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One of Recycled Fish's undertakings is distributing plastic bags at ice fishing contests. The fish stay alive for release and the participants can use the bags to collect trash after the events. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Anglers taking a stewardship pledge

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outdoors Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Becoming a conservationist requires effort and diligence. Though most anglers would consider themselves conservationists, further education has a major impact on protecting our natural resources.

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However, some people view conservation efforts as over-imposing.

Enter Teeg Stoufer. The energetic Council Bluffs, Iowa resident views stewardship in a different light.

It all started in 2003, when after a perfect day of fishing in the Cascade Mountains, Stoufer sat down for reflection. Instead of feeling joy after having the perfect scenery, light and trout fishing, he instead felt an "overwhelming sense of loss for future generations." At that moment Teeg Stoufer's life mission had been revealed; to do something to protect the valuable resource.

Spawned from that incident, Stoufer created a non-profit organization; Recycled Fish.

Yet Stoufer still had to get the word out to anglers and encourage them to truly live a life of stewardship because, as the Recycled Fish motto states, "life runs downstream."

Undaunted by the task, Recycled Fish simply asks anglers to take the "Stewardship Pledge," which is brief, but meaningful in protecting our resources.

I pledge to live a lifestyle of stewardship on and off the water. Living as a steward means making choices throughout my daily life that benefit lakes, streams and seas - and the fish that swim in them - because my lifestyle runs downstream.

I will learn the fish and game laws where I hunt or fish and always abide by them.

I will practice Catch & Release and Selective Harvest faithfully and responsibly.

I will "police my resource" by turning in poachers and reporting polluters.

I will make up for "the other guy" by cleaning up litter wherever my adventures take me.

I will boat safely and responsibly, never trespass, and treat other enthusiasts respectfully

I will provide my time, money, or other resources to support stewardship efforts.

I will take steps to see that my home, lawn, vehicle, workplace and everyday lifestyle are as fish-friendly as I can make them by reducing my water, energy, material and chemical footprint.

I will encourage others to take on this ethic and will connect others with the outdoors to grow the stewardship community.

I choose to serve as a role model in protecting what remains and recovering what's been lost of our wild and natural places.

I am a steward.

Recycled Fish launched the Stewardship Pledge program in 2007 and within four months, anglers from 40 states and four countries had signed up. Today more than 11,000 people have taken the pledge across North America and 20 countries.

Stoufer doesn't preach conservation, he simply encourages it. He invites anglers to keep a few fish, but to be mindful of how many you actually will eat.

Yet Recycled Fish has a holistic view on protecting our angling resources by living green; using reusable shopping bags and compact fluorescent light bulbs, planting native trees and a multitude of other everyday activities that limit our carbon footprint.

Interested individuals can take the Stewardship Pledge online at www. recycledfish.org.

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