Monday, April 12, 2021

Trout Unlimited: If you take care of the fish

by BILL LOVE JR. Contributing Writer
| March 31, 2021 1:00 AM

Trout Unlimited was founded in 1959 in Michigan on the banks of the Au Sable River by a group of anglers who successfully sought to change the state’s reliance on hatchery production of trout into a program that focused on protecting and restoring fish habitat. TU remains both a network of local anglers and a nationwide team of stream restoration implementors. Last year, TU volunteers donated nearly one million hours to supporting our cold-water fisheries through enhancement projects.

For almost four decades, our local Panhandle Chapter of TU has promoted the national mission “to conserve, protect and restore North American cold-water fisheries and their watersheds.” The chapter, based in Sandpoint, consists of 350 members with two-thirds residing in Kootenai County and the remainder in Bonner and Boundary Counties.

As a party in the 2000 Clark Fork Settlement Agreement, a component of Avista Corporation’s relicensing process for the Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids Dams, TU plays an important role in the Bull Trout Protection and Public Education Project. This effort seeks to protect bull trout in the Pend Oreille Basin by reducing the incidence of misidentification and poaching of this protected species.

In addition to the local chapters, TU has around 250 national employees that work on restoration, science, education, and advocacy projects around the U.S. Not many people realize how much actual restoration work TU gets done. In 2020, TU was involved 1,177 conservation and restoration projects nationwide.

Some of these national employees are project managers who often work with private landowners, agencies, Tribes, or other conservation organizations get more restoration work done on the ground. Often private landowners have a stream in need on their property, but they don’t know how or what needs to happen to enhance the waterbody. TU Project Managers can apply for funding, manage grants, help with design, permitting, contracting, and implementing the projects. TU project managers also offer an affordable and dependable partner to support state and federal agencies that are often stymied by staff shortages, funding opportunities, restrictively complicated practices, and other priorities. TU has a long and impressive history of getting good work done on the ground with partners of all kinds.

In the summer of 2020, the Western Waters arm of the national TU office hired a project manager for the Coeur d’Alene Basin. This position supports restoration and education efforts in mining impacted waterbodies in the Spokane River Basin which includes the CDA River system, the St. Joe system, CDA Lake and other tributaries into the lake. This position also works in conjunction with the local Panhandle Chapter to bring “boots on the ground” or “waders in the crick” volunteer opportunities to Chapter members and supporters.

The CDA project manager is hitting the ground with a couple robust projects this summer. One of these projects is the restoration of Prichard Creek, a tributary to the North Fork CDA River which you can read more about in the “Restoring Connection: The Prichard Creek Restoration” article.

An old adage within Trout Unlimited goes like this, “If you take care of the fish, the fishing will take care of itself.” That’s why the Panhandle Chapter exists.


(Courtesy photo)

Prichard Creek, a tributary to the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River is picture flowing above.