top of page
  • Matt Breton

Addressing Tension

In my day job as a Physical Therapist, I spend a lot of time working on muscle tension- trying to decrease it when there's too much and even increasing it when there's too little. So it seems that there is an optimal amount of tension that must exist for things to function well.

Tension exists in the world of hunting, fishing, and conservation as well. This tension exists most obviously between hunters and anti-hunters, but follows down the line: rifle hunters and archery hunters, public land hunters and private land hunters, guided and DIY, fly anglers and those who use conventional tackle, artificial/bait, wild/stocked, native/nonnative, and on and on and on.

I can honestly say that being able to fish in SD with Dad outweighed any of my concerns as to whether this brown was stocked or wild...or a non-native fish. We had a ton of fun on that trip!

In trying to come to grips with the dynamic of this tension in my life, I get pretty antsy when a purist or zealot wants to debate about an issue. This issue is usually quite important to them and they have righteousness on their side. It becomes hard to have a fruitful discussion- certainly their mind is not going to be changed. Being anti-anything is easy. And I don't usually disagree with the anti, their point usually works for them; it is just that their point often only concerns their own experience within a narrow window of the world and fails to consider broader implications and the working machinations of things as the have existed, do exist and will exist. The stance of the zealot lacks nuance and relies on a vision of individual purity for their righteousness and often they are not wrong in that stance, except that they fail to consider the many permutations surrounding how the current situation arose. Add to it the fact that the person holding the other side may not care as deeply, certainly doesn't have the same personal viewpoint or end goals and may represent different, competing interests that may be equally valuable. This second person, usually aware of the nuance of the situation, could be described as wishy-washy. Not an attractive term. So the situation becomes polarized and the tension is increased and unresolved.

We could apply the above to any number of situations. If we look at the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska, which looks to have the potential to devastate a fishery, it is easy to hold the 'anti' position on mining- no mining allowed here or anywhere- the environmental costs are too great. And yet we often need the raw materials being mined for. With the NIMBY attitude prevailing, we decide to be anti this mine, and then come up with no proposal for how to solve the bigger question.

My recent experience is around the trout stocking program in VT. My role in the VT Fish & Wildlife Conservation Group puts me in a position to advocate for stocking trout. I realize there are pros and cons to this activity- stocking hatchery fish provides opportunity for anglers in many locations and situations where there might not be any due to habitat constraints- the best long term answer is fixing the habitat, but we need people to care about the habitat by having exposure to fish. These fish, when stocked over wild fish, may cause a decline in the wild fishery. These stocked fish are easier to catch by kids (Yes!) and predators, helping enhance predator populations that will later prey on wild fish (Maybe not so good). The argument for stocking has holes through a lot of taking the stance that only wild native fish are good is an easy one to stand behind. And yet, when you consider the goals- providing fish where there might not be any for young people to catch so that they can care about fishing and then grow up to care about the environment and a stocked fish that bad? I'd argue no, especially when 80% of anglers might not care anyway. Is there a better way? Maybe...but often, and I can't say for sure in this case, the zealot is not putting money where his mouth is. Espouse benefits of the purist ideal, then not show up to do stream-side habitat work. Or brag about catching a brown trout- non-native, by the way.

Few of us can really stand up to the scrutiny.

I'll take imperfect action over perfect aspirations any day.

So I would encourage all of you who are anti-something to figure out a better alternative; what are you pro? Look for 2nd and 3rd order effects of your stance- where is the nuance? So I've learned to embrace the tension as I imperfectly navigate my way through these issues.

Feel the tension- it lets you know when you're in the middle of it- and the fact that you're working on change is better than what most are doing- nothing except bitching.

22 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Getting Involved

In the last couple of years, I've become more engaged with organizations that work to protect the way of life I cherish. I believe that you should work to be the change you want to see in the world. L

bottom of page