Project for Hope and Healing
Project Healing Waters helps military families at BLM’s Delta Wild and Scenic River corridor
Imagine three days of fly-fishing in the beautiful Tangle Lakes area, with one of Alaska’s premiere flyfishing instructors and a cadre of dedicated volunteers standing by to make sure your every need is met.
BLM Fishery Biologist Tim Sundlov helps Evan Wheeler flyfish on Tangle River. Photo by Kris Long
About 30 soldiers and their families had just that experience Aug. 26-28, during BLM-Alaska’s first partnership with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. The nonprofit offers basic fly fishing, casting, tying and rod building classes and equipment at no charge for wounded active military personnel and disabled veterans in Department of the Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals throughout the country. Glennallen Field Office fisheries biologist Tim Sundlov coordinated the weekend with Project Healing Waters’ Elmendorf Air Force Hospital program in Anchorage.
During the weekend, participants of all ages experienced fly fishing, casting, tying or rod building for the first time at BLM-managed lands in the scenic Delta Wild and Scenic River corridor, which includes the BLM Tangle Lakes Campground, Tangle Lakes and nearby Gulkana River. Others took their children berry-picking along the new BLM trail on the ridges above the Tangle Lakes Campground and participated in the ‘skull and furs’ workshop, where natural resource specialists from the Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment shared their knowledge of Alaska’s furbearers and the area’s flora and fauna. The schedule left plenty of time to enjoy brilliant tundra fall colors, catch glimpses of migrating caribou and swans, gather around campfires or simply relax in the company of other recovering soldiers and veterans.
Project Healing Waters’ volunteers teach fly fishing classes on an on-going, long-term basis, with the Federation of Fly Fishers, Trout Unlimited and independent fly fishing clubs conducting the program with help from sponsors such as the BLM. Judging from the widespread interest in the weekend—more than 300 military families initially expressed interest in attending—this year’s successful partnership may be the first of many.
— Kris Long