by Mike Weimer
Mike Weimer is the executive editor of Eddies, and Chief of the Division of Fish and Aquatic Conservation in Washington, DC.
Credit: Tom Busiahn
I'm tapping on my keyboard as I sit under a forest of buildings inside the Beltway that rings Washington, DC. It's here that the business of the country is conducted, sometimes at a frenetic pace. I have to admit, it can be exhausting. At other times moving important issues forward is like pushing a wet rope uphill. It is of course important to be deliberative in making choices because fish conservation affects people, too. But progress can come slow. And in my mind I still need a place to go, to a real forest not of glass, brick, and mortar, but of cellulose, waxy oak leaves colored like a lime, and dark, wet musty duff on the forest floor sliced by bright silver rills cutting downhill. There, fish dally in the eddies dappled in yellow light waiting for a meal to come drifting by.
We all need a place to go. For respite. To recharge. To recreate and to repossess our own self in nature, not passively—but to enter into existence. Everyday I see my brother and I on the water with our late father, me becoming hard-wired through experience to become a conservationist. When you instill in a youngster a love for the outdoors and for nature, you bequeath a gift of a lifetime that can't be taken away, but it can be passed along.
Toward that end, we in the Division of Fish and Aquatic Conservation strive to ensure that the future of our fisheries is secure. An opportunity for everyone to enjoy the outdoors is job-one for us: veterinarians and disease pathologists assess hatchery and wild fish in our Fish Health Centers; biologists culture imperiled and game fishes in our National Fish Hatchery System, and field biologists in our Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices evaluate fish populations in the wild and find fixes when things aren't right. We research pharmaceuticals for fish more rigorously than drugs used for people; we improve habitats, get fish around migration barriers, and conduct genetic studies. All of these things we do with an eye to the future.
By its very nature, conservation is an investment in the future. More habitat today means more fish tomorrow. We have another charge, too, that is very much forward looking and that's what you will read about in this issue of Eddies, engaging, educating, and employing young folks who will be tomorrow's conservationists.
In the story, "Wonder and Awe with Birds and Fish," you will learn about Hatchery Helpers, a five-week-long summer program that immerses eager youngsters in conservation work from the community surrounding the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives in South Dakota. They tag fish, band birds, and build things.
Another story is about building. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" relates the work of a high school class in Albuquerque, New Mexico, designing and build needed structures at a sanctuary for an imperiled minnow.
"Nature Explore Classroom" explores the partnership between Creston National Fish Hatchery and the Arbor Day Foundation in creating a very useable space—an outdoor classroom built by youngsters—on the hatchery grounds that encourages kids to learn about nature.
We wrap this one up with a Meanders essay from author Ted Leeson. He muses on panfish, writing "In the angling universe of my youth, they were the force of gravity that held everything together."
When things don't seem so much "together" for me I can slide my kayak into the Potomac River. The greenish-blue spasm in the flesh of an American shad writhing in my hands reminds me why we go about our business inside the Beltway.