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A proper birthday celebration for Frank Moore

As Americans we honor our veterans. It’s what we do. Our veterans and their families make huge sacrifices for the rest of us. And when they come home, many veterans turn to nature to help them transition to civilian life and to soothe the wounds, both physical and psychic, that often come back with them.

From my decades of experience as a fishing guide, I know that wild steelhead rivers and the opportunity to fish them are vitally important for many veterans. In fact, a few vets have dedicated virtually their entire civilian lives to conserving our wild steelhead streams here in the Pacific Northwest. Of these, the most renowned is Frank Moore of Idleyld Park.

Born and raised in Oregon, Frank Moore is one of the “greatest generation,” and served honorably in the European theater in World War II. When he returned home after the war, he settled in with his wife, Jeanne, to a cabin on his beloved North Umpqua River, where he proceeded to turn his passion for steelhead fishing into a profession and eventually founded the legendary Steamboat Inn. This locale has been a mainstay of the steelhead fishing experience on the North Umpqua since the early 1950s.

Few Oregonians have had a more profound, positive influence on so many of their fellows in the Beaver State than Frank and Jeanne, now married 75 years. This remarkable couple have been a role model to hundreds if not thousands of people over their decades of effort to protect Oregon outdoor treasures like the North Umpqua River. Rarely is there a time when they don’t have guests visiting — often from other states or Europe. Sharing conversation, meals, time on the water with a rod in hand. Looking for wildflowers in the woods. Casting lessons in Frank’s pond. Numerous Veteran’s Day parades. Frank and Jeanne are the centerpiece of all these activities, and more.

Their influence on their friends, community, and state have been well documented. Frank and Jeanne have been featured in numerous movies, television specials, magazine articles, news stories and films produced by conservation organizations. They have received awards from civic organizations as well as from every level of government.

Even foreign countries have paid tribute. France and Italy both sent representatives to Oregon to honor Frank for his contributions as an American G.I. in World War II.

In recent years, conservation and sportsmen’s groups, local businesses, tribes and elected officials have come together to create a fitting way to honor Frank and Jeanne Moore and, at the same time, protect the iconic fish that brought Frank and Jeanne back to the North Umpqua river: establish a special designation for some 100,000 acres of national forest lands along Steamboat Creek as the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary. This designation would ensure that these public lands are managed primarily to conserve habitat for the North Umpqua’s summer run of wild steelhead.

This designation requires action by Congress. Currently, thanks to Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Rep. Peter Defazio, there are bills in both the Senate and the House to establish the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary. The House version needs a co-sponsor. Sportsmen have urged Rep. Greg Walden to join DeFazio in honoring the Moores by creating the North Umpqua wild steelhead sanctuary. Two hundred veterans recently signed and submitted a letter to Walden asking him to do just that.

It’s not clear why he has, thus far, not stepped up to co-sponsor this legislation. It’s hard to imagine a more non-controversial, bipartisan cause than permanently honoring Frank and Jeanne Moore and their efforts to conserve wild steelhead in the North Umpqua.

Not often do we get the chance to honor one of our “greatest generation” veterans like Frank Moore and his beloved bride, Jeanne, like we can now. Frank Moore celebrated his 95th birthday on Jan. 30. Please join me in urging Congress to act now, to honor two of our greatest Oregonians and to better protect the North Umpqua’s legendary summer run of wild native steelhead.

— Dean Finnerty is wild steelhead initiative manager for Trout Unlimited.