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St. Lawrence River & Key Figures Play Big Role in Upcoming Film – Updated

August 5th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

In June the crew from Changing Currents, PLU MediaLab, came to New York, Ontario and, specifically the St. Lawrence River for interviews and filming for “Changing Currents: Protecting North America’s Rivers”, an examination of river pollution and restoration efforts in North America.

While here they interviewed two of Save The River‘s strongest partners in our efforts to preserve and protect the St. Lawrence and the larger Great Lakes system – Jill Jedlicka, Executive Director of Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER and Jeff Ridal, Executive Director of the St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences.

Featured, as well, are Angie Barnes (Tsionerahtase) and Dr. Mary Arquette (Iotenerahtatenion). Both have dedicated their lives protecting the waters, culture, and environment for future generations in Akwesasne on the St. Lawrence River and both are employees of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Environment Division, a strong and important voice in St. Lawrence River restoration.

Also interviewed was our very own Board President, Jeff Garnsey, as a local business owner and seventh-generation resident.

In the just released trailer we hear Jeff at the beginning, Angie at the 5 second mark, see Jill at the 30 second mark, Jeff at 46 seconds and Dr. Arquette at 55, all making excellent points. The whole trailer offers a glimpse of how impactful this production will be.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 40 percent of rivers and lakes in the United States are too polluted for swimming or fishing. The mission of the film is to educate others on ecological river health, encourage environmental stewardship and advocate for dialog regarding effective river protection. The film is currently in pre-production and will premiere on Nov. 12, 2016 in the Theatre on the Square at the Broadway Center for Performing Arts in Tacoma, Washington.

 

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Save The River Annual Meeting Held New Board Members and Officers Elected

September 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Lee

Published by the Daily Courier-Observer on September 2, 2015

Clayton, NY– Thursday, August 27th, Save The River held its Annual Membership meeting.  Among the items acted on was the election of three new Directors who add to the national, geographic, professional and demographic diversity of the now eighteen-member Board of Directors.

“It is great to have Karen Douglass Cooper, Jessica Jock, and Cicely Johnston, each of whom come from previously under-represented regions of the St. Lawrence River, join our Board,” stated Lee Willbanks, Riverkeeper and Save The River Executive Director. “In addition to broadening our geographic scope to now include all of the Upper St. Lawrence, 2 of the 3 are Canadian, these women bring new personal and professional experience to our efforts to protect and preserve this magnificent River.” Jeff Garnsey, newly elected President of the Board added, “I believe we are entering one of the most important and exciting periods in Save The River’s history. We now have a broader base on both sides of our River than ever before. I am excited to be a part of it.”

Ann Ward, Board Member Emerita, stated “for years we’ve tried to increase the number of Canadian members on our Board to more closely match the truly international nature of our work on the River. This is an excellent start.”

K CooperKaren Douglass Cooper, who for the last seven years has worked exclusively on projects dealing with fresh water protection throughout the upper St. Lawrence River Watershed Region, said “to share in the international scope of protection and conservation work being undertaken by Save The River is both an honour and a privilege. I am very much looking forward to serving with this wonderful team.” Ms. Cooper is the Communications / Community Outreach Officer for the St. Lawrence Institute of Environment Sciences and Coordinator for the Remedial Action Plan for the St. Lawrence River Area of Concern (AOC) in Cornwall, Ontario. She has also worked on fresh water protection and public education with South Nation Conservation Authority, the Dundas Environmental Awareness Group and the Raisin ‐ South Nation Drinking Water Source Protection Program.

J Jock

Jessica Jock is a self-professed life‐time river lover. As an Environmental Scientist for the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Environment Division in Akwesasne, she has worked 13 years on various River projects related to Superfund cleanups, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Ms. Jock, stated, “I’m honored to have been nominated by my peers, and to have received the support of the membership. I look forward to serving the mission of Save The River and enthusiastically accept the role to promote good river stewardship for the River communities.” She has presented at local, state, and national conferences on River health, served on committees, and collaborated with many resource agencies and non‐profit organizations. She has volunteered and served on the St. Lawrence River Walleye Association, Inc. and Northern TRIBS Swimming, Inc. board of directors.

C JohnstonCicely Johnston was born and raised in the Thousand Islands and is the 5th generation in her family‐owned business, Ed Huck Marine of Rockport, Ontario. According to Ms. Johnston, “I started working at the marina quite young and quickly found I shared a passion for the River with other River Rats, whether they were locals, cottagers or boaters. This connection taught me the importance of a clean, sustainable River not only for recreation but commerce as well.” Ms. Johnston is a fundraiser for Queen’s University, holds a certificate in Professional Fundraising from Boston University, and is co‐chair of a Queen’s University Senate Committee, and a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, South Eastern Ontario Chapter.

In other business conducted at the meeting, members heard from Executive Director Willbanks about some of the many initiatives, partnerships and accomplishments of Save The River in the preceding year. But he did point out that amid the positives, Plan 2014, the new and much needed water levels plan for the River has not yet been approved, legislation banning microbeads from personal care products is still in limbo in New York and there is still a threat of shipments of Bakken and tar sands crude oil on the River. Willbanks noted, “there are still real and significant threats to the health of the River and the communities that depend on it. Save The River remains the voice for the environment, the communities and all those who share the use of the River. We have to stay vigilant and maintain our ability to be that strong voice.”

In addition to the three new Board members, current Directors Jeff Garnsey, John McGrath, Steve Taylor, and Lauran Throop were re-elected for another three-year term. Elected as officers for the coming year were: Jeff Garnsey, President; Lauran Throop, Vice President; Fred Morey, Treasurer; John Peach, Secretary; and Jack Butts, Member-At-Large. The Directors also approved an amendment to the not-for-profit’s bylaws establishing term limits for Board members, limiting all Directors to no more than two, three year terms.

More information about Save The River’s programs and work to protect the Upper St. Lawrence River can be found at www.savetheriver.org.

Jessica Jock Cicely Johnston Karen Cooper

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John Peach’s Fish Tale … in an Antique St. Lawrence Skiff

December 16th, 2014 | Posted by admin

Muskie Catch and Release from an Antique St Lawrence Skiff

Written by John Peach posted on December 13, 2014

I had just dropped back my antique Skinner Muskie spoon and started to pull on the oars of Perry, our antique St Lawrence skiff, when the reel on the pre 1920 wooden rod started to scream as line ripped off the reel.

My first thought was I had hooked bottom, as the rod bounced in the ancient iron rod holder mounted to a thwart clamped across the skiff’s gunnels. As I feathered my oars, letting them rotate in their oarlocks until they were gliding alongside the boat, and reached for the rod, the line still ran out too fast to be bottom. Pressing my thumb down on the leather drag piece of the reel, I realized I had a large fish hooked up. Perhaps a big pike or river catfish, but the prospect of a muskie did not occur to me until I first saw the swirl far behind the pointed stern of the 16’ skiff.

John_Peach_in_skiff

As the bass season slows down in late September, I switch from trolling Rapalas for bass to dragging lures and spoons for pike. By October, I have broken out my antique 4’ wooden Muskie rod and reel. The only drag device, the method of inducing friction to the reel of line as it unspools, is a pad of leather hinged to a bar on the reel. In hindsight, I can say you need to be an octopus to have enough arms to row a skiff, fight a large fish with a leather drag reel, and attempt to photograph and release the fish. Most mornings from May through October begin with me rowing Perry, our 16’ Spalding St Lawrence Boat Co skiff built in 1900 in Ogdensburg, NY. My 30 to 40-minute row usually includes trolling a lure for pike or bass, with an occasional catch and release bringing a rush of excitement to my exercise regime.

I like to troll antique Skinner spoons, manufactured years ago by GM Skinner on James Street in Clayton, NY. Made from the 1880s until the mid-1900s, they gained a worldwide reputation as the finest Muskie bait available anywhere in the world. The deep running spoons had their own metallic luster coupled with bucktail “feathers”, and were also available in a baked on red & white enamel pattern. My particular spoon was a 4” model with red and white feathers and a large triple hook. It had seen years of use before I found it at the swap meet years ago in Clayton. I have always been intrigued with the old prints of guides landing large muskies for their well-dressed sports in a net held over the gunnel of a St Lawrence skiff. My curious mind wondered if a little artistic license was taken when painting the scene, as all those people looking and leaning over the gunnel of a reasonable tippy boat looked like a recipe for disaster.

Musky_release_STFFishermen who successfully catch and release a legal size muskie, currently 48” or larger, receive a special edition Michael Ringer print of the mighty St Lawrence muskie. The Muskellunge (Muskie) is considered by most fishermen the most highly prized North American fresh water fish. Fishing pressure and pollution had caused the numbers of mature muskie to become seriously low by 1987 when Save The River (Clayton NY) launched its very successful Muskie Catch and Release program.

To date, over 1000 prints have been awarded to St Lawrence River fishermen for releasing these magnificent fish. Save The River is about to launch its third edition Muskie print, thanks to the very generous support of Michael Ringer. Releasing the most mature large fish put the best breeding stock back in the River, which is critical to the continued rebuilding of the muskie population.

As I held the pounding rod and reel and applied friction, I realized I had a logistical challenge in my hands. I could just fight the fish, but he would tow the skiff around and probably break loose before I could get him close to the boat. I tried putting the rod back in the holder and rowing a few strokes to keep headway with the boat, but it was impossible to keep drag on the reel with my thumb and row the boat at the same time.According to John Farrell, PhD, the fish have also been under pressure from an evolving virus, VHS, which was first positively identified in a mature muskie in the River in 2006. Naturally occurring swings in water temperature, such as happened in 2005, also stress muskie, leading to weakness and death of some fish. Farrell, director of SUNY ESF’s Thousand Island Biological Station, has been studying the St Lawrence River muskie population for many years now along with the staff of the Governor’s Island biological center. I recommend the very informative article “Development, implementation, and evaluation of an international muskellunge management strategy for the upper St Lawrence River” by Farrell, Klindt, Casselman, LaPan, Werner, and Schiavone published in 2007 in Environmental Biology of Fishes 79:111-123.
SEcond_Musky

I finally developed the program of rowing a few strokes whenever the fish slowed its run, and I could release the drag (I tried to put my toe of my sneaker up on the drag, but that almost caused an upset of the boat!).

After about 15 minutes of fighting the fish and seeing it swirl as it got closer to the boat, I heard a yell of encouragement from another fisherman standing on the shore line. He seemed almost as excited as me, and enjoying the thrill as much as me. About this time in the struggle I started to think about landing the fish for a clean release, but a quick glance behind my shoulder at my knot free net used for bass convinced me that device was seriously undersized for the event. I do stow a large club like stick for landing large pike, but that was not meant as a release device.

Lapstrake constructed skiffs usually take two to three days to soak up after being hauled out for a few days, so my first row after a relaunch usually gets my feet wet unless I stop to pump out the water every 10 minutes. I’m sure you can visualize the scene as the water sloshing in the bilge lapped at my feet. I was not too worried yet, as I was working closer to the shore and the water was still reasonably warm. As the magnificent fish got closer to the skiff, my excitement grew as I realized I had a huge muskie, and not a pike, on the line. Now I had two new challenges – get a photograph and make a quick and clean release. I always place my iPhone on the seat next to me as I row, looking for interesting photographs of the 1000 Islands and the fish and wildlife I encounter. But I was seriously short of hands at this point, needing two to row, two to hold the reel, and one to photograph. To say it was a challenge is an understatement. My skiff is normally a pretty dry boat, but several days of windy weather prior to this row had caused me to haul the boat and wait for calmer waters for my morning rows.

I finally feathered the oars, which is generally easy in the well-designed St Lawrence skiff. If you release your hands slowly, the oars will swing in next to the hull and trail along, providing you do not hit them with your arm and knock them overboard! Carefully burying the rod butt in my crotch and holding the reel and drag with my right hand, I grabbed my iPhone with my left and attempted to unlock the infernal device with my thumb which was now cramped from rowing and fighting the fish. The huge fish was now alongside the aft portion of the skiff, in perfect position for a trophy photo. I glanced up at the camera to see if I had inadvertently put it in “selfie” mode, and was surprised as the strong fish thrashed its tail and jerked the rod. That caused the camera to slip from my hand, promptly executing a swan dive into the bilge water in the boat. Luckily, it was enclosed in its LifeProof watertight case – a must for any boater and fisherman – but quickly slipped up under the seat in the sloshing water.

rod2As I guided my muskie back along the starboard stern quarter, I reached down to my old wooden club which had a rough end that would be perfect to push against the two exposed hooks sticking out of the side of the fish’s mouth. Just as I put the rounded tip of the stick against one of the exposed hooks and exerted a little pressure the fish swirled away from the boat and the Skinner spoon popped free from its mouth. It slowly rolled away from the skiff, giving me one more glimpse of the most magnificent fresh water fish I have ever seen. I have caught much larger salt water species, but none gave me the thrill of catching this magnificent muskie within a mile of our own dock. I quickly decided my highest priority was to once more bring the fish alongside and make a clean release, allowing the trophy muskie to once more swim free and breed. Fighting the fish too long can injure it to the point where it can never recover and perhaps die.

My fellow fisherman on the shoreline was shouting his encouragement to me about the fish. He seemed almost as excited as me, and agreed to sign my Save The River certificate authenticating the catch. He did not use a camera, but told me he saw the fish jump once and swirl several times.

Talking to my new friend gave me an opportunity to tell him about Save The River’s Muskie Catch and Release program as well as the new Bass Catch and Release program. Launched at the opening of the 2014 Bass season, it has as its motto “…because a bass is too valuable to catch only once.” Fishermen are asked to send photos to Save The River, and weekly photo prize winners receive a Catch and Release sweatshirt provide by Ed Huck marine in Rockport, Ontario. The Bass Catch and Release program is also sponsored by ROSCO Terminal Tackle, the oldest and largest manufacturer of terminal fishing tackle in the United States. The fourth generation owner of Rosco is an avid fisherman and River Rat and was excited to be able to sponsor a program designed to return bass to the River. Save The River’s literature and media describe proper techniques for catching and releasing both bass and muskie, and can be viewed at www.savetheriver.org.

Upon hearing my fish story a good friend of mine commented “even though you don’t have the picture you will have the memory for your lifetime.” How right he was. Catching and releasing the River’s most iconic game fish from an antique skiff using turn of the last century fishing tackle was a thrill of my lifetime. It already has me planning for next season, and has me convinced those old muskie fishing prints portrayed superb fishing guides using just a touch of artistic license to keep the boats upright and dry.

Anyone interested in learning more about Save The River’s Catch and Release program can check-out its website, Facebook, or call 315-686-2010.

By John Peach, Huckleberry Island, Ivy Lea

Published by ThousandIslandsLife.com on December 13, 2014

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Jack Butts, Sunnyside Island Voted to Save The River Board New Officers Elected

August 25th, 2014 | Posted by admin

Butts J

Clayton, NY (August 25, 2014) – Save The River held its Annual Membership Meeting August 21. At that meeting John (Jack) H. Butts III became the newest addition to the Save The River Board of Directors.  Jack, President and CEO of Rosco Terminal Tackle, Rome, New York, comes from a long line of River Rats; he spent his early childhood on Butts Island near Ivy Lea where he learned his love for the River.  He now calls Sunnyside Island home, where he lives with his wife Rita.  Jack is active with various other organizations on both sides of the River.

Along with Jack, five current board members returned to the board of directors for another three-year term – Skip Behrhorst, Fred Morey, John Peach, Roger Peinkofer, and Liz Raisbeck.

Save The River also elected officers for the coming year. Bill Grater, Grater Architects and a long time Save The River Board member will continue as Board President. Jeff Garnsey, Classic Island Tours, was elected Vice President. Fred Morey is returning as Treasurer, Clif Schneider Secretary and Lauran Throop as Member-At-Large.

For a list of current Save The River Board member’s click here.

Categories: Blog,Board,Homepage,News
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Restoring the Common Tern in the Islands

July 18th, 2014 | Posted by admin
Meet our newest Riverkeeper volunteers, Patti, Jennifer, and Nathan, they are dressed and ready for the part.
Don’t miss out on your chance to attend a Riverkeeper Volunteer Training. We still have openings in our next training on Wednesday, July 30th from 6-7pm at the Save The River office in Clayton. To register call 315-686-2010. See you there!

Tern1Once a very plentiful part of our waterbird population in the St Lawrence River Valley, the Common Tern has dropped to significantly low levels, due to a loss of nesting habitat and the expansion of Ring-billed Gulls. As a result of this dramatic decline in numbers, the Common Tern was listed as a threatened species in New York State. Save The River (STR) and the Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) have formed a cooperative effort, in conjunction with Dr. Lee Harper, of Riveredge Associates, to monitor Common Tern nesting areas on the River. Residents from the Chippewa Bay area have also been very involved in helping to monitor and restore Tern habitat.

STR first became involved in 1997, with TILT volunteering the use of their Eagle Wing Shoals and Tidd Island soon thereafter. TILT maintains some of the last natural nesting shoals, still utilized by Common Terns, on the Upper St. Lawrence River.

Tern 2

All of the date collected by STR and TILT’s volunteers is gathered on standardized reporting format and reported the o the season to Dr. Harper. This critically important information helps Dr. Harper plan for habitat restoration efforts. Most of the navcells have now been encircled by plastic netting, which helps to keep young chicks from jumping off the high cells into the River before they can fly. A necessary tool at chick banding time is a small fish net to retrieve “jumpers” who jump into the water. The Eagle Wings shoals located just off Clayton, has been covered with a polypropylene line grid, installed each spring and broken down late summer by TILT and STR volunteers. Holes are drilled into the granite and steel bars are stuck into the holes to anchor the grid. It is an intense fun day long effort. TILT transports the crew out to the islands in their fantastic work boat, lunch is provided for all volunteers. And more volunteers are always welcome!

To read the entire article visit thousandislandslife.com.

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