Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Deep Creek Deserves Wild And Scenic Status (Vail Daily)

                       Deep Creek Area Being Considered For Wild And Scenic Status

Yesterday, I went to a public meeting sponsored by the BLM, US Forest Service and American Rivers putting forth a proposal to list the Deep Creek as a Wild and Scenic Area.  Deep Creek in western Eagle County, and the idea of giving it some level of added protection has been bandied about for at least twenty years. When I first heard about this latest proposal last spring, I was slightly skeptical despite being generally in favor of protecting our wild western landscapes.  

  The reason for my skepticism was twofold. The first is that the there's currently no existential threat looming over Deep Creek. Though the potential for mining operations or water resource development exists hypothetically, no one is talking about doing it, at least not at the moment.  So what exactly are we protecting it from? The second reservation I had was what might happen to the area by listing it as "Wild and Scenic", in terms of drawing attention to an area that sees very little human traffic as it is. It is extremely rough country, with no real trail running through it. Its as close to impassable as you'll find in Colorado, and so is already self-limiting by its very nature.  Would making it "Wild and Scenic" have the unintended consequence of making it less wild and scenic, by encouraging people to visit the area more?

  This summer I made several trips up into the Deep Creek area to better know it.  I've tried to access it in past, but been rebuffed by high spring flows.  This time I went in the summer with a fly rod in hand, often using the creek itself as a means of egress.  It is an extremely wild and scenic place,  a point which everyone agrees on. Deep Creek is a pretty amazing area, dropping from subalpine fields of wildflowers at over ten thousand feet, to high desert at six thousand in just under fifteen miles. There are some feisty, colorful brown trout in there, a sizable arch, wildflowers aplenty, and one of Colorado's best views from its easily accessible overlook.  It is also home to one of the most extensive cave systems in the world. Its also already under federal control, with Forest Service land on top and BLM below. No private property is affected. But is a new federal designation right for Deep Creek, and is the time to do that now?

  I'm a fishing guide who lives beside the Colorado River, and Deep Creek is practically in my backyard. At the meeting yesterday, many of my neighbors who ranch in the area showed up, and most had levels of skepticism that were much higher than mine.  They had concerns that such a designation might impact the ranching operations they've conducted in the area not for just years, but for generations.   They know this area better than anyone else, and their worries and opinions need to be seriously considered.   

 As for me, after chewing this proposal over in my mind all summer I've come to opinion that I am in favor of the new status for Deep Creek, with the caveat that the interests and concerns of the local ranching community are addressed to their satisfaction.  I'd also like to see the BLM and US Forest Service leave the area just as it is to their utmost ability.  That means, no bridge over the creek near the bottom switchback, no trail improvements, no fancy visitor center and a minimal amount of new signage.  In other words, if the purpose of the new designation is to preserve the area just as it is, than they need to leave it just as it is, to the greatest extent possible.  And now is the time to get it done, before some potential threat to the area becomes manifest. Keeping out a mining operation with its associated issues, and leaving as much water in the creek as possible to support the truly unique riparian ecosystem is a noble goal. Keeping out good ranchers who've spent their lives working and living in that landscape is not. But in the end, having such a wild and scenic place our backyard is worth protecting. 

  So let's move forward with recognizing and protecting the Deep Creek area, and then try our best to just leave it the hell alone!  

Colorado Water Plan (reprinted from Glenwood Post Independent 2/20/2016)

                                 Keep The Colorado Water Plan Momentum Going

Since I live on the banks of the Upper Colorado River, and operate a float fishing business along it, I pay a lot of attention to river issues.  Although subjects pertaining to the Colorado River get my special attention, any impact to any river in Colorado or even the west are of interest to me, since rivers and streams represent an interconnected web of life.  What affects one will surely impact another eventually.  In the past, people tended to view rivers as standalone entities.  They saw them through the narrow keyhole of whatever river segment happened to flow past their view.  I grew up in a small mill town in Massachusetts, and back there rivers used to be seen as a mere conduits with which to flush away the effluent of the Industrial Revolution. 
Thankfully, we’ve come a long way from that mentality.  People are generally more aware now than they were a hundred years ago of how important clean waterways are to having a good quality of life.  In the western United States, where water is in much shorter supply than it is in the east, this acknowledgment is even more important.  Every drop of water is likely to be used multiple times for many purposes on its trip from the high mountain snowpacks of the Rockies, to their ultimate evaporation in some distant southwest desert, or to an even more distant ocean.
 In Colorado, this more enlightened view has become manifest in our new statewide water plan, which Governor John Hickenlooper announced late last year.  The plan prioritizes conservation measures, sets robust statewide water conservation targets for cities and industry, proposes annual funding for healthy rivers, and creates ongoing unprecedented financial support for river assessments and restoration. It represents the culmination of many years effort by parties working together, most of whom in the past used to work against one another’s interests.  If only for that reason alone, the State Water Plan represents a landmark document.
Specifically, the plan recommends that Colorado invest in unprecedented stream protection and restoration, starting with stream management plans for many of our rivers and streams. The importance of preserving and restoring the environmental resiliency of our waterways cannot be overstated. According to this year’s Colorado College Conservation in the West poll results, 77 percent of voters in Colorado believe that the Colorado River and its tributaries are at risk. Keeping Western Slope rivers healthy and flowing is unquestionably one of the most important ideals to protect the economic, environmental, and social well-being of our state.
Now that the plan is complete, we must not let sit idle on the shelf.  We have to keep the momentum going, and direct our efforts at funding the plan’s components. We need to make sure that we invest in environmental and recreational projects which benefit the Colorado River and its tributaries as proposed by the plan. Legislators should work with the governor to meet these goals.  After all, keeping rivers healthy is a bi-partisan goal, for rivers have no political party affiliation.

The Passing Of The Torch (& its follow-ups)

This is a bit of a different blog post.  I recently received an email from the grieving widow of one of my customers.  She was trying to reach friends and angling acquaintances of her late husband to let them know about his passing, and when his funeral services would be. 

  I forwarded her message to most of the people on my fishing email list, not knowing whom might know her husband and who might not.  Fishing makes for some pretty strange bedfellows.  Anyway, I added a few words of my own to her missive, and ended up getting quite a response from it.  Below is her email to me, my forwarded email, and a few of the responses I got back. 



Dear Jack,
> I don't know if you knew my husband, Don Cushing, but he was an avid fly fisherman and attended the Cutthroat Chapter meetings for a number of years until his arthritis and hearing got the best of him. Don passed away early Monday morning and our family is asking that donations be made to Colorado Trout Unlimited in his name. Don was a Colorado native and grew up fishing with his father and brother, then going on to teach our son who is now teaching his own son and daughter. Many hours were spent on rivers, lakes and streams, enjoying family, friends and nature, with the main focus on catching one more trout for the day. My mother-in-law thanked me several times for "allowing my husband to go fishing". I replied that I was always happy for him to go fishing because he returned a better husband and father. I am so thankful he participated in an activity that was so fulfilling and, I believe, spiritual for him.
> Don's memorial service will be held Sunday, Feb. 28th, 2:00 pm, at the Horan & McConaty Mortuary at 5303 E. County Line Rd., Centennial, CO 80122.
> I know only one member of the Cutthroat Chapter and left a message informing him of Don's passing. If there is a way to notify other members of that chapter before Sunday, I would appreciate your help in passing on the information.
> Don and I always looked forward to your special articles that were so on point and powerful. Thank you for your dedication and service.
> Fondly,
> Peggy Cushing (Mrs. Don Cushing)

On Feb 26, 2016, at 3:14 AM, jack bombardier <jack@confluencecasting.com> wrote:

To All My Fishing Friends,

  If you are receiving this email, the odds are good that you've spent a day with me floating down what I like to call the "Upper Lower" Colorado River.  As a result, you might be under the impression that surely, the life I live must be the most perfect and desirable existence possible.  After all, I get to do what I love the most, in the place I want to do it, while married to a woman younger and smarter than me who makes five time what I do while doing what she loves to do. Who could want or ask for anything more?

  Well there are two types of individuals that I envy. The first is couples that fish together.  Just two days ago I was bringing some people down to Denver along Clear Creek in an SUV while working my winter gig as a limo driver, and saw a young man and woman stringing up fly rods together and felt a major pang in my heart. I love my wife, but she considers catch and release fishing as mere torture, and to be honest she sort of has a point, even if I don't agree with it. 

  The second type of situation I envy is the father-son dynamic, where I spend the day on the river with a father and son, and getting to be a tiny part of watching a father pass his love of fishing and the outdoors on to his son.  Even if the son (and maybe even the father) might not know it, those precious hours spent on my boat will likely be hours that both of them will be thinking of for the rest of their lives.  Hopefully, those hours of bonding will be looked back upon as some of the best  times they'll ever spend together, no matter what twists and turns their lives journey's will bring them.

  So what then to make of that scenario on steroids, that of a father and his son and his son all together on my boat for a day?  That is to say, grandfather, father, and son?  That particular combination has happened only three times in the dozen years I've been taking anglers down the Colorado River.  I know that its been three times exactly because  all three times its been memorable.  On all those three trips I've spent most of the eight river hours wishing that I could be one of the three other people on my boat.   Would it be best to be the grandfather, being lucky enough to see that not only were your values being passed on to your son, your very blood, but to your grandson as well?  How incredibly special must that be?  But what about being both a father and a son in that dynamic?  To be spending the day in an extraordinary setting with both the man who made you what you were, and being in the position to pass those lessons on to your offspring as well?  Or might it best to be the fine young man to be so lucky to be in presence of both generations at the same time, to be the recipient of such unconditional, multi-generational love? 

  The reason that such questions have come to the forefront of my mind tonight is that Colorado has lost a dear member of it's angling fraternity.  His name was Don Cushing, and he and his son Jon and his grandson Nate spent an afternoon floating with me down the Lower Upper one perfect September day a couple of years ago.  I spent entire eight hours undecided as to which of the three I envied the most.  I'm sure back in the "real world" their lives were no more perfect than mine appears to be. But one could not help buy admire the passing of the torch so evident in the love and support they all had for each other.

  I don't know the particulars of Don's passing, and can only hope that the end of this life's journey came as peacefully and painlessly as possible. After all, everything we know of someday must come to and end, and that is the best any of us can hope for.  But I have to think that in Don's final moments, knowing that the values he had treasured had been passed on to Jon and Nate (and hopefully on to Nate's kids someday) were in good hands must have been of some solace to him. 

  The time we will all get to spend on this little verdant rock we call Earth is fleeting indeed.  The best we can hope for is to leave it a little better than we found it, and to instill those values in those who will follow along behind us. Don Cushing was a person for everyone to admire who treasures the natural world we are lucky enough to inherit from the fathers and grandfathers who came before us. To paraphrase a Coldplay lyric, those who are dead, are not dead, they're just living in our heads.

  Below, I'm copying you all on the email I got from Don's widow Peggy.  I have no idea whether or not you knew Don, but even if you didn't, if you love rivers and fishing and family know that Don was a kindred spirit, and please wish Peggy and Jon and Nate and Stacy the best in your thoughts and prayers.


Would you mind if I used your story on Don in a cutthroat 
chapter email blast notifying members of his passing? Quite well written
 and would be great for all to read


Thank you for this poignant piece.  Having 14 grandchildren (taught 2 to flyfish) and being 75 years old made it hit right in the solar plexus.

Hopefully, Bob Willoughby and I will float with you this summer....maybe a half day this time.

Herb Luhman

On Feb 26, 2016, at 3:14 AM, jack bombardier <jack@confluencecasting.com> wrote:

Thanks for taking charge of this Cam.  I was away yesterday and just picking this up now.  Let me suggest the following:
1.       Notification of funeral services:  there is obvious urgency in this.  Matt/Mike, could you send out an email blast to the CCTU membership today?  I think it would be appropriate to attach the very caring and loving note from his wife, Peggy.
2.       CTU Fund:  It appears that Don’s wish was that donations be made in his name to CTU.  Cam, do you know of a way to set that up?  Is there an address where donations can be sent? 
3.       CCTU recognition of Don:  Let’s work on putting something on our website and Newsletter.  I would suggest including the very moving piece written by Jack Bombardier yesterday (with his permission). I’ve attached that email, as I don’t believe it was sent to everyone.  Having a picture of Don would be great.  I think we should also recognize Don’s passing at our next CCTU membership meeting.  We can discuss the particulars of that at our Board meeting on Tuesday.

That’s all I can think of right now.  We can all only hope that folks will have similar thoughts and caring for each of us when we are gone.


Allen Adinoff, MD
President Cutthroat Chapter Trout Unlimited


Thanks Jack!!!  I love your letters. Keep em comin'!!!

My dad and brother were fortunate enough to go on a float trip several years ago (in WY). I speak for all of us when I say it was a special trip and one we will always remember. 

Joe Chickey, Jr.

Don Cushing sounds like a guy we'd all have liked to meet, caught a couple trout with and had a couple beers besides afterwards.

I really appreciate your emails,

Matthew G Leman
Fort Collins, CO


Dear Mr. Bombadier:
I want to thank you for the heartwarming tribute you wrote for my brother, Don.  It was beautiful and true.

One of the last things he and I talked about when we were saying our "goodbyes" was that he was able to get his three generation together for a float trip.  This meant a lot to him.  He also asked me if I would take Nate fishing on the Big Thomson River.  Nate's early fishing were in spots where catching was fairly easy, and he wanted me to reveal to him that it can also be "slow."  Though I can't wade streams anymore, I promised I would take Nate and Jon to the stream and Jon can wade/fish with him.

If you would be kind enough to send me your mailing address, I'd like to send you a couple of books I've published on rivers, streams, and fly fishing by way of thanks.

Bert Cushing

  Dear Jack,
Words cannot express the gratitude our family feels for the help you have been in passing on the news, but most of all, your response to my note was so much more.  Thank you so much for your tribute to Don, and sharing of the experience you had with Don, Jon and Nate.  Including the pictures was so special.

You are indeed an exceptional man, and I thank God for you.  May God bless you, your family, and the work you do.


Peggy Cushing
(Mrs. Don Cushing)