Writing Out Loud: The 12 percent

By George Stahl

There is a void in California that is felt by 12 percent of the state’s population. Californians are one of the most year round outdoor enthusiasts in the country, enjoying hiking, rock climbing, skiing, surfing, snowboarding, and hunting. Camping and fishing are arguably the two activities that the majority of California residents do. Most of those who are active in these outdoor sports have been doing them since their childhood, including that 12 percent.

This 12 percent are Californians who are 61 years old and over. They have been baiting hooks and tying flies like it is a way of life, a sort of second nature to them. Many of these are also avid campers and have made it an art to combine the two activities. Their years of perfecting their techniques have earned them the right of being called ‘true outdoorsmen.’

The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands have seen fit to reward all U.S. residents who are 62 and older by making a lifelong camping pass available to them since 1994 for just $10. (This will increase to $80 on August 28, 2017.) They can use their America the Beautiful Pass as it is referred to, on National Park Service (NPS) camp sites throughout the United States. For some of these, taking advantage of this pass has allowed them to continue to take in the beauty and awe of not only California, but in 309 of the 417 National Park sites throughout the country.

The idea behind the nominal $10 charge for the camping passes seems to be saying simply, “Thank you for supporting us all of those years you have been bringing your families to the majestic areas of the country. “Thank you for your love of the outdoors and for your service to the preservation and respect of the forests, deserts and sea shores.”

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has no such pass for seniors. Although they do offer a lifetime fishing license, which is available for anyone to buy, according to their website, www.wildlife.ca.gov, it comes with a price tag, which varies according to the applicants’ age. It ranges from $518.25 to $846.75. For senior citizens, the only benefit, if it can even be called that, is that their cost for a Lifetime License is the base price of $518.25.

For their whole lives, these now seniors have worked their jobs, raised their families, and paid their taxes. Along with that, they have been buying their fishing licenses and have been obeying the laws of the CDFW religiously. This generation has been a major part of the formation of the California lifestyle. They have endured, preserved, and enhanced the landscape of California from one end of the state to the other. And for this and their other efforts to help their communities grow, they are not so much as given a handshake, let alone a ‘thank you’ from the CDFW.

It’s time that the CDFW step up! It’s time to recognize senior citizens for who they are: valued and productive members of a population that see outdoor activities as a way of life. Fishing is not just baiting a hook, it’s not just tying a fly to the tippet and whipping the rod back and forth until the fly lands on that sweet spot near the rocks. It’s being outside, it’s taking time to enjoy the feeling of uniting with nature and the earth on a higher scale. For some of the seniors, this has been taken from them. The cost for this tranquility is more than they can afford. So, as a result, the passion that once filled their day is no longer a part of their lives.

Why can’t we give these elderly men and women a break? A Golden or Forever Fishing License. We have senior discounts in restaurants, several businesses offer discounted prices to seniors and others even set aside senior days where the elderly are honored. We need to step up ourselves and advocate for the 12 percent of Californians who are 61 and over. We need to let the people who represent all of us in government know that it’s time to recognize that very important 12 percent for their lifetime of contributions.

It may seem like a small thing, a lifetime fishing license, but have you ever talked to a real fisherman? Anyone of them will tell you how important the sport is to them and how long it has been a part of their lives. Listening to their stories and the emotion with which they tell them puts a whole new perspective on what may have seemed like a simple sport to you before hearing them talk about that ‘one that got away.’ No longer!

Before it’s too late, we need to get these people their due. We need to lobby for the CDFW to amend their rules and offer this 12 percent a very affordable fishing license that will never expire.
Affordable Lifetime fishing licenses for elderly men and women!

The CDFW can be reached at www.wildlife.ca.gov. You can also write or call the CDFW’s Fish and Game Commission at California Fish and Game Commission P.O. Box 944209 Sacramento, CA 94244-2090. Executive Director: Valerie Termini fgc@fgc.ca.gov (916) 653-4899. Local representatives can be reached at their offices either here in the valley or in Bakersfield.

Let’s do this! Remember, you will be in that 12 percent one day too.

The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect those of the Sun. George Stahl can be reached at stahl_george@yahoo.com