Opinions, musings, ideas, pearls of wisdom

Volunteerism and Paying It Forward
By Publisher Pat Steele

Our recent cross promotion event with the River St. Patagonia outlet made me realize how vital volunteerism is, especially when it concerns conservation and the preservation of natural resources. It is a constant, sometimes seemingly futile struggle, with the corporate interests of water, oil, natural gas and other assets pitted against the ecological interests of conservationists, environmentally conscious outdoor sportsmen and women, and it often feels most of our energy as part of the ecological side of the struggle is spent preventing the other side from destroying that which we value.
As a member of the Santa Cruz Fly Fishermen, it also often feels to me that our organization has become stagnant. Our club is composed largely of retired, older folks who just want to go out and enjoy fly fishing, and in so doing, enjoy the outdoors, clean rivers and lakes, beautiful forests, and untouched, scenic landscapes. We often don't take into account the work it takes to ensure those rivers and lakes stay clean, the forests are not stripped by lumber interests, and the scenic landscapes are not strip-mined.
I was encouraged by the number of energetic young people at the Patagonia event, some of them were with the California Watershed Council, some were from Trout Unlimited, and some others were from the San Lorenzo River Alliance, and I found myself wishing I could bottle their "fire" and make everyone in the Santa Cruz Fly Fishermen drink some of it.
We need to ask ourselves why that same group of young, fired-up people aren't joining the Santa Cruz Fly Fishermen. Is the public perception of us that of a bunch of "old fuddy-duddies"? Does our talk not match our walk? Do we appear to be a group of people who just want to fly fish, and not work diligently to ensure that our grandchildren have a place outdoors to enjoy?
I know there are younger people in our club, they show up from time to time at our meetings, watch presentations and take part in the monthly raffle, but as for volunteering on our club's board, we older board members aren't seeing many of them step up, and I think we need to ask ourselves what it is about us that is off-putting to recruiting members, and specifically, younger members who want to pitch in and serve on the board.
I am one of those old fuddy-duddies who has been on the club board for over twenty years, volunteering as the club's newsletter publisher and I am so very grateful for the opportunity to work at a job I love. I am also grateful for those young volunteers with the conservation groups I met at the Patagonia event. We should all applaud them for their work in ensuring that we have places to enjoy unspoiled waters and natural beauty, and we all need to work together to our mutual benefit.

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