Building futures through public lands

By Mark Kaelke


The places we recreate are linked to who we are as people.  Our public lands and the fish and game they offer access to, provide us experiences that yield photos like the ones above of my daughters and some of the first fish they ever caught without my help.  


Although these photos were taken 12 years ago, the places will always be special to us for providing those experiences and for the memories that go with them.


Every year, our family fished these three streams along a remote rocky coastline in the Tongass National Forest.  As the girls got stronger and more proficient with fly rods, the quarry shifted from Dolly Varden to pink and chum salmon. Along with the excellent fishing, we were blessed to see bears, otters, eagles, wolf and whales and sea lions just off-shore.  


When the fishing slowed, the girls built practice fires along the beach or skipped rocks in the calmer pools. Some years, visiting friends and relatives joined us, but regardless, the emphasis was more on being out in great places together than on fishing.


The other notable things about these places is we rarely saw another group of people.  We had these streams all to ourselves and they became ours which no doubt deepened our attachment to them.


After 13 years, the places have changed very little. Soon, my older daughter will be off to her first year of college and the younger one will leave home to continue participating in an elite women’s hockey program. They have both grown into independent, beautiful and confident young women that I am incredibly proud of.  I like to think tailing a salmon fresh from the ocean, fishing among bears, building fires and the many other things they learned and experienced during our days afield helped forge those qualities.


Wherever the world takes them, we will share the same fond memories of those incredible places and the outstanding experiences we had in them. Public lands give us a great deal more than what we receive the day of our visit.


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