db: This land

sea.jpg

Chris Mitchell

“…was made for you and me…” 

Dateline: America

If in fact “this land,” was made for you and me, then in fact so should the waters that lap its soil.

So should the grass we stand on, so should the mountains we climb, the deserts we irrigate, the soil we till.

So should the rivers we drink from, the lakes we swim and fish in, and all the waves we can stand in at American beaches and wiggle our toes in.

For you. 

For me.

And maybe even more important than me and you, for our children, for their children, for all who come after us, they will know our names if we make it their land too.

They will know our names as well if we didn’t care enough to save it for them.

Once lost.

Always gone. 

“…to the gulf stream waters…"

There is an issue out there about the water that laps this land of ours, it’s called The Modern Fish Act or technically in fed-speak: the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 H.R. 2023.

You can read the entire act right here but trust me on this, there is a lot of mumbo-jumbo in it, a lot to get through but please try, it’s important, here it is: https://www.congress.gov/115/bills/hr2023/BILLS-115hr2023ih.pdf 

Tough huh, I only get a few paragraphs and need a double shot espresso to continue. I Googled it and in 0.55 seconds I got 365,000 results.

Lots of people saying things about it on both sides of the issue, and that’s cool, that’s the democratic process, at least in theory.

Upfront, here are some facts concerning me on this issue.

I don’t fish offshore, or much standing on the shore. I have never fished for Snapper, or any of the many names it is called and have honestly no plans to do so.

I am not qualified to give you any opinion on the issue whatsoever, so I will not comment on the issue, Gene Gilliland our B.A.S.S. Conservation Director and a fish biologist will handle that part, not me. Here’s what he has to say on the Modern Fish Act:

“Federal laws governing saltwater sport fishery management are out of date and have not taken recreational anglers into account, favoring instead commercial fishing interests. Fortunately, the Modern Fish Act has been introduced in Congress to address the issue. This Act will provide federal managers with the tools and data needed to appropriately manage marine resources to benefit recreational fishing in federal waters. But more to the point, why should B.A.S.S. members care about this legislation? Well, among the 11 million saltwater recreational anglers, there are a considerable number who "cross-over" and fish freshwater too - you may be one of them. Saltwater fishing has a $70 billion impact to the Nation's economy and might even touch you or your community. It puts 455,000 Americans to work. And yet, when it comes to federal management, the sport aspect has been frequently overlooked in favor of commercial interests. The Modern Fish Act aims to fix that.”

What I am though massively qualified to comment on is the process of working the feds from a concerned citizen and voter standpoint. 

Here’s why. In my time as the investigative dude for ESPN and Outside the Lines I have worked on several stories that have either changed federal laws or enacted federal laws, three of those stories were read into the Congressional Record and are probably still in a file case somewhere in the bowels of ESPN.

Here’s another thing, I’m lying about part of that, the part that any story I ever did changed a law, or made a law…that’s not entirely true…what affected change wasn’t me…it was you!

You, frankly I should send you the awards, you did it not me.

“…I roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps…”

Here’s some insight I’ve come to know over 30-plus years of working with the feds and working against the feds…it is all about the process.

Learn their game, and play it.

The overall goal of every career politician is very simple, stay in office, stay in office.

Those voted out or who “won’t seek reelection” may throw the humanitarian card at you but follow their career off “the hill” and see how that works out. 

Some do great humanitarian stuff, President Jimmy Carter for example, most do not. Those who leave for “the private sector,” do so to influence the “public sector,” and they make a bunch of money not so much because of who they know but because they know the process.

They know how the system works and they play it.

If you have a dog in this fight you basically have two choices, you can participate or you can abdicate. You choose.

Get involved, or bow out, pretty much that simple.

The beauty of what our founding fathers created was a process that included us.

Us. 

Don’t believe me, believe them: “We the people…” could have easily been “We the Congress…” or “We the Senate…” or “We the lobbyists…”

But it ain’t, and for all the ups and downs of politics, for all the bruising and healing of politics, for all the slinging and catching of politics…God bless those who wrote those words and invited us in.

You are allowed in…take it.

“…and all around me a voice was sounding…”

Some may disagree with me on this but when you take to the field with the big boys snarky comments on social media have very little effect.

And I’m going to get slammed for this next comment but 100,000 people on the National Mall will only be a “photo op,” unless those 100,000 people do one more thing…

…vote.

The ballot box and the honest placed and counted vote is the miracle of this country.

For and against you are allowed a voice, use it, shout it, sit down in the office of your local elected official and tell him or her how you feel on this issue, be very specific tell them how you would vote and why and that you will be watching how they vote as well.

Start small, find your local state rep, bring your friends with you, tell them how you feel and how you will vote, for, or against them.

Find your local congressman or woman and do the same thing, make it personal, go talk to them, call them, and send letters or emails. If you don’t know who they are or how to find them, go here: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

Be as passionate with them face to face as you are on Facebook.

You can count up all the special interest money you want but you know what, when the roll call comes up on the floor they only count votes.

I was working once on a story with the Special Council of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and was told exactly this, “No noise from out there means one thing, acceptance.”

“No noise from out there means one thing, acceptance.” Let that sink in, these folks are not playing games, “out there” is you.

One other thing, the vast majority of the bills passed, vast majority, has no effect on those who passed it.

Don’t believe me, check your retirement benefits against those of your elected officials, pull out your health care card and read what you get and for how much, and then compare, the list goes on.

“…the voice come chanting as the fog was lifting…”

What I said up top about me not changing laws and things was true, it was the outcry to the stories that affect the process, not the story. Here are some details on the one story about illegal transportation of horses to slaughter:

“…Syracuse 36" case that drew national attention on ESPN in 1995 In 1996 the Commercial Transportation of Horses To Slaughter Act was passed. On July 22, 1998 New York Governor Pataki signed into law Senate Bill 6332 introduced in March 1998 by Senator Kuhl, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. The bill raises the fines for violating New York State's Agriculture and Markets law, Section 359-a, the illegal transport of horses. The fines were raised from $100 to $250 for a first violation and from $500 to $1000 for a second conviction. The fines are PER horse, PER violation. The new fines take effect on November 1, 1998.”

Again some mumbo-jumbo, but let me make it simple, we went undercover and that lead to a combined law enforcement bust on the New York State Thruway where what was called “a kill buyer” would buy horse for $1 a pound or less then take them to a slaughter house for a buck or so more a pound (frankly the whole thing made me mad). The horses were being transported in cattle carriers. Of the 24 horses in the one cattle car most were cut, broken bones, no water and worse. We did the story, aired it, and the response from around the country changed the law.

Not us, you.

Just so you know, all of the horses on that cattle carrier were cared for and brought back to health and one, I’ll never forget, his name was Master Ian, when we checked his registration tattoo number turns out he was a descendant of Secretariat. He spent his final days in peace on a farm in upstate New York.

Once again, thanks to the audience for making noise.

“…this land was made…”

My vote goes to the common man, the working stiff, the man or woman who works the graveyard shift, the man or woman who works two jobs and sells stuff on eBay to help make the monthly nut.

Their right to fish when and where they want should not be impinged.

Make noise.

My vote goes to those who think their vote doesn’t count. It does, it counts as much as the guy who signs your paycheck, who holds your mortgage, who makes the laws that affect your life.

Make noise.

My vote also goes to the ocean and the fish, all the oceans all the fish. Work together to come to accepted science that errs on the side of the water and the fish.

No fish, no fishing.

Make noise.

Make lots of noise.

“…for you and me.”
This Land Is Your Land
Woody Guthrie

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
James Madison
Co-author Declaration of Independence &
Bill of Rights
Fourth President of the United States

Editor’s note: Send a message to your Members of Congress today and make your voice heard. You can use this form to send a message to support the Modern Fish Act. Or text FISH to 50457.

To learn more about how bass anglers can impact federal legislation visit the Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation website.