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Loved to Death


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Native Sounds: Clear Creek

Podcast with Tom Schneider 

Go west, the wide open spaces are calling. Forget the clutter of the city, the drool of a cubical maze, the monotony of 40 hours, the congestion of constricted road ways, like those drunken college nights, forget. Go west. Let the towering mountains instill wonder. Walk pathways to heaven with those who embody grit, fish streams adorned with blue ribbons, stand at gateways higher than the top floor of any office building, worry not of work or money, green comes easy here. Go west.

As the Front Range grows less and less of what we thought we knew about the west is true. Ant colonies of people walk stairways to heaven only to find Lucifer disguised as a plastic water bottle waiting for them at the summit. There are those at the summit who miss their opportunity to be great. Skipping over the bottle they reach down into their pocket, retrieve civilization, stretch out their arm, raise it to heavens now only blocked by clouds and press their swollen thumb gently against a four inch by four inch glass ceiling. They recognize the beauty of a distant valley but fail to see harm in what has been ever present in their day to day life, plenty. Plenty blinds us. It lures us into seeing ecosystems as exploitable resources, not a connected habitat we play but a small roll in.

Those who exploit plenty are the life blood of a human economy. There is no doubt they cherish the wild landscapes they wander, they simply have forgotten or have not discovered the feeling of being connected to or a part of a wild place.

Instilling this feeling of remembrance, childhood, connectedness, is Tom Schneider’s favorite part about owning a guide only shop. Tom lives in, and operates Sunrise Anglers out of, unincorporated Jefferson County with permits to lead trips on water throughout the state. Tom’s goal is to cultivate personal connections with clients to ensure they not only catch fish, they also remember or recognize the peace that flows through rivers into humans, all the while preserving ecosystems for generations to come.

Most call them honey holes, Tom calls them thriving ecosystems. Tom, like most, sees these places as those worth protecting. Sunrise Anglers may have legal access to some of the best honey holes in Colorado but Tom holds these sacred spots away from main stream advertisement. To ensure his children will have the same quality of recreation he has had, Tom manages available water with one eye on current ecosystem health and another on continued ecosystem prosperity.

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Plenty to Tom is a privilege. Pristine ecosystems are a glimpse into the not so distant past, their repugnant counterparts a window into a not so bright future. Through community involvement, philanthropy, and boots on the ground conservation work Tom and Sunrise Anglers are working to alter the trajectory of cold water ecosystems throughout the Clear Creek watershed. Their work includes helping to reclaim Herman Gulch for greenback cutthroat trout reintroduction, main stem Clear Creek restoration work, and a by request cutthroat trip. Money raised by the trip is donated, in support of cold water ecosystems throughout the state, to Colorado Trout Unlimited.

Money left on the table. A term that comes to mind when thinking of a business model that does not maximize profit making ability. The nature of Tom’s management practices and philanthropy leave profits un-reaped. Why would a business man knowingly leave money on the table? Tom refuses to maximize profit because the allure of our state and the west is manifesting its self as an intense love of escape. Through our insatiable need for escape we are loving our state’s unique topography to death.

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Places, humanized and wild, live on a sliding scale. There are almost no remaining completely wild places, likewise there are almost no completely humanized places. Wilderness has at one time or another been logged and in almost any city you can find a much gentrified plot of wild space. Where a place lives on the scale is subjective but objectively it is easier for a space to become more humanized. Houses, ski resorts, dams, roads ect. are easily justifiable “improvements”. By making commutes faster, water more prevalent, winter profitable, and our morning routine mindless man made aspects of landscape have measurable positive effects on a society. Wilderness is a haven for thoughtfulness, reflection, connection, discovery, adventure, immeasurable aspects of humanity that dollars and cents do not speak to. Try telling that to legislators. In order to ensure we will forever be able to find these immeasurable aspects of wilderness we must manage wilderness. Participate in river clean ups, practice leave no trace, follow local conservation initiatives, and talk to friends about why you love the mountains. Protect the spaces you recreate so every day you leave your house or every weekend you come home from the hills you can think to yourself “How long until I am  back here?”.