Memories of Andy Rogers, the Seabeck ‘icon’February 1st, 2012 by cdunagan
Hood Canal has lost one of the region’s original environmentalists.
Andy Rogers, who died two weeks ago at age 94, might be surprised that I would call him an environmentalist — and he probably wouldn’t like it.
But when it comes to nature, few people could match Andy’s love for Hood Canal. He worked as a trapper, logger and fisherman and often talked about the bounty once found in Hood Canal but now lost to the advance of our civilized society.
Andy would never deny someone the right to move to the Hood Canal region, to build a house, to enjoy the water and woods. But he understood better than most about what development has done to the natural world.
“Every time anybody moves here, it gets worse — and that includes me,” he once told me. “You can’t do anything about it. People have rights. It seems our rights are going to kill us in the country.”
If Andy were alive this week, he’d be one of the first I would call to ask about whether humpback whales — like the one observed on Friday — ever showed up in Hood Canal. (See yesterday’s Water Ways.) Other longtime residents I contacted could not remember seeing humpbacks anytime in the past.
I once asked Andy about resident killer whales — the ones that eat fish. The National Marine Fisheries Service was about to designate “critical habitat” for our endangered orcas, and the agency was not listing Hood Canal as a critical place for them to live.
Andy thought back and remembered watching killer whales when he was younger — and even hearing them breach before he could see them. “We called them ‘blackfish’ in those days,” he said.
I relied on Andy Rogers to put Hood Canal into historical perspective for me while writing a series of articles called “Hood Canal: Splendor at Risk,” a project that grew into a book by the same name.
Much of the Hood Canal region was logged before Andy was born, but he lived to see many second-growth harvests and some areas that grew into harvestable trees for a third time. As a child, Hood Canal was a wilder place.
“When I was 10 or 11 years old,” he said, “I saw a sign that said, ‘No trespassing.’ I went and asked my mother what that was, because I had never seen that before. People went where they wanted to go.”
Some wild animals have been displaced by logging, but the changes were not permanent. Rogers told me that humans remain in control and can decide whether to tolerate cougars, wolves and bears. In days gone by, he said, the answer was simply to kill them on sight.
“Man’s the only one of the species who can control how many there are going to be,” he said.
Andy recalled when salmon were plentiful and arrived on a regular schedule.
“I knew the salmon would start up the creek about the 20th of August,” he told me. “Pert’ near all these stream were full of salmon by Labor Day.”
I think the loss of the salmon saddened him. He once suggested that all fishing be stopped for four years — something that seemed out of character for Andy, a fisherman. But the result, he said, would be an abundance of salmon. People would be able to see the possibilities and learn how to manage salmon for the larger numbers that were possible.
Andy lamented the loss of steelhead. He told me that he remembers when they were thick in all Kitsap County streams. At the time, I wasn’t sure I believed that, because steelhead are so scarce today. You generally go to coastal rivers to find them. But later, after steehead were listed as a threatened species, state biologists told me there was no apparent reason for steelhead not to survive here — except for the fact that there are no fish left to breed.
Rogers said it was poaching that wiped them out. He remembers a man who ran a black market for the prized fish, and this “outlaw” foolishly netted the streams until all the steelhead were gone.
Andy supported reasonable efforts to protect wildlife habitat, “but you cannot shut the door and keep people out,” he insisted.
I concluded my profile of Andy with a comment he made: “Id sure like to stick around and see what this place is like in 50 years.”
If that were only possible, I’m sure many people — including Andy’s coffee and card friends at Seabeck Store — wouldn’t mind listening to his stories a little longer.
At Andy’s request, no services are planned. A military honor ceremony was held today with his family in attendance. Andy Rogers was an Army veteran of World War II.
Survivors include his children, Albert Rogers, Jo Ann Belis, Barbara Smith and Charles Rogers, along with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Jo Ann told me that she wanted to offer a special thanks to members of the Seabeck Community who had supported Andy through the years. His family placed an obituary in the Kitsap Sun on Jan. 25.