WASHINGTON, D.C.—Trout Unlimited joined some elite company Wednesday night when it was awarded the prestigious U.S. Forest Service-Bureau of Land Management Conservation Leadership Award at an event in the nation's capitol.
According to the USFS and the BLM, the award is given annually to a conservation organization for its "outstanding leadership in the development and implementation of conservation programs and activities that have directly benefited fish, wildlife, and/or native plants on public lands or their use, enjoyment, and appreciation." TU received the award because of its strong on-the-ground habitat partnerships between agency staff and TU staff, and volunteers on national forests and BLM lands across the nation, from Alaska to New England. The agencies especially highlighted the value of the accomplishments of TU's Science Team, which has worked in partnership with the BLM and the Forest Service for years to both inventory the country's native trout populations and work to restore their watersheds and secure trout populations.
Past recipients include the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Mule Deer Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Foundation, among others.
Using TU's unique Conservation Success Index, TU Senior Scientist Jack Williams and his team of biologists, GIS experts and on-the-ground technicians have identified existing populations of native trout all over the country and used the data to help both the BLM and USFS prioritize vital restoration projects that resulted in healthier habitat, stronger, more robust native trout populations and, in some cases, restored populations.
By using TU data provided by the Science Team, both the BLM and the Forest Service have partnered with other TU programs, like the Watersheds Program and the Western Water Project to get the work done on the ground. The projects include things like removing dams, screening diversions and working with landowners to use water more efficiently, leaving more water in rivers and streams to benefit fish. Some of the more important projects in recent years include the removal of a dam on Spread Creek in western Wyoming, that now enables native Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout to move throughout the system; and the use of the Conservation Success Index to focus on the recovery and reintroduction of native trout in the Southwest. Apache trout, Gila trout, and Rio Grande cutthroat trout are direct beneficiaries of this work.
The agencies also cited the tremendous importance of working with TU volunteers in local chapters and state councils around the country. The volunteers have provided valuable matching contributions to leverage federal dollars, as well as enthusiastic helpers to assist in completing restoration projects and conducting youth activities.
"We are honored to receive this award, and we're grateful for the recognition from the BLM and the Forest Service," said TU President and CEO Chris Wood. "This award is a testament to how we work to restore our fisheries, both through the incorporation of sound science that transcends politics, and through common-sense collaboration that achieves the needed buy-in from all concerned. We also have the best people in the business on our staff and among our volunteer network, people who love the work they do, and who are passionate about trout and trout fishing."
TU was founded in 1959 in Michigan, and is today working from coast to coast and in every region of the country to protect, reconnect and restore trout and salmon fisheries. It works with a host of local, state and federal agencies and enlists its enthusiastic volunteer corps to help accomplish important work on the ground where results can be measured both scientifically and through better angling.
Trout Unlimited is the nation's oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization, boasting 150,000 members from coast to coast.