The wind blows in Wyoming. So much so that over much of its southern acreage, trees live in a constant state of sideways, bowing to the prevailing forces. Tumbleweed bounces through prairie sagebrush. The earth’s guts, buttes, and sawtooth ridgelines live outside its skin—exposed. There are rivers. And there are generally few roads and people between them.
Despite that, only five percent, or 3.2 million acres, of Wyoming is part of the Inventoried Roadless Area (IRA) chain—publicly accessible backcountry of the wild and uncut National Forest nature. It’s a small pinch on a girthy body of countryside, but it’s significant in a pro-energy state where petitioning to kill the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule is a political imperative.
“Perhaps the rebuilding of body and spirit is the greatest service derivable from our forests, for of what worth are material things if we lose the character and quality of people that are the soul of America?”
Arthur Carhart—widely regarded as a pioneer in wilderness protection—posed that question more than 90 years ago after a short visit to Colorado’s Flat Tops Wilderness Area in the White River National Forest.
This summer, standing in the same national forest as Carhart, contemplating the small waterways that call this area home, it was easy to understand where his revolutionary thinking originated. Colorado Roadless Areas (RAs) are underdeveloped locations in national forests that do not have authorized Forest Service roads. These RAs hold some of the most remote fishing in Colorado, as well as being home to a disproportionate amount of habitat for native cutthroat trout.
The danger of development and “shifting baseline syndrome”
When sight-fishing as a sport debuted in the Upper Keys and Florida Bay, boat-makers modified their hulls, fishing companies developed faster and lighter rods, and tackle shops sprouted up all over the islands. By the 1950s an entire industry was formed around a specific shallow-water grassland habitat dominated by tarpon, redfish, permit, snook, and bonefish. Nowhere else in the world were fishermen given the chance to target such a variety only miles from a boat ramp. To many, it seemed Florida Bay was an infinite resource. But what Floridians failed to realize was that the productive waters of Florida Bay owed their fame to a slow-moving watershed that was rapidly diminishing.
Once home to the largest steelhead in America, what would the North Fork Clearwater be like if Dworshak hadn't been built?
Waters of Idaho’s North Fork Clearwater River once flowed freely to the Pacific. Cayuse Creek dropped from a high-elevation meadow into Kelly Creek, which funneled into the North Fork, which melded into the Clearwater proper, then the Snake, and finally the mighty Columbia. Native steelhead muscled upstream through it all—massive populations of massive fish during pre-dam years.
Served: April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797
America’s Founding Father was not only the Brits' worst nightmare, he was also a badass woodsman, whiskey distiller, tobacco farmer, and once dabbled in spinning and weaving. We’re excusing the last two knowing that the First Prez also hauled in cash via commercial fishing on the Potomac, and took not one but three fishing breaks during the Constitutional Convention. George Washington—a man who could not tell a lie… not even when it came to fishing.