We believe that actively restoring streams and fish habitat creates better fishing opportunities; in some cases (like barrier removals) it happens overnight. To that end, TU members and their chapters across the country implement restoration projects within their home watersheds—everything from installing habitat improvement structures and removing problem culverts to replanting stream banks and educating children about aquatic conservation. Each year these volunteers invest over 125,000 hours and more than $1.5 million in restoration work.
Since 1994, TU’s national staff has complimented these local efforts by implementing an impressive array of large-scale watershed restoration projects under its flagship program, the Home Rivers Initiatives.
In that year, the national office of Trout Unlimited launched the first Home Rivers Initiative on the Beaverkill-Willowemoc River system in New York State. The number of watershed projects has grown impressively since then, and Home Rivers Initiatives have in some cases morphed into projects focused on larger geographical areas and multiple river and stream systems; but the basic model remains intact. Today there are 12 Western Restoration Program projects currently underway from Wisconsin to Oregon. They address such diverse resource concerns as abandoned hard rock mine remediation, habitat and native species restoration, agricultural practices and irrigation efficiency, and improving in-stream flows and fish passage. All of the projects involve diverse partnerships and have been extremely successful in engaging local communities, demonstrating cutting-edge restoration practices, and leveraging significant resources to benefit the watersheds.
Perhaps most importantly, all of the projects make fishing better. From the Driftless Area in the Midwest to the Upper Deschutes River in Oregon, TU’s Watershed restoration projects have restored streams, expanded fish populations, engaged local communities, and improved and protected angling opportunities for future generations.
TU’s Western Restoration Program is based on the premise that everything in a watershed is related and connected, and that watershed restoration requires far more than site-specific treatments. Each project is a collaborative multi-year effort that combines applied scientific and economic research, community outreach, on-the-ground restoration, and the development of long-term conservation and management strategies and tools. Our project managers live in the communities where they work, and, more often than not, work in the watersheds where they fish.
TU Abandoned Mine Restoration staffers in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Washington work to clean up tailings piles and toxic drainage where a rich mining history has left a legacy of poor water quality and stream health. Across the West project managers work with farmers and ranchers to improve irrigation efficiencies and agricultural practices to benefit both those producers and the streams and rivers they steward. We remove dams and culverts and rebuild stream channels. We plant native trees and restore habitat by installing woody debris that fish use for cover. All of these projects are rooted in sound science; all of them improve streams and fish populations; and all of them help to ensure that the next generation of anglers, and the ones after that, can enjoy healthy fisheries in their home waters.