I had a perfectly good plan last year: winnow down all the streams in the US to the last best ones, the ones science say are least disturbed, their annual pattern of flow today most similar to the historic record. Add in the nation’s system of Wild and Scenic Rivers, and spend the rest of my life focusing on those…
But there’s better data out there, more exhaustive- not just the great streams, the nice streams, the ones which are protected. There’s data on the streams that should be protected, if only we had the will- political, social, or otherwise- to do so. I’m anal about these sorts of things, so I dumped them into the existing list: something like 2,110 streams across the nation, notable for their ecological, fisheries, or cultural significance. It’s a couple lifetimes worth of work, but I’m happy to try. You can check out my progress on the Last Best Streams page.
There’s nothing motivating about six degrees Fahrenheit, especially after spending the week between Christmas and New Years down with the flu. Maybe it’s a metaphor for 2017 as a whole: an exercise in irrational optimism, in refusing to let the bastards get you down.
This stream will never look the way it did in my lifetime; record-shattering floods slicked off every tree thirty feet up the bank. Most of the local streams are fundamentally altered from the places I know. Elsewhere rivers became more vulnerable to human alteration, access became tougher, watersheds burned.
It’s easy to be cynical. It’s easy to say there was better fishing, easier access, and fewer assholes a generation or two ago, and maybe even some of it is true. But none of it is useful. It’s a sentiment which justifies poor treatment of our natural resources, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 2017 it’s that our last best streams aren’t accidental. People worked to protect them for every subsequent generation. As the people who use those outdoor resources we should be more conscientious of that, more willing to practice that sort of forward-thinking in our everyday life. Disinclined to squander the opportunities our parents afforded us.
I’ve thought a bit about this space in the past couple weeks, about its direction and the expressive opportunities it affords. I have every intent of being more proactive in its management during the upcoming year, and have been cooking up new content and features which will hopefully be of interest. Best of luck with your endeavors during 2018, and take care.