- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Field & Stream Magazine recently recognized a number of American grassroots conservationists and one, Jim Cummins, is practically a household name among Potomac River fans. Cummins received the magazine’s Heroes of Conservation Award and no one is more deserving than this splendid scientist.

Over the years, Cummins, of Bakerton, W.Va., has been an indispensable member of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB). He was the driving force behind the stocking of more than 17 million American shad into the Potomac River’s depleted fishery as he led the fight to open 10 miles of critical spawning habitat that had been blocked for more than 40 years.

In 1995, with no money and lacking support from stocking programs in neighboring rivers, Cummins hired a local waterman to net shad and learned to strip eggs from females, squeeze the milt from males, and mix them together with a shad tail.

“Shad survive by overwhelming predators with their sheer numbers, so you have to stock for years to get to that threshold,” he said. “Finally, about the fifth year, the numbers started picking up as the young of the year began returning. We’ve turned the corner. Now we’re helping Virginia restock the Rappahannock River.”

Not long ago, Cummins also was selected to receive the American Sportfishing Association’s Future of Fishing Award.

Field & Stream’s Conservation Heroes were flown to New York for a ceremony. Also honored was Ronnie Luster, of Houston, who was responsible for getting his state to agree that waterborne, discarded crab traps were killing crabs, turtles and other marine life. Because of Luster, more than 20,000 old crab traps have been removed.

Dr. Paul E. Morrow, of Haslett, Mich., was chosen for his creation of special seeds that will feed deer and birds. He handed out such forage-inducing seeds all over the state.

Jeff Olson, of Rapid City, S.D., has been on a mission to keep South Dakota’s Indian Creek area looking much as it did when Lewis and Clark arrived. Over the last year, as president of his Safari Club, Olson has rallied to demand federal protection for the 35,895 acres of windswept tablelands and plunging canyons.

Steve Simmons, of Merced, Calif., has logged 195 miles on his ladder, checking wood duck boxes. The species’ habitat had been dwindling for decades, so in 1974, Simmons began putting up boxes in a river bottom near his home. For the next 30 years, the area has been the state’s leading producer of wood ducks. In 1991, Simmons and the California Waterfowl Association began a program that has installed 5,400 boxes statewide. So far, 60,000 ducks have been born on his watch.

The sixth honoree was Christopher Tompkins, of Lake Forest Park, Wash. Tompkins has been dumping fish carcasses in rivers since 2003 because, historically, millions of migratory fish surged up the Puget Sound tributaries, carrying marine-derived nutrients. When the fish died, the nutrients passed through the food web to young salmonids on their way to sea. Each week in the fall, with the help of fellow Trout Unlimited members, Tompkins makes sure the little ones have something to eat.

Famed rifle maker dies — The National Rifle Association sent word that a beloved member of the NRA family, Cecil Brooks, died last week. Brooks was the most recognized of America’s many famous custom gunmakers, known for his exquisite old-style flintlock and percussion rifles. He was 93.

Brooks was born and raised along the Ohio River in Belpre, Ohio. His flintlock rifles were in particularly high demand.

Grants available for hikers — The American Hiking Society, a leader in promoting and protecting foot trails and the hiking experience, says it is now accepting applications for grants from the 2007 National Trails Fund. With declining federal support of the nation’s hiking trails, the privately financed National Trails Fund grants provide important economic assistance to grassroots organizations and give the resources needed to build or repair new or existing trails, protect trail corridors, and support trail outreach and volunteer programs.

Grants range from $500 to $10,000 a project and are awarded to dedicated nonprofit organizations who have hikers as the primary constituency; however, all human powered trail users also apply.

Applications must be postmarked by Nov. 1, 2006. For more information and to download the 2007 National Trails Fund guidelines, visit www.AmericanHiking.org or contact Ivan Levin at [email protected]

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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