping the grain elevator and shoveling oats, wheat, or navy beans into the “pit” where the grain was transferred upstairs into grain bins for storage.

The first lesson I learned was to work up to my dad’s expectations.  If I fell short, there was no supper provided that evening.  True fact.

Books by the author provide a trail to discovering new, life-changing energy and a path to coaching others in a new role. Forrest Fisher photo

It only took one lesson to teach me.

My father was neither mean nor cruel, simply clear of his expectations.  That lesson would shape my future and lead to my graduation from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s and master’s degree.  I became a teacher.

I student taught at St. Johns High School and was eventually offered a teaching position, retiring following 37 years of service there.

Over those years, I learned there are two kinds of smart: book smart and hands-on smart.

The book smart folks went to college while the hands-on smart folks excelled in various skilled trades.  Both types of “smart” are essential, more now than ever!

I taught two classes of hands-on smart students.  I discovered early as a teacher that one needed to meet each student where they were in life to move them ahead.

Each year after meeting a new class, the students would learn to call me “Uncle Bob.” A student asked me, “Hey, Uncle Bob, can we have a wild game after-school dinner feast if we all get our school work in?”

“You bet,” was my reply.

One message I learned was that overcoming adversity leads to realizing new inspiration and linking to new goals. It’s not about fiction – but it is as fragile as a glass in the wind. We must work to keep our goals in front. Forrest Fisher photo

Over those years, the entourage of students taught me a vital teacher lesson.  Instead of prodding the class to get work in, I had the students that finished their work early help those who lagged behind.

The classroom became a dynamic hands-on experience.

The day of the wild game meal arrived, and I had reserved the home economics room to hold the celebration.  The students brought in venison, rabbit, squirrel, and pheasant.  Suddenly, my principal arrived and asked, “How in the hell can you justify this?  I want to see you in my office after school!”

I humbly whispered to him, “Real easy, look over there at that table.  See the boy eating off the other students’ plate?  He didn’t have breakfast this morning and can’t afford to buy a school lunch.”

Still, the principal left the home economics room very angry.

The principal learned that the sweet-smelling aroma from perfectly cooked rabbits, squirrels, and deer can bring folks together to appreciate each other and nature. Forrest Fisher photo

After school, I went to the principal’s office.

“You wanted to see me,” I stated.

“Not anymore.  I don’t know what you do to motivate those losers; just keep doing it.”

I followed with a response.  “Shame on you!  Every student deserves to have an equal opportunity for a good education.  To only focus on the book smart kids whose parents own businesses in town is wrong!”

Another lesson learned from my students!

Wild game food provided a pathway to celebrate accomplishment among my students, leading the way to a much-improved classroom life for everyone.  The principal learned that the sweet-smelling aroma from perfectly cooked rabbits, squirrels, and deer can bring folks together to appreciate each other and nature.

Life lessons have extended to a well-deserved destination when the classroom and conservation come together.

Editor Note – About the Author: Robert E. Holzhei is an inspirational factual and fictional author, he has published more than 425 outdoor travel stories and several motivsational books, including The Mountains Shall Depart (2017), The Hills Shall Be Removed (2018), Canadian Fly-In Fishing Adventure (1993), and Alaskan Spirit Journey (1999). He is the recipient of five national writing awards from the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW), including 1st Place in the Best of Best Newspaper Story, and multiple additional awards for writing (including three presidential awards). He has also been recognized by the Michigan Education Association, the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association and the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association. His books can be found for purchase on Amazon.



South Dakota auction offers Live Bison, YOU CAN BUY ONE!

Bison For Sale!

  • Live Bison are typically transported to expand herds in other parts of the country – the auction is a 54-year-old tradition at Custer State Park
  • Wild live Bison range in size from 400 to 1500 pounds, depending on sex and age
  • The Bison auction program is exemplary in the world of Conservation
Mature Bison bulls in South Dakota can grow to 1,500 pounds and more at Custer State Park. Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher

Wildlife management is a scientific process and biologists from across the world usually admit that their job is never easy, there are so many variables. Wild game needs to eat to stay healthy and for Bison, their ability to stay healthy is based on the vegetation production on the range, the prairies. For every day of my life, it seems I learn new things that are a common tradition in other parts of our great country.  I learn that conservation can take on many forms.

At Custer State Park in South Dakota, Resource Program Manager, Mark Hendrix says, “Our range prairies – where the Bison roam, are comprised of mixed grasses. In our 71,000 acres of the park, about 30,000 acres are used by the Bison. To assure there is enough food for healthy Bison and to help promote the continued expansion of native animals like the Bison, we cull our herd to maintain a wintering herd of about 950 animals.”

Hendrix adds, “In September each year, we assure all our Bison are tagged. The calves receive a Bangs ear tag, the bulls receive a small steel ear tag. All have been vaccinated as calves to assure they are disease-free and we follow up by conducting a blood test on each Bison.  Then, based on the number of calves born each year, we offer animals for auction. This helps keep the animals of the park and the range grasses healthy for survival, and the species has the benefit of expanding, as well.”

Winter herds of up to 950 Bison are among management goals for healthy herds at Custer State Park, South Dakota; Numbers vary each year based on range vegetation production. Forrest Fisher photo

Perhaps the management of animals is absolutely best when designated species can be removed in this way. In some states, wildlife management permits for hunting wild game are offered for sale to help regulate the population numbers of a particular species and concurrently, there is hunter adventure. Typically, there is also a highly beneficial economic impact. With hunter permits, however, it is not always possible to achieve the designated management goals and for many species with permit quotas, there is NO NEED to expand those species elsewhere.  In Custer State Park, the practice of healthy Bison herd management is an assured process with a proven track record.

Custer State Park provides the opportunity to expand the Bison herd to regions of the country where Bison were once plentiful and need help for herd restoration.

After talking with Mark Hendrix, I believe the Custer State Park Bison management program is exemplary. The program is above-board, procedurally consistent and fully operational.

Each November, Custer State Park provides between 200 and 500 head of live Buffalo for public auction. Buyers and spectators from around the United States come to watch and participate in the annual auction. The live Buffalo are typically purchased to supplement an existing herd, to start a herd, or for consumption.

These are healthy two-year-old breeding bulls, tagged for identification, age and for auction at Custer State Park in South Dakota. Custer State Park Photo

The auction at the park’s Visitor Center will provide live and online bidding as the 2019 Fall Classic Bison Auction opens on Saturday, Nov. 2, where approximately 432 head will be available for sale. The on-site and online auction will begin at 10 a.m. (Mountain Daylight Time). The Custer State Park visitor center is located 15 miles east of Custer on Highway 16A, near the junction of the Wildlife Loop Road and Highway 16A. 

This year’s offerings include 25 mature bred cows, 32 mature open cows, 20 two-year-old bred heifers, 20 open two-year-old heifers, 83 yearling heifers, 70 heifer calves, 104 bull calves, 52 yearling bulls, 11 two-year-old breeding bulls, and 15 two-year-old grade bulls.

“Due to excellent range conditions and high calving rates, the park has a larger quantity of animals to offer this year,” said Chad Kremer, Bison herd manager. “The change to a video auction rather than a live auction has also been positive. It reduces the stress on the buffalo and expedites the entire process.”

A review of recent Bison auction records shows that the Bison calves weigh 300-400 pounds and cost an average of $1600-$2000; the mature cows weigh 800-1100 pounds with a cost of $3200-$4000 each while mature bulls weigh as much as 1500 pounds and cost an average of $3500-$4700.

For the past 54 years, the park has made surplus Bison available for sale to the private sector. A significant amount of park revenue results from the Bison sale and goes toward continued operations of the state park system. The live internet auction is now going on its eighth year and has helped reach buyers who wouldn’t have been aware of the auction in the past.

Bison For Sale!  The annual Custer State Park auction provides an opportunity for Bison herd expansion to many areas of the country. Forrest Fisher Photo

“The average cost of the Bison is about $2000 or so,” said Mark Hendrix. Simple math shows financial benefit for the park. When it is possible to help keep wildlife healthy, expand a dwindling wildlife resource for use elsewhere, and help support the programs and budget of the park staff, everyone wins.  

In the past, the Bison have been used to start or expand herds in Texas, Minnesota, Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and elsewhere. The purchased Bison must be removed by Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019.  Hendrix added, “Folks that are aware of the auction arrive prepared to transport the animals at their own expense. Some states require special permits, certifications, and tests before transport, we can help with that.”

For additional information about the upcoming Bison auction, contact Custer State Park at 605-255-4515 or email questions to  For the auction brochure and live videos of available live Bison stock in the auction, please click here.


So, I Wrote a Letter to Jeep

By Chris Wood

So, I wrote a letter to Jeep.

They ran an ad in the Super Bowl called “The Road,” that showed a Jeep running up the center of what looked like a stream. My eight year old son turned to me after it ran and said, “Dad, isn’t that really bad for the stream?”

A few days after sending the letter, I had a very constructive call with the head of communications for Fiat-Chrysler. He explained that the “creek” was actually a flooded county road, and said that Jeep would make that clear on the internet where the ad now lives. He understood my concerns and said he would try to arrange a meeting for me with Jeep, a brand that promotes getting people into the outdoors—something we at Trout Unlimited support, too.

Then the Associate Press picked up the story. I expected that TU members and supporters would back me up, and they did. What I did not expect was the backlash from some in the off-road vehicle community. I was accused of perpetuating the “over sensitivity that is ruining America today”; told that I am “part of what’s wrong with this world;” and cursed at.

I received a few calls, too. One retired veteran called around 9pm frustrated by my letter. He said he longed for a previous era where people weren’t so sensitive, and that he didn’t defend the country for 20 years for a bunch of snowflakes. By the end of the call, he wanted to help out with TU’s Veterans Service Partnership.

One heavy equipment contractor in California wrote me an unhappy note, and I called him the next day. He described how people who lived in the Sierra’s resented people from places such as San Francisco telling them how to use the lands they lived and loved. He is an off-roader, and a stream restoration specialist. I paid particular attention to what he said. 

Many people in America today, feel that they are losing control of their traditions, pasttimes, and passions to “urban elites” or “wealthy people from elsewhere.” The backlash against my letter to Jeep echoed and then magnified that sense of losing control. As anglers, we know this, too. How many places that we used to fish or hunt are now posted? The lack of access for fishing (and hunting) is the primary concern of sportsmen and women all around the country. In fact, TU has a group focused on gaining public access by working with land trusts and has invested countless hours fighting for access in state legislatures.

Then I spoke to Pam Harrington, who works for TU in Nevada and Idaho, and the light turned on. So much of our dialogue today is driven by the politics of division. The internet fuels the flames. Conversation and working together are out the window, and replaced by keyboard warriors.

But in the real world, people do work together. Pam sent me a video an off-roader driving up the center of Sinker Creek in Idaho. TU had worked for years with a variety of partners to restore the stream for Owyhee Redband trout, a rare trout species.

What happened next? Not one, but seven different local off-road vehicle clubs worked with Pam and others in Trout Unlimited to repair the damage and improve Sinker Creek. That is what America, and Trout Unlimited, are all about. Not angry rhetoric and flaming emails; we are defined by people coming together to protect and restore the places we live and love.

I look forward to meeting with the people at Jeep.

— Chris Wood

The Letter:


Trout Unlimited applauds initiatives recognizing IMPORTANCE of Fish and Wildlife Migration

Submitted by Brett Prettyman

Story by Paul Burnett

A native Bonneville cutthroat trout in Utah’s Weber River is released after being caught as part of an effort to track fish in the drainage. Paul Burnett/Trout Unlimited

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recently rolled out a Wildlife Migration Initiative, focused on the migration needs of wildlife and native fish throughout the state.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke came to Utah last week and applauded state efforts while introducing Secretarial Order 3362, which directs the Department of the Interior to work with state, local governments and non-governmental organizations to improve coordination, project partnerships to advance our understanding of the migration needs of wildlife.

We applaud Secretary Zinke for recognizing the importance of improving priority habitats within important migration corridors.

However, we recommend the idea that the need to improve priority habitats and corridors should include a broad range of species in addition to big game animals specified in the order.

Utah biologists have collected impressive data, often in partnership with Trout Unlimited, illustrating how barriers impact migratory cutthroat trout. The state is also working to better understand the migration obstacles of endangered fish species.

A transmitter is placed in a migratory Bonneville cutthroat as part of efforts to track movements of native trout on the Weber River in Utah. Paul Burnett/Trout Unlimited

We hope the Department of Interior and all partners impacted by the order will indeed “Review and use the best available sceince to inform development of specific guidelines for the department’s lands and waters related to inform development of specific guidelines for the Department’s lands and waters related to planning and developing energy, tranmission, or other relevant projects to avoid or minimizing potential negative impacts on wildlife.”

This is something Trout Unlimited has long promoted, most recently with the Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development coalition in the report “Lessons Learned: A Blueprint for Securing our Energy Future While Preserving America’s Sporting Heritage”.

Trout Unlimited has been working with state and federal agencies for years through Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative, and through federal programs with BLM, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Fish Passage Program, and the U.S. Forest Service to protect and improve habitat connectivity in streams.

These recent initiatives further the commitment of land and wildlife agencies in their consideration for important migratory corridors for our fisheries and wildlife throughout the West.

Scientists have asserted in scientific journals for decades, that the long-term sustainability of important fisheries, like salmon and native inland trout, was greatly affected by impediments to movement (barriers) along stream systems. As we have done more research on the needs of trout and salmon, the fact that fish need to move has become more and more clear and an important priority in our restoration strategies throughout the West.

This graphic shows the barriers migratory Bonneville cutthroat face while trying to reach spawning grounds in the Weber River drainage in Utah. Paul Burnett/Trout Unlimited

Nearly two decades ago, TU’s own Warren Colyer discovered Bonneville cutthroat trout in Wyoming that he tagged in the Thomas Fork with radio tags, making large-scale migrations downstream into the Bear River, where they then swam upstream into another tributary, the Smiths Fork, and spawned in the headwaters. The migrations were up to 55 miles, traversing a wide range of habitats.

From a purely energetic perspective, it doesn’t make much sense for a fish to put so much energy into moving so far, which leads to the questions of why fish move – questions not as easily answered.

This is an animation developed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources that illustrates movement of a single Bonneville cutthroat trout in the lower Weber River and the impacts of barriers to its movement. Barriers are indicated on the map with the markers. We are using this movement data to prioritize barrier removal, and in the interim of the movements of this specific fish, we constructed a fish ladder on the concrete culvert to allow it to migrate into spawning grounds that had been inaccessible for over 50 years.

This is an animation developed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources that illustrates movement of a single Bonneville cutthroat trout in the lower Weber River and the impacts of barriers to its movement. Barriers are indicated on the map with the markers. We are using this movement data to prioritize barrier removal, and in the interim of the movements of this specific fish, we constructed a fish ladder on the concrete culvert to allow it to migrate into spawning grounds that had been inaccessible for over 50 years.

We have a few theories about why fish migrate long distances, ranging from long term spawning success in specific tributary systems that lack predators, to the idea that fish are moving around river systems to track suitable temperatures and food. The important point is that we know that trout and other native inland fish DO need to migrate and when they do, they interface with human infrastructure more frequently, often at their own peril.

As an example, fish migrating downstream are prone to being entrained (sucked into) irrigation systems with no way out. The longer the distance of migration, the higher the number of instream structures fish are likely to encounter.

When an animal’s habitat is chopped up into smaller pieces on the landscape that they cannot move between, it is a phenomenon known as habitat fragmentation. Fragmentation is an important threat to fish because the smaller pieces of habitat are more prone to being destroyed by natural events like fire or floods, or climate change. Fish populations living in fragmented rivers also lack the resiliency to bounce back after a portion of their habitat is disturbed or lost.

Click above to sign up for the Trout Unlimited Newsletter.

When a dam is in the way, or a road crossing stops fish from moving upstream, the results can be extremely problematic. When irrigation diversions sweep the river, fish don’t have a choice, and often don’t know that they are entering irrigation systems. Fish don’t have any other way to get from Point A to Point B, but through the water. If they are blocked…they are blocked.

Sources of fragmentation are varied but can be categorized into four main types:
• Road crossings. Whenever a road crosses a stream, either a bridge, or more-commonly a culvert is constructed. Culverts and bridges are typically designed to be efficient in passing water and sediment. Too-often, the result is a steep culvert with fast water velocities or a vertical drop that fish cannot clear, or a combination of the two.
• Dams and diversions. Throughout the United States, thousands of streams have been dammed for many reasons, whether it is to generate hydropower, deliver irrigation water, store runoff, or power historic mills, the effect has been to block any and all fish species from moving upstream.
• Dewatered stream segments. If there is no water in a stream, then fish obviously cannot move through that reach. This is a well-known challenge throughout the West, and it is emerging as an increasingly important issue as well as the West continues to grow and develop.
• Water quality impaired reaches. As evidenced in streams with abandoned mines throughout Colorado, or excessive sedimentation caused by activities like uncontrolled grazing or timber harvest, the affects in headwaters compound and propagate downstream into tributaries and mainstem rivers, potentially rendering miles of stream habitat unsuitable for trout, and preventing fish from moving through those reaches.

A typical barrier to native fish migration on the Weber River in Utah, and across the country. Paul Burnett/Trout Unlimited

TU’s “Protect, Reconnect, Restore, and Sustain” model for restoration has been around for more than a decade. This framework recognized the need to apply different strategies at different locations within our river basins, ranging from policies like the 2015 Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS) that protect headwaters streams, conserving public lands, reconnection within tributary systems, and restoration within main stem rivers.

Key to this strategy is our effort to reconnect priority streams through collaborative actions, oftentimes with nontraditional partners.










This 385-foot culvert on Strawberry Creek, a tributary to the Weber River, blocked migratory cutthroat from reaching historic grounds for more than 50 years. A fish ladder was constructed by TU and partners and fish used it the next spring. Paul Burnett/Trout Unlimited

TU has leveraged tens of millions of dollars to work with water users, landowners, federal land management agencies, and road departments to restore habitat connectivity, oftentimes through infrastructure modernization, such as reconstruction of irrigation diversions, or road crossings that benefit local communities. But we have also restored habitat connectivity through water leases.

A video showing the Strawberry Creek Project in the Weber River Drainage.

Complimentary to our on-the-ground actions is a strategy of sustaining our efforts by fostering collaborative initiatives with land management agencies and state wildlife agencies. We have been encouraged by recent proclamations and initiatives by the Department of Interior and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, respectively to recognize the importance of wildlife migrations to the sustainability of our fisheries and wildlife populations, but also to the idea that our modern economy can coexist with and benefit from robust fish and wildlife populations.

Many improvements to infrastructure and water policy can be made through collaborative, voluntary and non-regulatory actions.

Paul Burnett is the Utah Project Leader for Trout Unlimited’s Western Water and Habitat Program. He is based out of Ogden, Utah.


  • Vision Clarity, Eye Protection, Seeing All Things Better
  • About Sunglasses, Don’t Leave Home without These – Learn Why
  • My Old Eyes Have Been Opened! …By a Company that CARES.

By Larry Whiteley

The author in his camo Costas.

I have owned a lot of sunglasses in my lifetime.

Most of them were inexpensive, made in China sunglasses that didn’t protect my eyes from harmful UV rays and sure didn’t help me see any better.

That all changed last year when my grandson who fishes on the Kansas State University Bass Fishing Team won a certificate for a free pair of Costa sunglasses in a tournament.

He kept telling me, “PaPaw you can’t believe how comfortable and how much better they are when it comes to seeing fish.”

He was right!

I would have never believed that a pair of Costa sunglasses could make such a difference in not only my ability to see fish, but everything outdoors has a totally different perspective when I look through them.

I like them so much I even got a camouflage, non-reflective pair to wear when I go hunting.

Costa makes it simple and easy to find the right pair of sunglasses that match your outdoor activities, whether it’s fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, boating, driving or anything else. Each lens color has a different purpose to keep specific spectrums of light out of your eyes and focus on certain conditions that will enhance your clarity and visibility.  Made in both glass and polycarbonate, every lens is polarized and gives you 100% UVA, UVB, and UVC protection.

Best of all, they are made right here in the USA.

Fishermen love their Costas.

I could go on and on about Costa sunglasses, but instead I invite you to go to  Click on this link, then go learn all about the different styles and find a retailer near you to go try them out for yourself.

My Costa’s are much more than the best quality sunglasses I have ever owned.

Costa is not a company that just cares about their bottom line. They care about our world’s environment and they are actively involved in doing something about it.

Kick Plastic

Through their Kick Plastic campaign, Costa is working with organizations to reduce the impact of plastic on our environment. Even Costa frames are made of a bio-based resin rather than petroleum-based plastics. Almost all plastic that has ever been produced is still around. We use millions of tons of plastic just once and then throw it away.

The equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute.

By 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean (by weight).

Sadly, in today’s world, one in four ocean fish tested have plastic in them.

Costa is actively taking their Kick Plastic campaign across the country to educate people on what is happening to our environment. Costa is inviting all of us to challenge ourselves to Kick Plastic!


Costa is proud to be a long-term supporter of OCEARCH, an At-Sea Lab led by explorers and researchers who generate critical data and put science on the side of sharks.

You may not live near an ocean, but you should be concerned that 190 sharks are killed every minute.

Sharks are the lifeblood of our oceans, and they’re disappearing.

If the oceans lose their top predator, the entire ocean ecosystem is in trouble.

The Costa+OCEARCH Collection features new sunglasses and gear, inspired by the sharks that keep our oceans balanced. Your purchase of these products helps fund future OCEARCH expeditions and their mission to protect sharks. You can also help spread the message at #DONTFEARTHEFIN.

Project Guyana

Arapaima are the world’s largest freshwater fish.

Costa sees sport fishing itself as conservation and is on a mission to protect the world’s waters by promoting sport fishing.

In the waters of the impoverished nation of Guyana’s unspoiled rain forest in South America, Costa found a place where sport fishing could preserve the country’s natural resources and culture.

Costa appreciated their efforts not to pillage their natural resources and was especially interested in the opportunity to bring in fly fishermen and give them a chance at catching the world’s largest freshwater fish, the Arapaima.

Arapaima grow up to ten feet long and can weigh over 800 pounds, they are known as living fossils.

Today fly fisherman all over the world are coming and helping tourism in Guyana to grow.

Because of this, schools are receiving more resources, the country’s infrastructure has improved and their natural resources have been protected.

Costa hopes this success will continue to grow throughout Guyana and spread to other countries.


After many years of over-harvest, Costa is helping to bring back the tuna.

Commercial overharvesting and other factors have all but wiped out the Bluefin Tuna population from the waters around Bimini and Cat Cay islands to off the coast of Florida.

Now, Costa through their Bluefin-on-the-Line program, along with the legendary Merritt family, is on a quest to revive an island, a sport, and a legacy by bringing back the Bluefin Tuna.

There are getting to be more companies like Costa who are giving back for conservation and our environment.

We need these companies, we need more of them and we need to support them by buying their products.



Boundary Waters Wilderness Ecosystems UNDER NEW THREAT of TOXIC COPPER MINING

  • Sulfide-Ore Copper Mining can be Toxic to Watersheds
  • Mineral Leases Have Been Granted, Industrial Proposals are Underway
  • Ecosystems, Streams, Lakes, Forests, Fish, Wildlife and PEOPLE will be Threatened
  • Conservation Group is ASKING FOR YOUR HELP

By Forrest Fisher

Sulfide-ore mining on the edge of America’s most visited wilderness will threatens undisturbed ecosystems, clean air and water, and the local economy of thousands of people. Brian O’Keefe Photo

Did you know that the Boundary Waters Wilderness is America’s most-visited wilderness?  It is, yet this pristine area of more than one million acres located in northeast Minnesota in under threat.  While it includes a watershed of backwoods streams, lakes and lush forests, the watershed and habitat is under imminent, toxic threat of Sulfide-ore copper mining.  Sulfide-ore copper mining has never before been permitted in this pristine Minnesota watershed, yet it appears that mining is imminent.  Mineral leases have been granted.  Industrial proposals are underway.  Locals are asking for help, asking for others in the outdoor media and worldwide conservation media to let the public to know.  Many say we need an immediate public outcry.

According to experts, the short science to understand is this: sulfide-ore copper mining threatens aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems of the South Kawishiwi River area, Mining Protection Area, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and other parts of the Superior National Forest including the Withdrawal Study Area, Voyageurs National Park and Boundary Water Region of Quetico Provincial Park.           

Partners to protect the border waters area include the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Izaak Walton League of America, National Wildlife Federation, American Sportfishing Association and many others. Brian O’Keefe Photo

Local protection and conservation groups are no longer local and have formed a nationwide coalition. “Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters” is a coalition of hunters and anglers joined by campers, hikers and conservationists from Minnesota communities and America, working together to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).  The coalition was formed in 2015 to speak up and has grown to include major conservation, outdoors and sporting partners, all committed to the common goal of permanently protecting the habitat for fish and game, nature, and people, in the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and protecting the stable economies of the wilderness edge communities that reside nearby.

Opposition to copper mining partners include American Fly Fishing Trade Association AFTA, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, International Federation of Fly Fishers – Upper Midwest Council, Izaak Walton League of America, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Minnesota Kayak Fishing Association, National Wildlife Federation, Orion – the Hunter’s Institution, Pope and Young Club and Wildlife Forever, American Sportfishing Association, Bear Trust International and others.  Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters also has a growing list of business supporters, including the world’s largest fishing lure company, Rapala.

CLICK TO JOIN the petition and activities to protect this region.

How can you help? Take Action Right Now. 

Sulfide-ore mining on the edge of America’s most visited Wilderness threatens clean air and water, and the local economy of thousands of people.  As hunters, anglers and conservationists, it seems common sense and vital to take a stand to oppose the practice of mining that can alter the future and change undisturbed nature so much.  This is a national issue that requires congressional action.  Let your elected officials know, wherever you live, that you oppose sulfide-ore mining near the Boundary Waters Wilderness.  Get educated and spread the word. Let your friends and family know about the issue, then please follow us on social media.

Visit  How much support is there to oppose this mining action?  Visit us Facebook to learn that and so much more, and know that we need you and all of your friends too.  Please pass the word.

Ducks Unlimited reaches Conservation Milestone

The Greenhead Mallard is among many beautiful waterfowl that have benefitted from the conservation process and volunteerism of Ducks Unlimited efforts. Joe Forma Photo

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Ducks Unlimited (DU) has achieved a conservation milestone with more than 14 million acres of habitat conserved in North America.  The groundbreaking number is a cumulative accomplishment of the millions of DU volunteers and partners who have been a part of the organization over the past 80 years.

“As we celebrate our 80th anniversary, this milestone is a fitting tribute to the hard work of each and every volunteer, partner and staff member who has contributed to our mission over the past 80 years,” said DU CEO Dale Hall. “If not for their dedication and commitment to conservation, this accomplishment would not have been possible.”

Such conservation gains did not come easily in the face of ongoing threats to waterfowl and their habitats. Loss of wetlands across North America is a challenge DU volunteers take seriously, and their efforts will continue into the future.  Although DU has successfully conserved more than 14 million acres of critical wetlands and associated habitat since our founding in 1937, wetland losses continue.

In the last 50 years alone, the United States has lost more than 17 million acres of wetlands. As human populations grow, demands for clean and plentiful water for use at home and in many agricultural and industrial processes also increase.

Ducks Unlimited – working with partners – provides valuable, on-the-ground solutions that benefit waterfowl populations and maximize water resources through the dynamic natural functions of wetlands.  In addition to providing habitat for waterfowl, wetlands naturally slow and store water to help recharge watersheds and aquifers, improve water quality through biological and physical processes and provide important wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.

“DU’s policy efforts and the hard work of our volunteers, partners and staff will be more important than ever in the coming years,” said Dr. Tom Moorman, DU’s acting chief conservation officer.  “DU, along with our waterfowl conservation partners at the state, federal and private levels, must continue with the cooperative progress that led to 14 million acres conserved, and expand that effort wherever possible to meet ongoing or new threats to wetlands and waterfowl habitat in North America.”

The groundbreaking number is a perfect example of how hunters and others with a passion for waterfowl and wetlands conservation can come together for a common goal.  DU’s mission has always been to conserve, restore and manage wetlands and associated habitat for North America’s waterfowl, and this milestone is a direct reflection of that statement.

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 14 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit

New York Announces Comprehensive Plan to Minimize Risk of Chronic Wasting Disease to Wild Deer & Moose Herds

  • Public Comments on the Draft Plan Accepted Through September 1
  • Goal: Protect Wild Whitetail Deer, Moose and Captive Elk and Other Species
  • New York is Leading Way to Protect Wildlife and Hunter Resources
Resident and non-resident hunters may reap the resource of GIANT whitetail deer harvest, and deer of any size, for decades to come as a result of this conservative objective by NYSDEC.  Forrest Fisher Photo

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the release of a draft New York State Interagency CWD Risk Minimization Plan for public comment. The plan describes proposed regulatory changes and actions that DEC will take to minimize the risk of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) entering or spreading in New York and was designed to protect both wild white-tailed deer and moose, as well as captive cervids including deer and elk held at enclosed facilities.

DEC biologists worked with New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets veterinarians and wildlife health experts at Cornell University to craft a comprehensive set of steps that are the most advanced CWD prevention strategies in the nation.

“New York is leading the way in protecting our valuable deer and moose herds,” said Commissioner Seggos. “Not only does this horrible disease kill animals slowly, but wild white-tailed deer hunting represents a $1.5 billion industry in the state. Our CWD Risk Minimization Plan is in the best interest of all of us who care about wildlife and especially about the health of our wild white-tail deer herd. Governor Cuomo’s commitment to high-quality hunting opportunities in New York also supports our taking action now to prevent a serious problem down the road.”

Disease prevention is the only cost-effective way to keep CWD out of New York. Together with the State Department of Agriculture and Markets, New York is using cutting-edge science and common sense to ensure that everything possible is done to protect the state’s wild deer and moose and captive deer and elk herds from CWD.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The Department’s veterinarians and licensed veterinary technicians were responsible for the early detection of New York’s only CWD incident and played critical roles in the response to the discovery of CWD in 2005. Our staff continue to work hard to control the risk of this serious disease and maintain our early detection system. This plan will further support these efforts to protect our wildlife.”

CWD, an always fatal brain disease found in species of the deer family, was discovered in Oneida County wild and captive white-tailed deer in 2005. More than 47,000 deer have been tested statewide since 2002, and there has been no reoccurrence of the disease since 2005. New York is the only state to have eliminated CWD once it was found in wild populations. In North America, CWD has been found in 24 states and two Canadian provinces including neighboring Pennsylvania and Ohio.

This nice 8-Point buck was taken by Dieter Voss in Erie County, New York., on the opening day of the season at high noon. Such wild whitetail resources are the intended GOAL to SAVE” for future hunters through the new directive. Forrest Fisher Photo

CWD was first identified in Colorado in 1967 and is caused by infectious prions, which are misfolded proteins that cannot be broken down by the body’s normal processes. They cause holes to form in the brain. Prions are found in deer parts and products including urine and feces; they can remain infectious in soil for years and even be taken up into plant tissues. CWD is in the same family of diseases, transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, as “mad cow” disease in cattle. Millions of cattle were destroyed because of mad cow disease in England and Europe in the 1990s and the disease also caused a fatal brain condition in some humans that ate contaminated beef products. Although there have been no known cases of CWD in humans, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that no one knowingly eat CWD-positive venison.

The proposed plan would streamline operations between DEC and the State Department of Agriculture and strengthen the state’s regulations to prevent introduction of CWD. Some examples of the proposed changes include:

  • Prohibit the importation of certain parts from any CWD-susceptible cervid taken outside of New York. Require that these animals be deboned or quartered and only the meat, raw hide or cape, and cleaned body parts, such as skull cap, antlers, jaws, and teeth, or finished taxidermy mounts be allowed for import into the state.
  • Prohibit the retail sale, possession, use, and distribution of deer or elk urine and any products from CWD-susceptible animals that may contain prions, including glands, or other excreted material while allowing New York captive cervid facilities to continue to export deer urine outside of New York State.
  • Maintain and reinforce the prohibition on the feeding of wild deer and moose in New York State.
  • Provide DEC Division of Law Enforcement the necessary authority to enforce Department of Agriculture and Market’s CWD regulations.
  • Explore possible penalties or charges to defray costs associated with the removal of escaped cervids from the environment or the response to disease outbreaks.
  • Require all taxidermists and deer processors (people who butcher deer for hire) to dispose of cervid waste and waste byproducts in compliance with 6 NYCRR Part 360, such as in a municipal landfill.
  • Promotion of improved fencing methods for captive cervids to further prevent contact with wild deer or moose.
  • Partner with the State Department of Agriculture and Markets to enhance captive cervid testing while continuing DEC’s rigorous surveillance testing in hunter-harvested deer.
  • Improve record keeping and data sharing between departments through joint inspections of captive cervid facilities, electronic reporting, and animal marking.
  • Improve handling requirements, record keeping, and disease testing of wild white-tailed deer temporarily held in captivity for wildlife rehabilitation.
  • Develop a communication plan and strategy to re-engage stakeholders, including captive cervid owners and the public, in CWD risk minimization measures and updates on CWD research.

The New York State Interagency CWD Risk Minimization Plan has had extensive outreach and vetting by sporting groups in the state to address the concerns of myriad stakeholders while maintaining the strength of purpose to protect the public and the environment. The plan updates reporting requirements, improves communication to stakeholders, and simplifies regulations to reduce confusion while protecting our natural resources.

The draft plan is available for public review on the DEC website. Written comments on the draft plan will be accepted through September 1, 2017. Comments can be submitted by e-mail (, subject: “CWD Plan”) or by writing to NYSDEC, Bureau of Wildlife, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754.

Nautilus Reels to Offer Customized “No Pebble Mine” Reel to Support Bristol Bay

  • Nautilus Reels Supports NO PEBBLE MINE Conservation
  • NEW Nautilus Reel Features Artwork symbol NO PEBBLE MINE
The Nautilus family will offer a one-of-a-kind CCF-X2 reel that features artwork and customized colors that center around opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine. The multiple award winning dual action CCF-X2 drag system features twice the drag strength (20lbs+), twice the smoothness and half the startup inertia as the former CCF. Nautilus Photo

MIAMI (March 17, 2017) — Recognizing the enduring challenge of defending watersheds and resources, Nautilus Reels is pleased to support the efforts of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program and their work to protect Bristol Bay and the related ecosystems of the region with a unique customized reel.

Nautilus has created a one-of-a-kind CCF-X2 reel that features artwork and customized colors that center around opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine.

The CCF-X2 Disc Braking System is an upgraded, stronger, lighter version of the Cork and Carbon Fiber brake of its predecessor. It features twice the drag surface in a dual-action brake configuration. Coupled with hybrid ceramic bearings, the reel delivers less than 1% startup inertia at all drag settings. This brake unit is feather light and can be easily switched from RH to LH retrieve. The Brembo® brakes of fly fishing.

Nautilus Reels aims to make a statement against Pebble Mine with the custom reel while also gathering more support for No Pebble Mine efforts. With this in mind, this unique reel will be given away to one lucky winner who signs up for Trout Unlimited’s email list at between now and June 15, 2017.

Nautilus Reels is eager to help defeat the proposed mine. “The threat to Bristol Bay that Pebble Mine brings is a threat to the heart of fly fishing for salmon,” says Nautilus owner Kristen Mustad. “Nautilus Reels recognizes the need of the fly fishing community to come together to protect this area.”

With more anglers behind the cause of saving Bristol Bay, Nautilus believes we can defeat this threat to one of the most treasured ecosystems in the world fly fishing community.

About Nautilus Reels:

Founded by Kristen Mustad, Nautilus Reels produces an award-winning line of reels from its headquarters in Miami, Florida. Nautilus is on the forefront of reel innovation and maintains a tradition of experience and excellence while continuously redefining performance. For more information about Nautilus Reels, please visit their website and follow Nautilus on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Florida Wildlife Refuges, One Goal

While I enjoy shooting, fishing, photography and many other outdoor facets of fun, one of my personal goals through my education in Conservation Biology is to insure the survival of endangered species through the support of proper management and well-being of all native, wild species.  Early in January, I had the chance to travel south to Ft. Myers in Florida and visit my grandparents, so of course, I took the opportunity to journey to a few wildlife sanctuaries, both public and private.  There are multiple sanctuaries, dotted not only around Port Charlotte and Ft. Myers, but around all of southwest Florida.

Florida Photo1

Florida Photo2

The privately funded refuge called the Peace River Wildlife Center is a humble organization with a simple goal, “Dedicated to the care, preservation, and protection of Charlotte County’s native wildlife.”  With the limited supplies they have, they re-enable injured wildlife for return to the wild.  If the injuries are too severe, however, the animals stay at the center and are open for the public to see and learn from.  They manage their operation and keep it running through private donations, volunteer services, paid sponsor memberships and a recycling program.  The public is invited to contribute from near and far at  Their inhabitants are mostly birds, including pelicans, ducks, red-tailed hawks, even some bald eagles.

The publicly funded refuge we visited was the J.N. Ding Darling wildlife refuge.  It is one of the 550 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  J. N. Ding is a vast national wildlife refuge, covering almost the entire half of the luxurious vacation site, Sanibel Island.  This well-organized site promotes natural habitat restoration of the mangroves, which many fish, wildlife and animals depend on for survival as a food source and a habitat.  Although it is home to many native birds, amphibians, alligators, fish, and countless insects.  One of the most important functions at J. N. Ding is that it provides place for migratory birds to nest in the winter.  The other half of the island is occupied by shops, hotels, and vast homes on five-star sandy island countryside.  The refuge is also on 5-star real estate acreage; luckily the founder, J.N Ding, bought the 6400 acres of land in 1945, and it has become a vital place where mangrove forests, seagrass beds, cordgrass marshes, and West Indian hardwood hammocks are safe from realtors.  For more on J. N. Ding, see their website:

Florida Photo4

J.N Ding not only saved a spot for migratory birds to have a place to rest on their journey, but it is also an elemental part of the rare estuarine ecosystem, which is an area that freshwater and saltwater mix together.  These estuaries located here provide an abundance of resources for many fish and wildlife species, from providing habitats to attracting prey for the multiple species of birds to feed on.  They also provide nesting and resting areas for manatees and sea turtles where these species can feed on the abundant seagrass beds.


All in all, the privately funded site was a rehabilitation center adjacent to a refuge area, while the publicly funded site provided a museum-like tour (free) and was a refuge with a drive-through park-like area that protected a whole ecosystem. Although very different in their funding sources and the functions of their establishments, they both have one goal in mind, the protection, management and well-being of all native, wild species.

-By Kiley Voss, student at SUNY college of Environmental Science and Forestry

Go Outdoors to Embrace Passion and Wisdom of Indoor Instruction


As lovers of the outdoors, most of us are inspired students of nature.  This past October, I gained the opportunity to spend an entire weekend in the Adirondacks as part of a university project that included hiking, canoeing and collecting data for ongoing research projects.

On day one, half of our group was split up into 4 pairs of two to study beaver dams and I was part of the pair that traveled down a river that led to Rich Lake.  Our team was assigned the task of collecting data in the form of pictures and identifying the number and condition of beaver dams and lodges.

outdoors3With no formal trails to follow besides the river, we were fully immersed in nature; it was scary and exciting, all at the same time.  There was no yellow-brick road!  I had never been left so alone without a path to follow or teacher to guide us through the isolated and wild outdoors The three hour hike was amazing, I was half expecting to see a bear around each river bend!  There were so many things I saw and learned!  We were trained and provided with a compass and map with coordinates to later identify beaver dam locations We reached our final destination several miles later, the Adirondack Interpretive Center located on the shores of Rich Lake.

The next day, we also hiked Goodnow Mountain, except it was raining so hard that by the time we reached the summit, we could only see 20 feet in front of us!  Soaking wet, I learned that hiking is fun even without a great view at the mountaintop, because it means we’ll just have to go back and see it again!  outdoors2

Maybe the most interesting thing I learned didn’t start outside, it started in the classroom.  Thanks to the “Diversity of Life” class, students including myself, were able to identify different types of mushrooms and fungi and conks.  We learned before our trip how to identify the different forms of lichen (crustose, foliose, and fructose).  I never knew just how many types of mushrooms there were or how abundant they were until after learning details in class.  We were then able to apply this knowledge outside the classroom.  I knew what different types of mushrooms looked like in the lab, but actually finding a bunch of puffballs on a rotting tree and seeing them release their spores helped my understanding!  Basically, being outside reinforced what I had learned in the classroom.

Learning effectively outside starts inside.  Children dropped into the outdoors with no prior instruction will find difficulty in understanding what they see, but not if parents and teachers take the time to share details, ideas and plans, and then head outdoors.  Trying to teach music without instruments and only sheet music is similar; the concept is not realized until play and practice with real instruments takes place. The same goes for the outdoors.  Children can be given maps and charts, but unless they experience their meaning outside, they may not fully develop and understand the lesson intended.

Explain to them what you want them to learn, teach them the details, and remind them what they have studied, then turn them loose.  They will grow a deep respect with more understanding for the outdoors.  Enjoy every moment with our amazing nature outdoors!

By Kiley Voss 

Student at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science & Forestry