When I moved to Bend, Oregon, in July 2013, the outdoors were literally at my fingertips for the first time in my life. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face just seeing the Deschutes River run through the center of town, and I couldn’t stop talking about it to the friends I left behind in the city.
But three months later, in October 2013, things seemed to suddenly change when one day I saw the shiny bodies of what I knew were thousands of dead fish. This scene drew me down to the riverbed, and I was astonished by the feeling of standing in the immediate aftermath of a large “fish kill.”
Kneeling down to the ground, I could see some gills still rising and falling- they weren’t all dead yet, but death was waiting for them. I had no idea why there was suddenly no water in this channel, and I recall saying during an interview with the local news that in a community like Bend, this felt like a dirty little secret. Indeed. It has turned out to be exactly that.
The vast majority of the people who live in or visit Bend for vacation have no idea that after more than 70 years of being managed primarily as a beautiful irrigation ditch, the Deschutes River is truly at risk of collapse We live in a time where it feels like the majority of us are endlessly busy, overburdened with news, and believe that others are handling these huge societal problems. But the fact is one of the greatest threats to our rivers is this belief that someone else is going to save them. We have to stop taking grip and grins of fish that have been caught way too many times, and start acting like we give a damn.
Never in a million years did I plan to be doing advocacy work like this, but stepping into the riverbed with those thousands of dead fish in 2013, was an invitation to do more. I’m a self employed single mom who designs outdoor gear for a living, including for Simms Fishing. I learned about advocacy through my work with Patagonia and my love of the outdoors. I have not been paid one penny for the hours of work on behalf of this river I fell in love with, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to look my daughter in the eye and tell her I was too busy to attempt to improve her future.
But there is still hope. The Deschutes River is at a crux right now, and you can impact its health for the next 30 years. All it takes is 30 seconds and your voice. The public has until Dec. 3 to submit a comment to U.S. Fish & Wildlife about the Deschutes River Basin Habitat Conservation Plan.
Can vou take 30 seconds to ask for increased streamflows that will support a healthy river and
a healthy future for Central Oregon too?
Check Out: https://deschutes3030.org
After nearly a dozen years in the outdoor and snow sports industry working for Columbia Sportswear, I began my own design firm because, above all else, I wanted a challenge. I wanted to take what I’d learned as a senior designer, and product line manager for a world-renowned company and apply it on a more innovative, grass-roots level. I wanted freedom to roam, to expand other companies’ horizons while expanding my own. Those horizons aren’t limited to my business. By continuing my education—in the classroom and out in nature—I am constantly gaining a better sense of what works, what doesn’t, and what’s missing when we step outside. My work feeds into my life, and vice-versa. It’s a never-ending cycle, and a good one at that.