River Assessment

Yesterday I had the pleasure of doing a river assessment—an overview of a microcosm on a local system. I had been asked to go into a particular area and look at the possible consequences of last summer’s logging operations: roads that were put in place, any structural issues, land movement, drainage, and silting of key salmon and steelhead spawning areas. Besides the fact that I love to do this work, what it really boils down to is caring for things that can‘t speak for themselves.

And it’s about whole systems, which are made up of smaller systems, which in turn are made up of even smaller systems. Rain, wind, fish, elk, rivers, lakes, snow—none of these things stop at the border of any state, country, or ocean (well, maybe not the elk). This Stewardship thing is not something you have to do. No one is going to hold a gun to your head and say, “Steward… or else!” It is instead a personal commitment, requiring you going out to your particular “place” and saying to all that reside there, “I’m going stand up for you, all you fish and deer and bugs and plants and water…”

My stewardship is part of my work, because I have decided to take it to that level, but I would do it even if it weren’t. Everyone’s particular case is different. Even small commitments have huge impacts.

I found nothing wrong yesterday. Nothing that I could not associate with the natural rhythm of this system. That’s a good thing. Towards the end of my time I was about three miles up a critical tributary—standing in a rain and snow shower on the bank—and witnessed the spawning ritual of chinook salmon at my feet. Sometimes, the work is worth the effort.


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