PAT NEAL: Dreamer, bureaucrat and scammer: That’s me

WHILE IT IS true that in describing the dissolution of the Hoh River Trust in my May 31 column, “Lack Of Faith In Hoh River Trust,” I said they were a conglomerate of “utopian dreamers, grant-sucking bureaucrats and environmental scammers.”

It takes one to know one.

I was only talking about myself.

The idea of restoring the giant trees and legendary fish of the Hoh River while maintaining public access was a utopian dream I shared.

I also dreamed of one day being a grant-sucking bureaucrat, documenting the natural history of the Hoh River by recording the stories of the pioneers.

They remember the Hoh River when it was a healthy ecosystem.

Pioneer stories about the river and how people planted gardens, built their homes and even restored salmon runs have an ever-growing value in the modern age, in which most people are disconnected from the natural history of their land.

I had a good environmental scam, too.

Imagine using bears to catch salmon and scatter their remains across the forest floor to fertilize the trees so they could grow bigger faster.

The Native Americans considered the bear to be the mother of all creatures because some bears, like some people, catch way more salmon than they can ever eat.’

Bears share their fish with creatures who are unable to catch their own.

The salmon feed everything from the smallest insect to the largest tree.

The benefits of tons of rotting fish that once littered the forests along the river bottoms after the runs had spawned is a phenomenon that is almost totally ignored by what passes for the best available science.

The salmon represent a cycle of renewal that has functioned since the last Ice Age.

The biomass from the ocean is deposited far up into the mountains, back to where it came from.

We have interrupted this cycle.

The once-abundant salmon spawning streams are sterile.

With the modern development of “nylon pollution” — that is, the overfishing of salmon throughout the extent of their range with nylon fishing gear — our ecosystem has been degraded through a lack of salmon to bring life back to the watershed.

The idea of rebuilding this ecosystem was the reason I supported the Hoh River Trust from its inception.

That meant restoring the Hoh River salmon runs.

Missy Barlow did it.

She was the granddaughter of John Huelsdonk, the Iron Man of the Hoh.

Missy had her own ideas about fisheries restoration that did not involve heavy equipment or helicopters.

“We want good fisheries science,” Missy said in an interview she granted me in 2008.

She started a 4-H project with some local students.

The 4-H’ers mixed the eggs and milt from the fish in a bucket, then set the eggs in baskets that were put in the creeks so the water could run through them.

The baby 4-H fish hatched and went out to sea just like the wild fish.

They were wild fish, spawned from fish that swam up the Hoh River.

The baby fish were imprinted to survive a life in the wild.

Shoals of salmon and steelhead returned to the creeks where they had been hatched.

It seemed only reasonable that people should be allowed to hatch wild fish in barren creeks flowing through their property, but we are not.

Salmon used to be a food source. Now it’s a job source for the restoration industry.

They put logs in the creeks, plant native vegetation and poison invasive plants.

When the fish fail to return, we blame the loggers.

Meanwhile, there are endangered fish inside the pristine environment of Olympic National Park.

But trust me, we’re studying the problem.

_________

Pat Neal is a fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal [email protected]

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