2014 A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite at Cayuga Lake
Cayuga Lake - Union Springs, NY, Aug 21 - 24, 2014

Borrowing Earth

Don Barone
B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland says water is the most valuable material on Earth.

About the author

Don Barone

Don Barone

db has been in the reporting biz for over 30 years, won some Emmys and other awards, but is proudest of his four-decade marriage, his two kids and the fact he founded Tackle The Storm Foundation to help children.

“I know we've come a long way…”

Dateline: Our Blue Playing Field

“Ethics is doing the right thing when no one is looking.”

Gene Gilliland

B.A.S.S. Conservation Director

We live, on a gift.

Don’t believe me, look around.

71% of this rock in space we live on is covered in blue.

Water.

Look around, we have yet to find a planet like it in the universe. Sounds like a gift to me.

Dinosaur cocktails.

The amount of water on earth pretty much stays the same; we are drinking the same water that Tyrannosaurus Rex did.

Sweet Water.

I call Fresh Water, Sweet Water because it is special. Only 3% of the water on this planet is Fresh Water, and almost 70% of that is all frozed up in glaciers.

“No question, water is the most valuable material on Earth.”

 Gene Gilliland

We play another team in this game we play, this tournament bass fishing sport. Their uniforms are green, their uniforms are brown, some large, some small, but they are another team.

Team Bass.

Without that other team, we have no game. Bass is pretty much the most important part of the Bass(masters) thing.

Trust me, we need the bass more than they need us.

“You practice conservation because it is the right thing to do.”

Gene Gilliland

Come with me, meet in person the conservation guy of B.A.S.S, Gene Gilliland.

 

“…we're changing…”

 

We are at lunch and Gene is on his iPhone looking at maps, trying to find out the name of the stream that runs alongside the outdoor patio of the restaurant.

“Hello, welcome to Curley’s, may I get you something to drink.”

Gene is using his two fingers to make the map on the phone bigger, so I order first, “Root beer, please.”

“And sir…”

Gene looks up and says, “Water, just water.”

And I can’t help but to smile. The fish biologist sipping water on the rocks.

Let me give you some background on Gene. He’s still kind of new to us as Conservation Director at B.A.S.S., been here just shy of nine months. But then not so much new, “I wrote the Bass Biology column in B.A.S.S. Times for 15 years, db.”

For 32 years Gene was a fish research biologist in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “It was the only job I ever had, got hired right out of school, and stayed.”

“School,” was a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas A&M, master's degree from Oklahoma State in fish biology. “I’m also a bass tournament angler, not a good one, but I also fish tournaments.”

Gene begins sentences looking at me, ends them looking at the stream. “db, I don’t want you to make this story about me, OK.”

I grunt something back, a grunt isn’t a lie.  This story has to be about Gene because Gene is all about conservation.

“A conservation director, db, is an ethical sort of job. You do it because it is the right thing to do, it’s a chain of life thing.”

I dip a mild chicken wing into some white stuff that may have been blue cheese at one point. “What is conservation man,” and then I bite into the wing and wait for the answer.

“Conservation is the wise use of a resource so you can perpetuate that resource. Catch and release can recycle the fish, but you need a healthy environment to begin with or the fish will die anyways.”

As Gene pours more water onto his ice, let me take a break here and give you some background on us, the Bassmaster Elites, and water.

In 2014 we have fished on some six “lakes” and two rivers. When you look at the lakes we have fished, you’ll find that we have used, in total, 598 square miles of lake water.

Dudes, that is the same size, square mile-ish, as the island of Oahu in Hawaii, the third largest Hawaiian island, the island where Honolulu is located.

As I’m about to double dip, Gene answers a question I didn’t ask. “You need someone in the company to champion the cause of the fish.”

 

 “…day to day…”

 

As I chew, Gene looks at me and says, “We have released 98% of the fish we caught. I can’t at this point say that all 98% survive long term, but I can say that about 75% of those fish we release do survive, and we are getting better all the time.”

On a blackboard placed on an easel behind Gene, the restaurant’s special today is a $5.99 fish fry with fries and cole slaw. As I dip another wing, I think to myself how happy I am that I wasn’t born a chicken in America.

Gene: “Thirty years ago, 40% of the bass caught didn’t make it, became dinner or died on stringers, now less then 10% perish. Everything we do is geared to start relieving the stress those fish are under in the livewell, and in during weigh-in.”

I tell Gene, “You know, to be honest, I feel sorry for the fish, sorry that they are held up for all the crowd to see. I know that’s part of the deal, but to me it seems like hot dogging in the end zone.”

I can see the comments now about that last paragraph.

Gene: “I think down the road, maybe we only bring one big fish to the stage, maybe weigh the rest of the fish out on the lake in the boat, take a photo or something and release them right from the boat, maybe…”

Food for thought.

“db, we keep the fish in the water as much as possible, handle them as little as possible. The whole goal maximizes long-term survival. The goal isn’t just to have the fish be alive when they get back to the release boat, but to survive and continue to flourish once released so the sport grows and flourishes as well.”

 

“…but tell me…”

 

I don’t know if my grandchildren will fish, don’t know if their children will fish, but I do know this, I want the opportunity for them to do so TO BE THERE.

We borrow Earth.

Modern humans, us, have been on this planet for, give or take a century or two, 200,000 years. In the history of this blue rock in space we have been around a mere 0.004% of the time.

If the planet blinked, that would be us.

If we somehow manage to survive on this plane for the next 4.5 MILLION years, we will have taken up all of 1% of this planet’s life.

We will have to survive here for another 160 MILLION years just to catch up to the dinosaurs. Right now, we are intruding on a dinosaur planet.

We are a blue bubble in the darkness around us.

We may not share much with each other on this planet, but the one thing we share for sure is a … shared legacy.

Gene: “The next generation will be saddled with what we do with the resource today, as we have been saddled with what the generations before us did with the resource during their lives.”

For most of our 200,000 years here, water has been our garbage can. 

Out of sight, out of mind, and out of mind was downstream.

We all live, downstream now.

Gene: “Everything we do we have to consider the future, the future of the sport, the future of the grand scheme of everything, we need to pass this resource on healthy and vibrant.”

We, me and you, we are the grandparents of the future. Do we pass on a mess, or do we pass on something that is better than how we found it.

When you look at the grand scheme of things, we may in fact be trespassers on this planet, and go ahead and get all indigent about that, but when you look at the facts, when you look at the time line, when you are just the blink of things, we need to realize that we just,

borrow Earth.

Whatever next, is here, we hold the key to it.

Common legacy.

Do we want to become, revered, or do we want to become, vilified.

Conservation is simply this, making sure our grandbabies have docks to sit on, water to fish in and fish to catch.

Conservation, isn’t about us, it’s about, them.

Them not here yet.

The future us. The downstream, us.

I believe Earth can handle everything we throw its way — it can handle it because it will just rid itself of the throwers.

Us.

We live on the only gift in our solar system.

We live on the only gift among the stars.

A blue bubble in space.

We drink the water of all things before us.

We drink the water of all things after us.

Shared legacy.

Borrow Earth, be gentle with her, cradle her, care for her,

not for us,

but for those downstream,

those grandbabies,

who will open the gift we gave them,

the gift of a,

bright blue bubble,

floating alone in the dark black sky.

 

“…where do the children play…”

Where Do The Children Play

Cat Stevens

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