Based on regular weekly dispatches from SI bureaus and special correspondents in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and overseas; and on reports from fish and game commissions of the 48 states and Alaska
On march 5 in New Orleans the 21st North American Wildlife Conference heard a vital and controversial address. It was delivered by Ira N. Gabrielson, for years director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and currently president of the Wildlife Management Institute. Speaking bluntly, Dr. Gabrielson summed up for his audience of more than 1,000 biologists, game managers, writers and other wildlife experts, conservation's gains and losses, as he saw them, over the past two years. There were, he noted, several gains:
•Legislation had been enacted to correct abuses of public lands.
March 19, 1956
•The Department of the Interior had staunchly warded off concerted armed forces attempts to take over various wildlife refuges and was standing firm in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge imbroglio.
•The House had appropriated more than the funds requested for Mission 66 (SI, Feb. 20), the project to increase national park facilities in the next decade.
•After a bitter four-year struggle, the Upper Colorado River Storage Act had gone to the floor of the House with Echo Park Dam deleted and the intent of the National Park Act, to keep parks inviolable, reaffirmed.
These and other examples Gabrielson cited as conservation gains, but having verbally petted Interior for one stand, he now bludgeoned it for two which he believed had cost conservation dearly.
"First," charged Gabrielson, "the Department of Interior has gone steadily ahead in the process of changing the Fish and Wildlife Service from a scientific career service into a political agency...the morale in the organization continues to be low.
"The second and most serious setback," he continued, "was the action of the Interior Department in inviting oil and gas leases upon all but a very limited number of national wildlife refuges. While, under the law, the Secretary has always had discretion to make such leases...few were issued except under extraordinary circumstances.... Now the situation is reversed and bids invited.... Many of these wildlife refuges were purchased with sportsmen's duck-stamp money and others with special funds appropriated by Congress. There are less than 10 million acres of these lands in the continental United States, less than one half of one percent of the total land area, and yet our millionaire, billionaire oil men are in such danger of becoming poverty stricken that this tiny fraction...must be made their happy hunting ground at the expense of the wildlife for which the land was dedicated. It is not possible," Gabrielson insisted, "to explore for or to develop oil or gas fields without doing damage to wildlife and wildlife habitat.... This is a long backward step in the cause of conservation."
Later John L. Farley, present director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, denied Gabrielson's charges. Criticism of the service, he asserted, stemmed from "disgruntled former employees" and he added that the Wildlife Management Institute was piqued because it had "lost control" of Fish and Wildlife. Asked if oil and gas development on refuges would damage wildlife, Farley shook his head vigorously.
Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay, questioned on these matters by SI, stated his views the day after he announced his impending resignation. "Dr. Gabrielson," he said, "accuses the Interior Department of 'inviting' oil and gas leases on National Wildlife Refuges. This statement is typical of misstatements and distortions which have marked attacks on the department...by certain professional lobbyists in Washington such as Dr. Gabrielson. By telling half the story or using only such facts as happen to fit their purposes, they have consistently attempted to create a 'big doubt' regarding the department's activities, thereby arousing unmerited criticism in this and a number of other matters.
"The department has at no time invited oil and gas leasing in wildlife refuges in the sense that Dr. Gabrielson attempts to convey. In an act of June 15, 1935 relating to the administration of wildlife refuges Congress authorized such leasing in these areas. The department issued regulations last December to govern the issuance of these leases. Similar regulations were signed by Secretary Krug in 1947.... Simply because it issued these new regulations, the department is accused of inviting leases.... Far from being a backward step, the new regulations governing oil and gas leasing on wildlife refuges provide the greatest protection to wildlife values since such leasing was authorized by Congress 20 years ago. [They] were the result of careful study by specialists in the Fish and Wildlife Service...they provide, as previous regulations did not, for approval by the service and its career technicians over where, how and by whom drilling will be permitted.
"No man, in or out of government," McKay concluded, "is better qualified to assay the degree of protection our wildlife refuges will receive under the new regulations than J. Clark Salyer, chief of the Branch of Refuges of the Fish and Wildlife Service. He is a career civil servant who came to Washington 22 years ago with the late Ding Darling to help build the great wildlife refuge system we have today. When he appeared before the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries he was asked: 'Do you feel that, under your regulations and working and operating plans, the wildlife will be protected adequately where an oil lease is entered into?' 'I do,' Mr. Salyer replied, 'or I would be up here screaming bloody murder right now.' "
Mr. Salyer to the contrary, most conservationists will certainly continue to scream over what they regard as "a long step backward."
WARDEN, WATCH THY VOWEL
When a Maine game warden reprimands future violators, you can bet that it will be done with impeccable diction and flawless inflection, in pear-shaped tones. Officers attending Maine's 17th annual Warden Training School this spring are taking a compulsory course in public speaking. Furthermore, the teacher is a clergyman.
HE'S STILL THERE
"If they want to get rid of me they will have to throw me in jail." This was the last word from doughty 60-year-old surf angler Charles Yochelson of North Hollywood, Calif. Yochelson likes to spend his Saturdays fishing along Malibu Beach, and his favorite spot happens to be directly in front of the Rendezvous Cafe.
Evidently the cafe has little sympathy for anglers. On two successive Saturdays it called sheriff's deputies to dislodge Yochelson. They didn't. "The general public has a right to the beach from water to mean high-tide line," Yochelson insisted, and officers, plus the California Department of Fish and Game, conceded he had a point. But not the cafe.
It hailed the sheriff's office a third time and an officer unacquainted with Yochelson was dispatched beach ward. "He ended up on his sitter-downer after he tried to lay a hand on me," explained the angler, "...and I'm not just trying to be ornery. The fellows who fish here have a perfect right to do so and certainly don't hurt anything—as a matter of fact, they add atmosphere to the joint." The Rendezvous Cafe still disagrees and ex-Marine Yochelson has set aside $10,000 for a possible legal battle. At last report, though, he was still fishing at his favorite stand and landing some nice two-pound barred perch.
POWERLESS LAKE EVINRUDE
The Ole Evinrude foundation, created 11 years ago in memory of the sportsman and outboard-motor magnate, has just presented the Milwaukee Zoo, still under construction, with $30,000 to build a 4½-acre duck pond. The zoo plans to stock the pond with a pinioned collection of native wildfowl, and hopes that migrating birds will join the colony in spring and fall. The pond, by the way, will be named Lake Evinrude—and no motorboats allowed.
There are over 30 near-extinct wildlife species in America, and the plight of some of them is pitiful indeed. Their preservation is the theme this year of National Wildlife Week, March 18-24, and was the subject of a statement to SI by Ernest Swift, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation. "Now, more than at almost any time in the history of our country," he said, "endangered wildlife faces a crucial test." The grizzly bear, for example, is down to 700-odd, yet is protected by a closed season only in Idaho. Florida's tiny Key deer number a thin 112. Perhaps 60 Everglades kites survive. Only 28 whooping cranes (SI, Nov. 21) fly their migratory path between Canada's Northwest Territories and our Texas gulf coast. Even among fish, there are endangered species—the Montana grayling and Great Lakes sturgeon are both dwindling.
Among last week's noteworthy catches: a 23-pound 2-ounce STEELHEAD taken from the Skagit River, by George Nemo of Sedro Woolley, Washington; a 31-pound SNOOK caught in the Myakka River in Florida, by Vernon Breitkrentz of Englewood, Florida; a 13-pound 3-ounce CUTTHROAT TROUT from Walker Lake, Nevada, by R. H. Heartt of South Pasadena, California, on a trolled flatfish; an 8½-pound WEAKFISH, off a Corpus Christi (Texas) Bay pier, by 76-year-old tourist Mrs. A. N. Mitchem of Englewood, Colorado, on a rented rod and reel.
SO—season opened (or opens); SC—season closed (or closes).
C—clear water; D—water dirty or roily; M—water muddy.
N—water at normal heigh; SH—slightly high; H—high; VH—very high; L—low; R—rising; F—falling.
WT50—water temperature 50°.
FG—fishing good; FF—fishing fair; FP—fishing poor; OG—outlook good; OF—outlook fair; OP—outlook poor
STRIPED BASS: VIRGINIA: Heavy catches of stripers in nets in Burwell's Bay, lower James River, indicate OG when waters clear.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Bass are moving up Congaree and Wateree rivers from Santee Cooper and FF below Wateree Dam near Camden.
CALIFORNIA: FVG in lower delta waters as bass average 15 pounds. First run of year reported from Santa Clara shoals indicates fish are moving up into delta. If calm, clear weather continues, OVG.
NEW JERSEY: First action of season just starting from Barnegat Inlet north through Island Beach area; most fish were taken on bloodworms but squidders were getting some action on metal, and OF/G.
STEELHEAD TROUT: WASHINGTON: Skagit River should be at peak of season now, with winged bobbers and cheesecloth egg clusters getting biggest play from fish and fishermen. SC March 15 for Samish, Sauk, Skookumchuck, North Fork, Stilliguamish and Skykomish rivers but many others open until March 31 or later. Puyallup River pistol-hot last week and OVG from Blue Riffle downstream. Wynooche River open only to Black Creek but mouth of Black Creek, the Wilkin Hole, the Gravel Pit and pool under Highway Bridge all excellent for steelhead from 12 pounds upward. FG, OG for Satsop River.
IDAHO: FF on main Salmon with best fishing below Riggans. Mouth of middle fork of Salmon producing some action for bait fishermen.
OREGON: North Santiam River F, C, FVG and OG, with best fishing from Mill City section to Mehama. Eagle Creek C, L, OG.
BLACK BASS: FLORIDA: FF/G in most bass waters of state despite low water levels; rain badly needed in some areas and would be welcome all over state.
CALIFORNIA: Lower Colorado River improving with warmer weather. Ferguson and Martinez lakes, unaffected by drought, yielding fine catches on live bait. On upper lakes, best spot is Cottonwood Landing on Lake Mohave. In San Diego county San Vicente Reservoir is slow but produced a 7-pounder for Leland Tompkins of San Diego.
LOUISIANA: "FVG all over," says effusive Cajun agent.
TEXAS: Possum Kingdom spy says bass to seven pounds are taking minnows, but Lake Texoma topped season's catches with a 10-pound 2-ounce bigmouth. Lakes Dallas, Caddo, Black and Travis: FF, OF.
CHANNEL BASS: NORTH CAROLINA: Bass to 50 pounds were landed in pound nets of Pamlico Sound fishermen near Hatteras last week and a few puppy drum were caught in beach haul seines along outer banks recently between Nags Head and Hatteras Inlet, indicating fish are in area, but sport is generally very poor for trollers or surf fishermen until first or second week in April.
GRIZZLY BEAR—BRITISH COLUMBIA
BOONE AND CROCKETT
The exclusive Boone and Crockett Club, final arbiter of big game hunting records, has awarded its coveted Sagamore Hill medal to J. A. Columbus of Anchorage, Alaska for shooting the largest polar bear ever measured. An involved mathematical point system which measures antlers, skull or horns (left), not weight or skins, is the basis for recognizing world big game records. Four other new world records were also honored at the meeting, including a Coues deer downed by Ed Stockwell of Tucson, Ariz. in the Santa Rita Mountains; a mule deer killed in the Kaibab National Forest by Horace T. Fowler of Phoenix; and a Columbian black-tail deer collected in Trinity County, Calif. by A. H. Hilbert of Sacramento. The grizzly bear skull submitted by the University of British Columbia received a certificate of merit awarded for scientific specimens.