River Steward Stories: Jim Andras
In this third installment of River Stories, we catch up with River Steward, Jim Andras. Jim and his wife Rachel are River Stewards for Bear Creek, an important spawning and rearing tributary for wild salmon and steelhead in southern Oregon's Rogue River. Jim has more than fifteen years as a steelhead guide in southern Oregon and northern California, and has been working on a Kids and Steelhead program to engage the next generation of stewards with the awe-inspiring life of wild steelhead. Like steelhead, Jim believes, the rivers they call home are beautiful, powerful, diverse and resilient. Educating youth about the life of steelhead will inspire the next generation of stewards to create lasting, positive environmental impacts for the future. Read more to learn about Jim and his passion for his homewaters.
Bear Creek, tributary to the Rogue River
1. What do you love about your homewaters?
Bear Creek flows through the Rogue Valley and is just a few miles from where I live. It winds its way through the 100,000+ residents of Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Medford and Central Point in just under 30 miles earning the title of "the most urbanized stream within coastal watersheds" of Oregon (ODFW). At times, in places, it looks nothing like a stream that would support wild steelhead let alone much else. Yet, it is very much alive! I've grown to root for this underdog and embrace every opportunity to speak on her behalf.
2. How long have you been a River Steward?
I feel like I've been a river steward for most of my life. I joined TU in my teens and could not wait for the next Zane Grey newsletter to arrive in our mailbox. Articles regarding stream restoration projects and native Apache Trout grabbed my interest early. Today, I am thrilled to work on behalf of native, wild steelhead with the Native Fish Society.
3. What does being a River Steward mean to you? Why is it important?
Wild steelhead need friends. My work as a River Steward revolves around educating youth of the Rogue Valley about these fish that depend on creeks flowing through their neighborhoods. I feel more friends for wild steelhead will ultimately lead to better protections.
4. What are you working on in your homewaters?
We moved to the Rogue Valley in 2005 and the idea to build an educational program initially sparked through conversations with other anglers. Over time, as I spoke with more and more people, young and old, on the river and off, the need for an awareness campaign felt even more important. Today, I visit elementary and middle schools with the goal of getting these fish on their radar and creating a steelhead buzz that never fades regardless if they ever pick up a rod or not. It's not easy. Steelhead aren't cuddly and are often difficult to find. Yet, I've learned that there are an awful lot of kids that really love unicorns.
5. Are there any successes or challenges that you would like to share?
This February, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will make its decision on the 229 mile Jordan Cove LNG pipeline that would impact the Rogue River watershed and hundreds of waterways across S. Oregon. To say the least, it's not a fish friendly project. On November 21, a rally is scheduled at the Oregon State Capitol from 11a - 1p to, once again, tell Governor Brown to finally put this to bed. #StopJordanCove!
6. What do you hope for the future of this watershed? What do you want your community to know?
Despite challenges that face the Rogue River and Bear Creek, wild steelhead will continue to thrive into the future. With people like Peter Tronquet, Charles Gehr, Brian Sohl, Bob Hunter, Ryan Battleson, Scott Howell, John MacDiarmid, Robyn Janssen, Jake Crawford, Hannah Sohl and so many others working towards a better tomorrow I feel wild abundance will persist! Take a moment and look into the creek where you live. If it flows into Bear Creek or the Rogue River, chances are wild steelhead touch it.