Trout Unlimited

NATIONAL CONSERVATION AWARDS

2021
Recognizing the outstanding achievements of Trout Unlimited members, chapters, and councils.

Chapter Awards

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Volunteer Awards

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Partner Awards

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Since the early 1960s, Trout Unlimited (TU) has bestowed awards to publicly recognize the outstanding achievements of its members, chapters and councils . TU also recognizes the contributions and accomplishments of individuals and groups outside the organization that have demonstrated significant leadership and success in the world of coldwater conservation.

Today, TU is proud to showcase an exceptional group of achievements by these award winners who represent grassroots conservation successes, professional commitment to conservation excellence and organizational strength within our chapters and councils.

Congratulations to all the Trout Unlimited National Award recipients.

Make a Nomination for Future Awards

Consider nominating someone in your chapter, council, community or agency partner.

Recipients

2021

258 – Mianus Chapter


The University of Georgia 5 Rivers Club


Massachusetts Council


Phil Dopson


Kim McDonald


Linn Beck


Holly Bamford Ph.D.


Paul Christman


L.L. Bean


Gold Trout Award

258 – Mianus Chapter

Connecticut

The 258 – Mianus Chapter has always been a strong chapter, but when the pandemic hit, it seized on the opportunity rather than let the challenges defeat it and found that digital technology allowed for engagement of members and supporters on a whole new level.

From fly tying on Zoom to Facebook Live sessions and partnerships on a virtual lecture series with the library and local watershed association, it found an even larger audience hungry for connection and learning. As the pandemic restrictions eased, it found that the community that was built and grown online quickly connected in-person and eagerly attended volunteer plantings, fishing days, stream learning walks and many other activities. Even more powerfully, new people stepped forward to volunteer and support the chapter with their time and talent. In just the last year, the chapter held 23 virtual events, attracting 718 participants. And, they held 39 in-person events, attracting 553 attendees.

A digital focus also helped Mianus TU reach new donors and leverage members as ambassadors: Facebook raised $16,750 including nearly $6,000 from supporter birthday fundraisers; Giving Day raised $18,979.38, from 120 unique donors and won a $2,500 match during 24-hour community event; TU Online Tools raised over $31,000 running seven auctions, sweepstakes and crowdfunders using the new TU fundraising tools; Major Donors & New Revenue Sources raised nearly $100,000 in gifts of stock and received over $95,000 in private and foundation grants.

With all of these newly engaged members and supporters and the chapter’s successful fundraising, they were able to gain some impressive conservation wins this year. Using the RIVERS app, volunteers assessed every mile of Comstock brook and identified 27 dams, and they already got one permitted for removal. This year, the chapter completed a $100,000 habitat restoration project on the Norwalk River and got the town to agree with dam removal and found a partner to lead removal. And, on their namesake river, the Mianus, the chapter assessed water temperature and dam impacts and identified and began planning for two removals. They also completed the design of a major habitat project on the Mianus River.

Mianus’ success shows us the power of bringing people together around conservation, community and fishing.


Silver Trout Award

The University of Georgia 5 Rivers Club

Athens, Georgia

The 5 Rivers club at UGA has been a staple in the TU college community for several years. This club represents the key values of the 5 Rivers program: education, conservation, community, engagement, and leadership.

Throughout the 2021-22 school year, the UGA club created several opportunities for UGA’s student body to learn about fly fishing, conservation, and Georgia’s natural resources. By inviting unique guest speakers, working with community partners, and hosting events in an around the Athens campus community, the UGA 5 Rivers club has built a welcoming community for UGA students seeking to give back to Georgia’s natural resources and build meaningful connections with other anglers. 

Perhaps the most notable testament to the innovation, teamwork, and synergy of the UGA 5 Rivers club is its contribution to the 2021 Clean My Water Sweepstakes held during TU’s inaugural “Trout Week.” With the help of faculty advisor Dr. Jay Shelton, UGA 5 Rivers alum Guy Eroh, and 436 – Upper Chattahoochee Chapter leaders, students successfully developed and launched a national clean-up initiative, inspiring people across the country to take care of their local waterways and “pick the dang stuff up.” This sweepstakes provided an accessible opportunity for anyone to participate in the Trout Week festivities from their own backyard.

Another admirable and nationally recognized accomplishment of the UGA 5 Rivers club is the Crayfish Creek restoration project. This project was developed and designed by UGA students and faculty and made possible by an Embrace A Stream grant, as well as support from numerous other partners. This project would not be possible without the talents of several students, including Emily Rogers, landscape architecture student and 5 Rivers club officer. Through her work on the Crayfish Creek project, Emily has left her mark on the UGA community. 

This club is an inspiring example of what students can accomplish when they combine passion with action.


State Council of the Year

Massachusetts Council

The Massachusetts Council has a long history of quietly taking stances on challenging conservation issues impacting trout and salmon habitat in the Commonwealth. Volunteers work consistently and diligently until they have reached their goal, demonstrating unparalleled perseverance.

It took seven years, but the council never gave up on their advocacy that resulted in the Rivers Protection Act which was passed in 1997, which provides setbacks from development along rivers – the strongest such protection nationwide. For over 20 years, volunteers across the state covered watersheds from North Adams to Provincetown to obtain water samples to detail a picture of acid rain levels in our watersheds.

The council has been a tireless advocate to influence the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing of dams across New England, something that only happens every 40 years. Hundreds of miles of streams ultimately benefited from this advocacy.

The council raised over $100,000 to help the Franklin Land Trust purchase – and permanently protect – land bounding both sides of the West Branch of the North River, a major tributary to the Deerfield River. The Massachusetts Council’s work partnering with the land trust has become a model for efforts being developed at the TU national level.

In 2021, the council pivoted from its steady persistence manner to move at super speed to save Red Brook from devasting development in its headwaters. The council went immediately into action when it learned that a major developer had announced plans to develop somewhere between 275 and 1500 acres (with potential for a racetrack, casino, and hotels) in the headwaters of Red Brook, a sea run brook trout stream that TU volunteers had spent 30 years and close to five million dollars restoring.

Between January and May 2021, when a vote was held to approve or deny the plan, the council formed the Red Brook Team, with membership open to anyone interested in doing what it took to stop this proposal. Members from across all the chapters joined in. The council partnered with TU staff, including TU’s Director of Volunteer Operations, Jeff Yates, who helped develop the slogan “Save our Salters,” graphics, and full-page newspaper ads.

Everyone involved knew this was a fight for Red Brook’s survival, and the Council Red Brook Team acted in such a manner. The day of the vote, the results were stunning. The final count was 850 opposed to 146 in favor. The Massachusetts Council clearly was not solely responsible for this victory. The council’s demonstrated ability to work closely with and inspire partners were as much a part of the success as its individual actions. But it brought TU’s credibility as a nationally recognized science-based organization to the fight, and that was key to prevailing.


Distinguished Service: Leadership

Phil Dopson

Guadalupe River Chapter, Texas

Phil Dopson has been instrumental in the growth and success of the largest chapter in TU — the 066 – Guadalupe River Chapter in Texas, now with over 6,000 members and many more supporters.

When Phil was elected treasurer, his predecessor handed him a tackle box of receipts and a small amount of petty cash: the sum total of assets and financial records for the chapter. Phil quickly went to work, establishing bank accounts for the chapter and moving all the financial records to Quickbooks. Regular reviews of financial records became a new standard for GRTU chapter and board meetings, with an emphasis on fiscal integrity and transparency.

With the business side of the house in order, Phil quickly turned his sights to expanding fishing and conservation engagement opportunities for GRTU members and supporters, entirely rebuilding GRTU’s famous lease access program and evolving TroutFest into a nationally recognized event.

Phil is a relationship builder. Through his advocacy, he rebuilt a critical partnership with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA), the state agency that regulates flows critical to the fishery. Phil had long built partnerships with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and has advanced youth education opportunities within the state by overseeing the GRTU and TPWD summer intern program. Through this program, more than a dozen college interns have had the opportunity to work with Texas’ Inland Fisheries Division and pursue their careers in natural resources and fisheries management. Through his friendships, he has inspired generations of TU leaders for the GRTU chapter and beyond.

His nomination affirms, “Phil, being a proud Texan, was very focused on making GRTU the best it could be. But then he attended a TU annual meeting where he listened to a presentation on “One TU”. This elevated his focus beyond the state of Texas, and he began to see the many opportunities to expand the good that we could collectively do.”

As chapter treasurer, Phil oversaw and provided the leadership for GRTU’s Coldwater Outreach Conservation Fund which provides grant funding for numerous habit restoration, native trout re-introduction, and invasive species projects across the country.

Although he may not take credit for it, Phil also created the GRTU Tomorrow Fund (tu.org/tomorrowfund) designed to support national youth education programs by leveraging GRTU resources with matching funds from other chapters. Where others saw scarcity, Phil saw opportunity. Phil convinced the GRTU board to commit $10,000 a year for 10 years to TU national youth education programs. But, he didn’t stop there. Believing that we are only scratching the surface in what we can do to impact the next generation, he took his leadership on the road, inspiring dozens of other chapters and donors to contribute. Phil’s leadership has made a significant and lasting impact on GRTU, TU and youth education.


Distinguished Service: Conservation

Kim McDonald

Washington

Kim McDonald has been a fish advocate for more than a decade and is an example of how one person’s passion and activism can inspire real change. In addition to working and volunteering with Trout Unlimited, she founded “Fish Not Gold” to address the threat that motorized suction dredge mining in Washington’s rivers and streams presents to preserve salmon and their habitat.

As with some of the most inspiring stories from volunteer activists, Kim’s story started from observation and compassion and ended in action. Kim saw something that did not seem right in the Peshastin Creek, a beloved stream on the east slope of the Cascades. She saw someone with a motorized suction dredge turning up gravel in a salmon stream mining for gold. The noise and commotion in the otherwise peaceful stream was disconcerting. The practice of motorized suction dredge mining had grown over the past decade but had been largely unregulated statewide.

What makes Kim remarkable is that she spent the next 10 years organizing a growing coalition of individuals and organizations to reform this salmon unfriendly practice. She researched the minimal regulations from the Department of Ecology around this practice and the detrimental impact it can have on spawning habitat for federally listed salmon and steelhead species throughout the state. Kim was at the center of years of efforts to get legislation passed to ban the practice of motorized suction dredge mining in designated critical habitat for salmon and other endangered fish species.

Kim and others helped to grow a coalition statewide that grew to more than 160 elected officials, local business, conservation and recreation groups and Tribes calling for reform to protect salmon habitat. As is often the case, Kim’s persistence paid off and, in March of 2020, Governor Jay Inslee signed into law motorized suction dredge mining reform that banned the practice on rivers and streams statewide that were designated as critical habitat.

One of Kim’s many nomination letters from the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe Environmental and Natural Resources Department read, in part, “Without Kim’s energy, motivation and expertise that helped lead the way to passage of ESHB 1261 by the Washington Legislature in 2020, this achievement may have never been realized. We wish to thank Kim for her work to support the iconic fish of our region which are so important to the Snoqualmie People…”

Kim has been an extraordinary advocate and inspiration to us all.


Youth Education Award

Linn Beck

Wisconsin TU Youth Fishing Camp

In 2014, Linn Beck (along with Bob Haase) was the driving force behind the establishment of the Wisconsin TU Youth Fishing Camp. They worked diligently to find a place to hold the camp, and supporters to make the camp a possibility. Linn got a core group of volunteers together, then he took it upon himself to recruit the first group of young folks to attend. Linn and Bob were committed to building an inclusive camp experience. In the opinions of both the campers and the camp staff, the Wisconsin camp offered a very welcoming atmosphere from day one of its operation.

Simultaneous to his development of the Wisconsin camp, Linn assisted other Wisconsin TU volunteers with the first ever STREAM Girls program in 2013. This three-day pilot enabled troops of Stevens Point area Girl Scouts and Brownies to experience a community stream through the eyes of anglers, scientists, and artists. Linn stepped up and helped coordinate materials for the program and served as an instructor for the girls. Because of this early success, STREAM Girls is now widely offered via a partnership between TU and the Girl Scout, with six states participating in the program.

Linn has also served as the Chair of the National Leadership Council’s Youth Education workgroup since early 2019, and his leadership of the group has resulted in a variety of grassroots trainings, informational sessions, and program development efforts. Linn and the members of the group have built the capacity of all TU chapters and councils to develop and sustain successful youth programming in their local communities. Linn is also the Youth Education Chair of the Wisconsin Council and helps chapters in the state adopt programs like Trout in the Classroom, STREAM Girls, and TU Costa 5 Rivers.

Linn’s joyful approach to volunteerism is hard to miss and his joy spreads to all those he is able to influence. His tireless efforts in helping on both a local and national level are exemplary.


Jack Williams Award for Applied Conservation Science

Holly Bamford, Ph.D.

Chief Conservation Officer NFWF

The Jack Williams Award honors the accomplishments of TU’s long-time senior scientist who retired in 2018 after leading the organization through the development of many advances in data-driven decision making to aid our conservation effort and impact. The award is given annually to a professional in the field who has demonstrated a commitment to the gathering of critical data or conducting research which drives new understandings and helps drive prioritization of conservation work.

Dr. Holly Bamford is responsible for advancing the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s mission through the creation and implementation of a comprehensive conservation vision, strategy and a metrics-based evaluation system for NFWF’s grant-making programs. She serves an important role in creating and leading NFWF’s conservation strategy by setting national and regional cross-cutting strategies, and by leading design, development and fundraising planning for the conservation strategy, as well as guiding the conservation policies and practices of the Foundation.

Under Holly’s leadership, NFWF has exemplified the spirit of this award. NFWF’s collaboration with TU to produce the Eastern brook trout Portfolio analysis has resulted in refined conservation strategies that recognize the individual attributes of brook trout populations, such as unique life histories and strongholds that will persist in a future impacted by climate change. NFWF is advancing brook trout science through Portfolio analyses and monitoring in the Great Lakes basin and fine-scale habitat analyses in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. NFWF’s leadership on science-driven fisheries conservation is felt across the country, from the coast of Maine to the long-running collaboration between TU and NFWF on Lahontan cutthroat trout conservation, and beyond.


Conservation Professional Award

Paul Christman

Maine Department of Marine Resources

Paul Christman’s work over many decades has been based in science, carefully managed, but practical and creative. As a Marine Scientist with the Maine Department of Marine Resources he has been instrumental in re-establishing endangered sea run Atlantic salmon in the Kennebec River watershed, fulfilling the promise of the Edwards Dam removal and significantly increasing the likelihood that Atlantic salmon will avoid extinction.

“The fact that we still have Atlantic salmon in the Kennebec River is largely a result of Paul’s vision, tenacity, and hard work over the last 20 years.”
Paul has been the leader of the innovative egg planting operations on the Sandy River, a major tributary to the Kennebec, for many years. This involves the planting of Atlantic salmon eggs in river bottom sediments in winter months, and Paul and a determined team of volunteers have made this happen year after year on a shoestring budget. The results have been impressive. These eggs produce fish that grow up in the wild rather than in the artificial environment of fish hatcheries. Consequently, the Kennebec River has a higher percent return of wild-reared salmon than the Penobscot, where returns are dominated by hatchery-reared smolts. Without Paul’s efforts, a bad situation on the Kennebec would be much worse. Paul can claim credit, perhaps more than anyone else, for keeping the small wild run of Kennebec salmon from extirpation against all odds.

“In addition to being a scientist, Paul is the ultimate communicator… He makes salmon restoration real, local, and personal. With Paul, Atlantic salmon aren’t the Fish of Kings, but everybody’s fish. They are local, accessible, and important.”
Paul’s efforts have also had an important educational component. He has increased our understanding of the plight of Atlantic salmon in Maine and inspired many organizations, including Maine Rivers, to become active advocates for the restoration of Atlantic salmon.


Corporate Conservation Partner

L.L. Bean

Over a century ago, when L.L.Bean’s founder had an idea for a product that got people outdoors, he acted on it. This outdoor-enabling spirit lives on in L.L.Bean’s commitment to community and environmental stewardship. L.L.Bean actively supports non-profit organizations that strive to preserve wilderness recreation areas, foster outdoor recreation, protect wildlife habitats and further conservation education.

For decades, L.L.Bean has offered unwavering support to TU’s efforts, primarily through sponsorship of youth programs and camps and the contribution of product for TU chapters to use engaging local communities. Each year, L.L.Bean distributes to TU chapters approximately $30,000 in rods, reels and/or packs. Because of the company’s generosity, tens of thousands of L.L.Bean rods have been used by TU chapter leaders to teach the next generation to fish, to help veterans and first responders find healing through time on the water, or at community casting clinics. By helping chapters build community through fishing, L.L.Bean has amplified their outdoor-enabling spirit in over 400 communities across the country. One powerful example of the L.L.Bean and TU partnership involves the company’s support for TU volunteers as they planned and carried out Maine TU’s inaugural Trout Camp over 20 years ago. L.L.Bean staff came to the camp to talk about careers, help with the fishing and fly tying activities, and gave tours of the LL Bean Boot Mobile. The Maine Trout Camp served as a model for other camps across the country, and L.L.Bean helped make that happen.

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