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Adventure : Politics

Can Beer Force Obama to Clean Up the Clean Water Act?

Beer is 90 percent water. (You might think that's true only of Coors Light or Miller 64, but in fact even your favorite New Belgium or Goose Island or Allagash brew is almost entirely aqua.) Once you account for the brewing process, it takes around five gallons of water to produce just one gallon of beer.

With that in mind, the Natural Resources Defense Council is taking a stand on water quality with its Brewers for Clean Water campaign. During the George W. Bush era, the Supreme Court made changes to the interpretation of the Clean Water Act, which weakened the law's power to curb pollution into drinking water sources. If common sense doesn't force the Obama Administration to reverse these changes, the NRDC has decided to use beer to drive the message home.

Since Obama is himself a home brewer (though it seems unlikely he has any time to ferment these days), the NRDC has corralled a group of 20 craft breweries—from big hitters such as Sierra Nevada and New Belgium to small guys like Michigan's Arcadia and Brooklyn's Kelso—who have made a pledge to make their operations more water-efficient and have signed a letter to the Obama Administration, urging it to pass guidance from the EPA that would put muscle back into the Clean Water Act.

At issue is the Court's interpretation of the law's reference to "navigable" waters, which companies are now using to lawfully discharge pollutants into non-navigable streams or wetlands—despite the flow from those headwaters into navigable waters (which are often also sources of drinking water).

Many of the brewers who co-signed the letter are based in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois and rely on the Great Lakes for their source water. These lakes, which contain a fifth of the fresh water on Earth, are already suffering from record-low water levels, caused in part by higher evaporation rates due to warming waters.

Between climate change and the dangers of increased pollution, even small-scale brewers have much to be concerned about.

“Beer is an excellent megaphone, which is why we’re calling on our nation’s most visible home brewer, President Obama, to release this important guidance,” said Ian Hughes, Environmental and Safety Coordinator for Goose Island Beer Company.

It's not just the small guys who are making the connection between water quality and beer quality. The Association of German Brewers, which includes Anheuser-Busch InBev Deutschland, is seeking a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Germany, based on concerns over the negative impact the drilling practice could have on the country's water supply.

For your consideration, the next time you're in the beer line, and on the way to the river, here's the full list of craft brewers who have pledged to reduce the amount of water used in their manufacturing process and have petitioned Obama to restore the Clean Water Act:

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Ted Nugent's Wild Spirit

Whether or not you agree with his unabashedly conservative views on gun control (or his penchant for hunting in fenced-off game ranches), there’s no denying that Ted Nugent is one of the most polarizing outdoorsmen stalking through America’s woods today. The "Cat Scratch Fever" rock legend has been shooting and fishing for over six decades, and he still makes time to get out to his favorite hunting grounds weekly, tours be damned.

Since 2001, Nugent has brought his love of the chase to the little screen as the host of Outdoor Channel's Spirit of the Wild, a show that focuses on his hunts for deer, bear, and other game across the U.S. Scott Neumyer sat down with Uncle Ted ahead of the premiere of his program’s twelfth season to talk about what keeps him coming back.

OUTSIDE: You’ve released over thirty albums, you’re still on tour, you’re on the board of directors of the NRA, and you have this hit show. How do you find the time and energy to continue to do all this?
NUGENT: And you’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg. I’ve got so much stuff going, it’s borderline criminal.

It’s real simple. Linda, my personal assistant for over twenty years now, my manager Doug Banker, my road manager Bob Quandt, my band, my crew, my wife Shemane, my sons, my daughters, my ranch managers, my production team on Spirit of the Wild: Everybody in the Nugent world kicks maximum ass. We get up early. We put our hearts and souls into everything that we do. My team is capable of moving mountains before breakfast. 

I couldn’t do any of it alone. I hunt 300 days a year. I rock and roll 65 days a year. It’s the American dream beyond anyone’s dream.

On Spirit of the Wild, you can see the passion in everything you do on that show.
Never in my life have I done a “take two” on anything. Roll the fucking camera; this is it! What you see is exactly how it goes down.

You say on the show that you’ve been bow hunting every week for 60 years. How did you find the time when you were on tour back in the '70s and '80s?
It’s all about priorities. Here’s something that’s very telling: I had Joe Perry and Steven Tyler out to one of my hunting grounds here not that long ago and they go, “This is amazing! So you own this swamp and these forests? You own all this? You planted these forests yourself? Wow! I wish I had one of these!”

And I said, “Well, you snorted eight of them! You snorted twelve hunting preserves!” So, it’s about priorities. I’ve never spent money on bullshit, so I own some phenomenal sacred hunting grounds. It was about prioritizing that time.

Is it safe to say that bow hunting is your favorite form of hunting?
There’s no question, yeah. I’ve shot 100 arrows this morning already. I shoot my bow every day throughout the day. Even when I’m on tour, I bring a bow with me.

Is it the challenge of the bow that’s most interesting to you?
The “aim small, miss small” discipline overall, regardless of projectile, is what I enjoy. I enjoy the marksmanship discipline. It is quite a challenge. I’m not the greatest archer in the world, but it’s my goal to be that before I die.

I do enjoy shooting though. I have my own line of ammunition now–the Ted Nugent Ammo–which came about because I shoot so much. I shoot my guns every day too, but when it comes time to kill game, I prefer getting up close and personal and penetrating that defense mechanism that wildlife has, to kill them at close range with a sharp stick. I’m fascinated by that.

What’s your favorite animal to hunt and what’s the one animal you wouldn’t want to hunt?
My favorite animal to hunt is whatever is standing broadside within twenty yards, looking the other way. That’s my favorite. The one that doesn’t know I’m there.

I would never kill an animal unless I was going to eat it or I’m protecting property or balancing the herd. For examples, coyotes and fox. I don’t eat coyotes and fox, but I use their beautiful skins for gifts and clothing. The killing of those varmints bring balance to the land and allows there to be some biodiversity.

You’ve gotten a lot of criticism because of your very staunch views on gun control and gun ownership. Does it ever get frustrating for you that people only see one side of you, or that they almost see you as this kind of scary cartoon character?
I think the people who see me as a scary cartoon character are so inconsequential, and such a lunatic fringe, that I just consider it like a court jester. The communication that I have with the greatest people in the world, and I’ll tell you who the greatest people in the world are: parents who are saying goodbye to a five- and six-year-old little boy and little girl who’s dying of terminal cancer and they’ve asked Ted Nugent to take their son or daughter on their last hunting trip or fishing trip. Do you think my critics could possibly compete with that? When a Navy Seal has in his will that he wants me to play the song "Fred Bear" at his funeral, do you think my critics can compete with that?

There’s always talk of new gun legislation. Do you think there’s ever going to be legislation that would make both sides happy?
No, because the anti-gunners literally turn you into a felon. They turn an absolute saintly person into a felon with the stroke of a pen, because the saintly person possesses a harmless inanimate object–a magazine that holds more than seven rounds, a gun that has a convenient pistol grip, a gun that has a collapsible stock so a father and his son can both shoot the same rifle. You lose your voting rights and your God-given individual rights to keep and bear arms because some soulless Nazi determines you to be a felon, because you possess a magazine that holds more than seven rounds? Really?

Spirit of the Wild airs on Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. EST on Outdoor Channel. All-new episodes return starting on July 2. This interview has been edited for length.

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Career Change: Capitol Hill Aide to Wandering Fly-Fisherman

Saratoga, Wyoming -- Officially, Paul Moinester's upstream journey started in the Florida Keys last February. But symbolically, it started somewhere on Capital Hill, in the midst of his two and half year term serving as a senior legislative assistant to Representative Steve Cohen (D – TN).

"I spearheaded the Keystone XL opposition campaign," says 27-year-old Memphis native. This was in the aftermath of the 2010 mid-year elections. "An average of one anti-environment bill was passed in the House each day" during the 2011-12 session, he says.

Ready for a challenge outside the Beltway and having recently acquired a love of fly-fishing, Moinester decided to spend six months traveling around North America. Fishing. But not just fishing. His aim is to fly-fish his way from river to river, gathering and sharing their environmental backstories. 

Moinester is telling those stories through his blog, as well as through posts on the Orvis and Patagonia fly-fishing blogs. He and I crossed paths at a meeting, hosted by the fishing and river advocacy group Trout Unlimited, in Saratoga, Wyoming. In addition to Orvis and Patagonia, Trout Unlimited and a number of fish advocacy groups across the country are providing him with various types of support on his journey

His itinerary is driven not necessarily by the most scenic or productive fishing spots, but by water scarcity, changing temperatures, development, invasive species, hatchery programs and other threats to wild fish stocks.

Moinester says he's been struck by the differences between fishing in the West and in the East. "Back around D.C., it's about how much you can catch and how much you can keep. But out here in the West, fishing is a political act."

That is not only because of the ongoing battles between advocates of wild salmon and proponents of hatchery programs, but it's increasingly also about water rights – especially in the headwaters of the Colorado River.

"Denver and the Front Range has access to a tremendous amount of water from what were once pristine rivers. Today, 60 percent of the Frasier River's flow gets pulled out for municipal purposes. They're draining it so people can have nice Kentucky Bluegrass lawns," Moinester says. The losers in the equation are the 90 percent of wildlife that rely on the rivershed, and the anglers and other recreational users of the waterways, who watch water levels fall throughout the summer.

"In an era of increasing water scarcity, you have these historic water rights that are very entrenched. So how do you go about conserving these resources? Today you'd never develop a system that works the way 100-year-old water rights work."

The legacy of hydroelectric dams is another topic that Moinester has run into, and one that he says highlights unsound management policies in a time when the federal government is in serious fiscal trouble. Take the Snake River. "It contains about 70 percent of rehabilitation potential for the Columbia River's wild salmon, but the Snake is no longer productive salmon habitat because of four dams. The Bonneville Power Administration has spent $10 billion to make salmon bypass [around the dams] easier, but it's not been successful. To just dismantle all four of the dams, which produce only a small amount of power and are functionally obsolete, would only cost $1 billion."

"A lot of conservation solutions regarding wild fish are cost-effective and make more economic sense than ongoing solutions," he says. "But it still amazes me, the complexity of solving these issues. In D.C., I was seeing everything at 30,000 feet. I learned about these issues while sitting at a desk, wearing a suit. I can see and understand their magnitude a lot better by going out and seeing them for myself. At the local level there are so many moving pieces and laws that work against a given conservation issue."

The next and final leg of Moinester's journey will be a kind of home-coming, in that it will take him to the heart of the Keystone XL pipeline debate that he's spent years fighting. Once he reaches the oil-sands fields of Northern Alberta, Canada, he plans to meet with policy makers and First Nations communities that are most directly affected by the growing oil-sands play – whether the bitumen the oil companies pull from the ground is piped into the United States, via Keystone XL, or to some distant Asian market, via the Gateway Pipeline. "I'll be trying to understand how our global energy demands are impacting the upstream communities," he says.

Between all those miles and meetings, he'll keep seeking out interesting stretches of river, fly-rod in hand. It's the fish after all, who must battle rising water temperatures and falling water levels, which beckoned him from his leather chair in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Historically, fish conservation has been very localized: this damn, that culvert, these streams," he says. "Climate Change is really the first threat to wild fish that is global. It presents a challenge for an angling community that is conservation-minded but not politically active. It makes them have to take a stand on contentious issues."

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Fish and Wildlife Service Declares Gray Wolf Recovered and Will Remove Protections

After an 18-year recovery effort focused on wolf packs in the Northern Rocky Mountains and the Western Great Lakes, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the gray wolf is no longer threatened with extinction. As a result, the agency has recommended removing the gray wolf from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, FWS director Dan Ashe announced today on a call with reporters.

This announcement, which has long been anticipated, is sure to cause major ripples among the conservation community. The gray wolf populations in the Northern Rockies and Western Great Lakes have already been delisted. States in those regions now administer hunting permits as part of programs designed to manage the populations at sustainable levels, and those states have faced—or are now facing—a number of lawsuits based on their wolf management plans.

If it is approved, the recommendation will expand the delisting to the federal level. It would mean that in states where populations are very small, such as Oregon and Washington, or where the gray wolf has not yet returned but could potentially thrive, such as Colorado and California, the animals would lack federal protection. Ashe was quick to point out, however, that the FWS is confident that state wildlife agencies would take appropriate steps to continue recovery efforts and manage local populations into the future.

Wyoming's approach to managing its gray wolves has included listing them as predators that can be shot on sight in much of the state. That approach led, in part, to the death of 68 wolves in that state during the 2012 season, which state wildlife managers have reported is unsustainably high (they plan to adjust the number of permits going forward). The state's management plan has also led to lawsuits.

Still, Ashe said, gray wolves are "in good hands" with state wildlife management agencies. "No one in the wildlife community suggests that the gray wolf no longer requires protection," he said. "This questions is, do they require federal protection? We believe clearly they do not. The gray wolf will remain a part of the landscape of our country for future generations."

There are more than 6100 gray wolves in the contiguous United States, and they represent the southern reaches of a much larger population of 65,000 wolves in Canada and Alaska.

"We have no indication that states will over-harvest [gray wolves]," he added. "All the states [with delisted populations] have been professional and followed their management plans very closely. There is a lot of public interest in wolves, so I think if states were to over-harvest, I'm sure it would be brought to our attention. We would then be petitioned to re-list the gray wolf and would consider it at that time."

Another major tenant of today's announcement is that the FWS plans to increase its focus and resources on the recovery of the Mexican wolf in the Southwestern U.S. by designating it as an endangered subspecies.

The Mexican wolf recovery began with a very fragile population of only 7 animals, Ashe explained. "Genetically managing that kind of population is a great challenge," he said. Plus, depravation of livestock is of greater concern with Mexican wolves, relative to gray wolves, because the former lives in regions where cattle, goat, and sheep are calving all year round. In the north, the animals calve once a year.

The proposal to federally delist gray wolves will now be open to a 90-day public comment period. The agency hopes to have a final by this time next year.

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Do Hunters Hold the Silver Bullet for Climate Change Consensus?

Step One: Collect the best and latest science, clearly describing how and why the climate is changing.

Step Two: Strip away the lefty-leaning language and anything with an "eco" prefix. Step three: add camo, elk meat and language about freedom, self-reliance and defending the rights of future generations to hunt and fish. Steep.

Hunters and anglers probably follow migration patterns, the snowpack, and water levels more closely than any other group of outdoor enthusiasts, and they're witnessing climate change firsthand. In Wyoming, a slimmer snowpack keeps elk at higher elevation, out of reach of all but the most determined hunters. Those seeking waterfowl are seeing waterways drying up and sea levels rise.

But compared to, say, climbers or skiers or paddlers, hunters are not as vocal in fighting climate change—or, in some cases, even acknowledging that it exists.

Todd Tanner would like to change that.

"I've been a hunter and angler my whole life. I've worked as a flyfishing and big game guide and I've been writing about hunting and fishing 20 years now—and about climate change since about 2005," he says. "No one was publishing about climate change at the national level in hunting and angling circles, and I pushed a couple national conservation groups to focus on it. Then a couple years ago I heard they were getting pushback from funders. They seemed to back off the issue and at the same time I got the feeling the work I was doing wasn't having the impact I wanted."

The result is Conservation Hawks, a non-profit that Tanner leads with the help of fellow sportsmen/women as well as scientists and writers, including Rick Bass. Tanner says he wants to convey a message that transcends politics.

"If [hunters] listen to people like Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck, they'll get the idea that climate change isn't real, that it's some liberal plot. They're not getting a different perspective," he says. "Our point is not necessarily: 'believe us because we're sportsmen.' People should see things with their own eyes."

At the same time, Conservation Hawks wants to insert climate change into the political agenda where it is still absent. "If you're [a legislator] in a red state and only hear from a few constituents, it's easy to brush aside," says Tanner. "On the other hand, if large groups of hunters approach their representatives and say, climate change is hurting us, deal with it, we believe it'll be easier to force legislative action."

THE CALL TO ACTION
Asking hunting and angling groups to write to their Senators and Representatives is one thing, but does Tanner expect to attract hordes of blaze-orange protestors to show up at climate rallies? Perhaps not. He says a different approach and a different voice is required to get the messages through to this demographic.

"You typically hear green groups talk about the need for change. We think that is the wrong message," says Tanner. Conservation Hawks is hoping, instead, to appeal to the fact that without swift action to curb climate change, the government is likely to force changes that will impact hunter's daily lives. "We don't want the government to tell us we can't have wood-burning stoves in our homes," he says, as an example.

Fine. But preserving the American way of life is going to require major policy changes to, for example, energy production. How will those jive with a libertarian worldview shared by many hunters and anglers? "If you look at the EPA coming in and saying 'we're going to release new standards for power plants '… we look at those as intrusions that we’re not particularly happy about, but we need to reduce CO2."

GROWING RANKS
Concurrent with Conservation Hawks' advocacy work is a growing chatter about climate change across the hunting and angling demographic. Take this video diary from the Yale Climate Forum:


The number of hunters is also growing. The latest figures from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show 13.7 million hunters as of 2011, up 9 percent from 2006.

As Outside editor Grayson Schaffer wrote in the February issue, Hunting's Big Comeback is being fueled by some unlikely devotees, such as author and  Tim Ferriss and social media titan Mark Zuckerberg. But more broadly, people who are already consumed by mountain sports—skiing, paddling, climbing—are taking up firearms or bows.  

"Stuff happens out in nature that doesn’t happen anywhere else," says Tanner. "[These new hunting converts] feel connected there, with the world around them. They treasure that. Maybe they're eating local, or eating organic. And they say, maybe there is something to the idea of hunting for food."

"I don’t really care why someone decides to become a hunter or angler," says Tanner. "I care that they treat the resource ethically and they share that with other people and realize that we need to be the stewards of the landscape."

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