Environmental film series begins again Saturday at Milwaukie High School

"Films, fish, fishermen and the stories they tell" is the overall theme of the sixth annual Milwaukie Watershed Event at 7 p.m. on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, in the J. C. Lillie Center for the Arts, at Milwaukie High School, 11300 S.E. 23rd Ave.

SUBMITTED PHOTOS - The movie 'Finding Fontinalis' includes a shot of fisherman Bryan Gregson holding a brook trout.This year's film series will include "Finding Fontinalis" and "The Rapid Decline of the Lower Deschutes River," and Jonah Sandford, executive director, Deschutes River Alliance, and Steven Hawley, filmmaker, will be the guest speakers.

Both films cover the subject of how clean water attracts native fish, and how it is not just environmentalists who benefit, but also "the folks who go out on the rivers and streams," said Greg Baartz-Bowman, who founded the film series.

"We wanted to bring these folks in, so both films revolve around fishing and protecting fish," he said. "We are trying to bring in a different audience who hasn't come to the show before."

The decline of native fish is "more than one fish and more than one creek. The lack of a coherent protected water system impacts" everyone, Baartz-Bowman said.

'Finding Fontinalis'

The film begins in Quebec, Canada, on the Nipigon River with a tale of a fisherman catching a world-record-size brook trout in 1915. It weighed 14.5 pounds and measured nearly 32 inches and still stands in the record books, in spite of the fact that the catch is highly contested.

In 2015, several fisherman and a documentary film crew began to chase the big-fish story and "we follow them on their journey from fishermen to planet stewards," Baartz-Bowman said.

The participants discover that the Nipigon River has been forever changed by a series of hydroelectric dams, so they "had to go to Argentina to hear a gaucho's tale" about a legendary big, red fish, Baartz-Bowman said.

He added that the film is produced by Patagonia. Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia founder and Conservacion Patagonica board member, accompanied filmmaker Travis Lowe and the fishermen on the journey.

"Finding Fontinalis" lasts a little over one hour

'The Rapid Decline of the Lower Deschutes River'

This 20-minute documentary about the Lower Deschutes River is "as impactful an environmental story in Oregon as there can be," Baartz-Bowman said.

When he saw the trailer for the film, he was "blown away by the negative impacts of a PGE policy change" and the decline of the river caused by the dam that the agency owns.

"The dam used to release cold water to attract salmon and native fish, but it now releases warm water and the fish haven't come back," Baartz-Bowman said.

He added, "The water used to be crystal clear and now it has been caked in algae for the last five years."

The Lower Deschutes River, which runs through Madras and empties into the Columbia River, had been "a world-class steelhead river. People came from all over the world to fish, but now the river is in terrible shape, since the temperature has gone up," Baartz-Bowman said.

He is not sure why PGE changed its policy about water temperature, but is looking forward to learning more from guest speakers Sandford and Steven Hawley.

"Few people outside the fishing area know about this, and that is why I wanted to bring this film here to the community and fishermen. Now, maybe more folks will speak up," Baartz-Bowman said.

New venue

Previously, the film series was located in the Masonic Temple in downtown Milwaukie, but support from a variety of partners has allowed the series to move to the Lille Center for the Arts, at Milwaukie High School.

The venue has theater-style seating and can accommodate twice the number of audience members, Baartz-Bowman said.

Tickets will be $8 if purchased online and $10 at the door; young people under 17 are free with a paying adult.

Also, he noted, this year "we got a donation of fly-fishing equipment and outdoor gear valued at more than $2,000 along with some art, and we're going to raffle that off," Baartz-Bowman said.

"The gear should be attractive to fly fishermen, and this is a way for the film series [to raise money]," he said.

He added that any extra money earned at the event goes to support causes like Free Kellogg Creek and the North Clackamas Urban Watersheds Council.

Along with people concerned about the environment, Baartz-Bowman said he would love it "if fishermen and their sons and daughters showed up to this great community event. This is an opportunity to have new voices step into the watershed conversation."

If you go

What: Sixth annual Milwaukie Watershed film series

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, April 22

Where: The J. C. Lillie Center for the Arts, at Milwaukie High School, 11300 S.E. 23rd Ave.

Tickets: $8 online at; $10 at the door. Children and teens 17 and younger attend for free with a paying adult.

Films: "Finding Fontinalis" and "The Rapid Decline of the Lower Deschutes River"

Guest speakers: Jonah Sandford, executive director, Deschutes River Alliance, and Steven Hawley, filmmaker

Partners: Celebrate Milwaukie, Oregon's Mt. Hood Territory, Strawbale Films and Trout Unlimited

Website: For more information, visit

Next up: The film series continues in September with "Seed: The Untold Story" and "Queen of the Sun"

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