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Sierra Action: In the Field

The Sierra Club is working now to enhance the sportsman's experience, by improving game and fish habitat. Recent campaigns include:

PS1 Denver staff and students spent a chilly Wednesday along Bear Creek on the 16th of April collecting water samples for the Sierra Club's Water Sentinels Program. Kirk Cunningham, Bill Myers, and Dan Ridgeway of the Sierra Club facilitated the outing. Students collected samples that will be laboratory tested for the presence of E coli, Selenium, Nitrogen, Phosphate, and Copper, as well as taking and recording measurements of water temperature, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen content. The Water Sentinels Program is an important grass-roots way for the public to monitor the health of their waterways, and to make sure our governmental agencies are doing all they can to keep our watershed clean.


A Bear Market on Bull Trout

The bull trout is Montana's largest native migratory trout and a leading indicator of aquatic ecosystem health. They reach up to 30 inches and exceed 20+ pounds, migrate up to 175 miles to spawn, and are sensitive to habitat and water temperature changes. Once abundant in nearly every river system west of the Continental Divide, bull trout now occur in less than half that area owing in part to disconnected habitat from dams, water diversions, and other obstructions. In 1998, the bull trout was listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.


Bull trout. Photo courtesy Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

To help protect existing bull trout numbers, the Sierra Club recently helped create a bull trout ID booklet that is distributed in regional fishing shops. The booklets promote bull trout conservation, and other sensitive trout species, by aiding anglers and others in the proper identification of trout and their habitat, basic handling, and ethical guidelines. It will also generate a more consistent approach to educational information on trout identification. The project will further the Sierra Club's Hunter/Angler Program by building new relationships with non-traditional allies. Partners in the trout ID booklets are; Sierra Club, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, University of Montana and Clark Fork Watershed Education Program.


Alaska Sportsmen Events Net Interest

In two spring events, the Great Alaska Sportsmen Show and the Mat-Su Sportsmen Show, Alaska Sierra Club sportsmen organizer Katherine "Kat" Fuselier shared conservation news about salmon, the nearby Chugach National Forest, and Alaska's Teshekpuk Lake. In addition to Kat, 21 Sierra Club volunteers helped hand out free "I (heart) the Chugach" t-shirts and signed up more than 500 new Sierra Sportsmen! For more information on Alaska hunting and fishing, contact Kat at katherine.fuselier@sierraclub.org.


Alabama Wildlife Art Show

More than 500 wildlife fans attended the Wild and Rural Art Show in Springerville, Alabama, on October 14th. The art show, hosted by the Sierra Club of Alabama, celebrated the wild diversity of rural Alabama and focused on the important role small family farms have played in conserving wild places, diversity, and habitat in rural Alabama.

Among 30 outdoor artisans, Dean Black demonstrated gun stock building, and Bruce Brasseale demonstrated the making of fresh water fishing lures. Learn more about the show and the Sierra Club of Alabama.


Kneeling to Grow in Idaho

On a rainy Saturday morning in mid-September four partners for conservation joined forces along the banks of Mores Creek, just north of Boise, Idaho.

The Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service, and Vineyard Boise Christian Fellowship worked together to improve trout water habitat and combat global warming by planting 300 black cottonwood trees. The tree planting happened in conjunction with the Vineyard Church's September 21-22 "Creation Care" conference attended by pastors and leaders from across the country. These efforts reflect a national trend of greater commitment by religious communities to conserve America's natural wonders.

The broad leaves of the black cottonwoods, a native species, will help cool the waters of Mores Creek by providing shade during the summer months. In years to come, burrowing birds and eagles, which use the trees to roost, will also benefit from the planting. The CO2 absorbing abilities of the trees will also help to stem global warming, which threatens coldwater fisheries nationwide.

Christina Yagjian, a Sierra Club Program Assistant who participated in the workday, had a great experience at the workday.

"Over a century ago Mores Creek was heavily mined, devastating local fish and wildlife populations. Thanks to projects like this, Kokanee salmon will continue to return to these rivers to spawn. I am grateful to all the incredible partners who helped make this trip a reality."


Rio Fernando Clean-Up in Taos

The Sierra Club teamed with Amigos Bravos and Centinel Bank for a clean-up of Rio Fernando, an excellent trout headwaters of the Taos Mountains of New Mexico. Sierra Club Water Sentinel Eric Patterson (handing out shirts) also serves as a founding Board of Director for the new Trout Unlimited chapter at the national Boy Scouts' Philmont Ranch. Check out this 6-minute online film about the clean-up.


Tennessee's Cypress Creek


Photo by James Baker

Bad dogs and raw sewage were among the many challenges to the students who participated in a three-day Water Sentinels water testing program in Tennessee recently. James Baker of the Water Sentinels assisted Sharon Gordon of the Memphis Storm Water Department in teaching the SWEEP and PEEP students the ropes of field testing for water quality. (SWEEP is the Solid Waste Environmental Engineering Enrichment Program, and PEEP is the Pre-Engineering Enrichment Program.)

While field screening showed only low concentrations of industrial pollutants, the students, Sharon, and James walked a section of the creek and found the oil, garbage, and a potential raw sewage leak all within a quarter mile of the testing site. The students also did a rapid bio-assessment at a concrete drainage ditch that empties into the Wolf River in Germantown near Shelby Farms Park. Low concentrations of aquatic animals were found, possibly because the flow of water from nearby residential and commercial development wash them away.

To see a stream in its natural state, the students visited Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park on the third day. Lack of rain meant low water in all the creeks and a shortage of aquatic insects.

See also: The Sierra Club's Water Sentinels program in Tennessee.


Alaskan River Clean-Up

As anglers cast for reds and silvers, Sierra Club volunteers teamed up with the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Alaska Recreational Management for a day of stewardship at the Russian River/Kenai River complex. Volunteers picked up 85 pounds of trash-- 21 pounds of it being of mono-filament line and lead weights!

The first event of its kind, all partners agreed to work together to find additional opportunities for citizen stewardship along one of the states largest recreational fishing rivers.

"It feels really good to be out here doing something like this for our wild salmon," said volunteer Valerie Connor. This salmon stewardship event was apart of the two week Wild Salmon Festival that ran August 3-19.


Kentucky's Unfrozen Fish
The Northern Kentucky Water Sentinels, a program of the Sierra Club, and the Northern Kentucky Fly Fishers helped achieve a significant victory in a long standing battle to stop pollution from airport de-icing fluid in Gunpowder Creek. Gunpowder Creek was dead because of deicing fluid from the airport - it wouldn't freeze in the winter. There were no insects or fish.

The partnership was able to convince the Kentucky Division of Water to issue its most stringent water permit regarding discharge into a waterway. We organized public hearings and went door to door to educate people who lived near Gunpowder Creek.

Today Gunpowder Creek is recovering, with fish returning. The Northern Kentucky Fly Fishers has adopted Gunpowder Creek and is continuing to do water testing.

Northern Kentucky Water Sentinel Tim Guilfoile's profile
Sierra Club of Kentucky


Montana and Elk
In Montana, Sierra Club volunteers teamed with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Hellgate Hunters and Anglers to remove barbed wire from elk winter range in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area. The wire interferes with elk migration patterns, so volunteers are needed to clear the way for wildlife. It's tough work, but Sierrans have undertaken this task for the second year. Last summer, volunteers removed several miles of barbed wire and made it easier for the 300-head North Hills elk herd to follow their ancient path. This project builds good will between hunters and hikers. See the photo attached to this file for proof of what bolt cutters and determination can accomplish!

Sierra Club of Montana


Open Fields: 20 Million More Acres for Sportsmen
Sierra Club is one of 40+ conservation, agricultural, recreational, and labor organizations supporting the "Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program of 2005" bill in the U.S. Congress. More commonly known as the "Open Fields" bill, this important legislation-- sponsored by Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Pat Roberts of Kansas in the Senate, and Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota and Tom Osborne of Nebraska in the House-- would open more than 20 million acres of prime hunting and fishing land to sportsmen.

"Open Fields" calls for an increase in Department of Agriculture funding to bolster existing state programs that provide access to private lands for hunters and anglers. It further encourages the establishment of similar, new "walk-in" programs. Through these programs, states offer rural landowners small per-acre payments to voluntarily open their lands, improve habitat, and expand the landbase available to sportsmen.

Other groups that played a role in this legislation include the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Pheasants Forever, the Izaak Walton League, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Boone and Crocket Club, the Wildlife Management Institute, and the National Rifle Association. For more information visit http://www.trcp.org/ea_openfields.aspx


Fishing Along the Lewis & Clark Trail: A Guide to 10 Spectacular Spots
For an angler with a love of America's wild places and a bent for history, there's no better trip than fishing the waters along the Lewis and Clark Trail. The North American Prairie, the Northern Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest are home to fabled rivers such as the Missouri, Niobrara, Yellowstone, Jefferson, Bitterroot, Lochsa, Clearwater, Grande Ronde, and Columbia.

Sierra Club has put together a fishing guide following in the paddle strokes of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Whether angling for catfish "as big as a man," trout as long as your arm, or 700-pound sturgeon, fishing these waters promises epic adventure and a stockpile of stories for you and your family. Get the guide.


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