BASS Conservation Summit focusses on big issues in fishing
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Sunday, February 26, 2012
2/26/12 at 6:03 AM
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A side event to the 2012 Bassmaster Classic is underway with little fanfare but may have lasting impacts that may strike close to the hearts of all anglers.
The BASS Conservation Summit, resurrected after a five-year hiatus, has paired about 35 state BASS Federation Nation Conservation Directors with their state's fisheries chiefs, plus a few federal agency representatives and university researchers. The summit involves about 65 people in all.
One man in a unique position at the conference is Gene Gilliland, assistant fisheries chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and also a former Federation conservation director.
While Oklahoma is home to several thousand BASS members, there are roughly 500-600 BASS Federation Nation members, Gilliland said. It is a membership of anglers who belong to bass fishing clubs affiliated with the BASS organization. "It entitles you to some additional tournament opportunities and to participate in conservation projects and youth activities," Gilliland said.
Federation volunteers always figure heavily into efforts to put on BASS tournaments in the state. This weekend's summit aims to give them some even loftier goals to be tackled by the volunteer state conservation directors, Gilliland said.
On Friday, Federation members from each state offered updates on their clubs' ongoing projects. State officials and scientists involved in various research projects. "Sunday will be our day to identify the really important issues facing bass fishing, and fishing in general, in the future. The goal is to identify what state agencies and the BASS Federation membership can to do address those issues," Gilliland said.
Federation clubs often take on lake clean-up projects and habitat improvement efforts, but Gilliland said directors are being encouraged to think bigger. "We're facing issues like, is there enough water and is the water clean enough, is the habitat in good shape, and do we even have access to the water or is it being privatized and taken away from the public? These are some pretty big and sometimes politically charged issues," he said.
State agencies might identify and research some of these issues but, as government entities, "we often don't have control to tackle those issues." Gilliland said. "But users of those resources may need to speak up and fight for their piece of the pie."
"We're hoping to educate and motivate these conservation directors to go home to their states and take on some of those bigger challenges," he said.
Original Print Headline: Summit focuses on big issues
Kelly Bostian, 918-581-8357