American Fisheries Society honors Burnett as conservationist of year

Paul Burnett, wearing the white hard hat, celebrates with Utah Division of Wildlife workers and volunteers after completing a 385-foot fish ladder through a concrete culvert to allow migratory cutthroat to return to headwaters they had been cut off from for more than 40 years. Brett Prettyman photo.

By Brett Prettyman

Trout Unlimited believes in community.

The conservation and fishing communities are obviously vastly important to us. Equally important are the communities TU staffers and volunteers call home.

Our goal is improve the habitat of native fish species, but when we take care of trout and their homes we take care of everything that relies on cold, clean and constant water.

Knowing this drives those connected to TU to work even harder on our projects and campaigns.

We think every one of our volunteers and staffers should get an award, but we love it when other groups recognize members of our family.

Paul Burnett works as the Trout Unlimited Director of the Utah Water and Habitat Program.

Trout Unlimited staffer Paul Burnett, center, answers questions from kindergarten students preparing to relaease fish raised by the students as part of Trout in the Clasroom in 2016. Trout Unlimited photo.

During a recent tri-state (Wyoming, Colorado and Utah) American Fisheries Society meeting Paul was presented the Habitat Conservationist of the Year Award.

He oversees work in the entire state, but was initially focused on the Ogden and Weber rivers in northern Utah. It is entirely appropriate Paul’s home in Ogden is located between the two rivers.

Trout Unlimited staffer Paul Burnett works to help install a 385-foot fish ladder to reconnect native Bonneville cutthroat trout with headwaters they haven't been able to access for more than 40 years. Brett Prettyman photo.

A major part of Paul’s work has involved incorporating partners into his conservation project efforts with Trout Unlimited.

“In 2004, Paul started working for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Northern Region as an aquatics habitat biologist and then native cutthroat trout biologist. After about 8 years with the Division, he changed his employer and has been with Trout Unlimited ever since,” reads a submission letter from Division of Wildlife Resources fisheries staffers in northern Utah. “Initally, we in the Northern Region were disappointed to ‘lose’ Paul, but we quickly realized that partnering with TU can accomplish even more.”

Paul Burnett, left, talks to fellow Utah Trout Unlimited staffer Jordan Nielson at a project site on the Bear River in the Uinta Mountains. Brett Prettyman photo.

The letter goes on to explain that Paul is involved with roughly half of all Utah Division of Wildlife habitat projects in northern Utah and is the lead on 1/3 of the projects.

Paul does a great job of involving the local TU chapter, Weber Basin Anglers, into his planning and ends up with plenty of help when he needs it as a result. He is also good at finding volunteers outside of the fishing world to help with habitat projects.

"Blueheads and Bonnevilles" is a film featuring the working by many partners to protect native fish on Utah's Weber River.

“Within this past few years, Paul has secured funding, designed restoration projects, implemented projects, lead the Weber River Partnership, and organized a watershed symposium which brings together all partners in the Weber River including multiple state and federal agencies, county, municipal, water users and landowners; many of which are very ‘non-traditional’,” reads the nomination letter. “Paul has worked with the DWR to initiate or complete passage at 10 structures in the mainstem Weber River and its' tributaries allowing bluehead sucker and Bonneville cutthroat trout to access important spawning, rearing, and overwintering habitats.”

Paul has also been vital in helping with other important Utah Trout Unlimited activities like Trout in the Classroom and the Utah Cutthroat Slam.

Brett Prettyman is the Intermountain Communications Director for Trout Unlimited. He lives in Salt Lake City. He can be reached at



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