Trout Unlimited does many great things across our country, but also faces many challenges moving into the future. One brought up often at state council meetings in Wyoming – and likely across the country – is the age and diversity of the board of the local chapters.
it, many of our TU board members across the country are older. They have put countless hours of their time building their chapter and accomplished great things for their local fisheries. They are fully vested in the direction of the chapter and have a clear vision of where they want it to go. They want the chapter to continue doing the right thing for the local fisheries and know they can’t do what they are doing forever. How do we create a space where the next generation of leaders can emerge and work alongside existing leaders to carry a chapter legacy well into the future?
At the Seedskadee Chapter (STU) we have been able to attract board members on the younger side of the national average. The chapter pulls in members from Green River and Rock Springs and has three board members under 30-years-old and two under 35. We want to share with other chapters across the country why we think Seedskadee has been able to bring these young members into board positions.
We all know it is challenging to fill board positions. The right person must take the jump and commit the hours needed to fulfill their job within the board. It doesn’t happen overnight, the folks that make that jump are normally a part of the chapter and generally know what they are getting into. No one would take that leap if they didn’t feel comfortable with the core group of chapter folks. If someone comes to a meeting and doesn’t feel welcome they are probably not going to come back. Well, duh everyone knows that…. Yes, everyone knows that, but not everyone does it. Talk to the new guy or gal that showed up at the meeting ask them about fishing, ask them about something, make them feel welcome. If you don’t you could have missed out on the next active chapter member, and possibly a new board member.
Christian Chavez (STU Vice President – 24)
“ Growing up I can’t say I was the most outdoorsy person. When I enjoy something I tend to invest quite a bit of time into it and as a youth that was sports. But as I saw my athletic career coming to an end I knew I had to find something else to occupy my time.
I started fishing in college and didn’t learn how to fly fish until my senior year. Most of what I know is self taught and I spent a ton of time watching videos trying to gain some knowledge. After my first time fly fishing I knew that I had found something awesome. When I graduated and moved to Wyoming I still had no idea that Trout Unlimited existed. It wasn’t until my buddy Andrew told me there was a chapter meeting in Rock Springs, WY that I heard about TU. At that meeting I met some really interesting people who clearly had similar interests to mine. It was refreshing to meeting so many people who cared about this region of Wyoming and who wanted to make the Green River a better fishery. These personalities were so refreshing as they were so different from the large number of trash-tossing “outdoorsmen” that I so often come across on the river. Meeting all of these chapter members made me really want to get involved with the Seedskadee chapter and help their efforts to improve the fisheries in southwestern Wyoming.
Becoming involved in the Seedskadee chapter has been extremely rewarding as it has allowed me to meet a ton of new friends and better the community in which I live. TU has also provided a vast array of opportunities for me to better my skills in networking, photography, videography, and communications.”
Mike Marcos (STU Board Member at Large – 35)
- I am a Sweetwater County Native that was brought up in all things outdoors. It wasn’t until 2004 fresh out of Culinary School that I ended up in Southern Colorado on the Conejos River as the Executive Chef at Rainbow Trout Ranch. It was there I befriended the Fly-fishing guide, gathered interest in the sport and eventually invested in my own gear. That first year during fall season the guides had went back to teach and I got thrown to the wolves and began to guide (with very little skill and knowledge) during all of my free time. I went and bought entomology books, knot books, fly tying books, spending any extra minute I had immersing myself in the sport. By order of the boss man (Doug, picture a weathered old Jack Palance-esque rancher) an obsessed beast was created. Over many years working and fishing in Conejos country I have had the privilege to speak to, fish with, and learn from all ranges of Anglers that changed my brain forever. Flash forward to a windy day in Rock Springs at a gas pump, I had a random lady come up to me and invite me to the first F3T that the local TU chapter was putting on. Turned out that the random lady was Amy Hazlewood. I went to the show, started going to meetings, saw what the Chapter and the Local TU office was successfully involved in and years later I felt like it was time for me to become further involved. Now that I have a family of my own and love the area and the waters around me, what better way to improve and preserve what I grew up with than to fully support TU and what the Chapter is involved in.”
Remember these are volunteer positions, most people aren’t going to spend their valued spare time if it isn’t fun, at least at first. Have fun events, fly tying, movies. Ask if the new young people would be willing to run them or help run them. They more than likely have likeminded friends that will come to the fun events. Listen to their ideas and try them out. Social media is a must and this generation knows how to use it, capitalize on that, let them help out. For nearly every event the Seedsakdee Chapter does Christian makes a “commercial” or two to post on Facebook and Instagram. Giving individuals an opportunity to take on some responsibility allows you to gauge their leadership potential. From this new responsibility you might learn that they have great leadership potential, so you may ask them to take on more, specific responsibility with additional board support.
Andrew Penamora (STU Secretary – 27)
“I was lucky enough to be born into an outdoors family. I born on Kodiak Island, Alaska and grew up on the banks of the Missouri River in Montana. Some of my earliest and fondest memories with my father involve being on the river and fishing. My summers growing up were spent on Kodiak chasing salmon, trout, and whatever else I could catch while trying to avoid bears! Spending time outdoors and fishing is not only a hobby, but part of who I am.
After graduating college, I began my career as an Environmental Engineer in Green River, WY. Being new to this small town and not knowing anyone I was constantly looking for new friends and fishing buddies. This led me to the Seedskadee Chapter of Trout Unlimited. There I found that I am passionate about trout and the wild places they call home. Immediately, I wanted to be involved in helping educate others and protect our unique fishery in the high-desert of Wyoming.
After getting involved with the chapter, I was able to volunteer my time and efforts towards some events including the Fly Fishing Film Tour and the Iron Fly. Those events along with our social media presence has been very effective at attracting and retaining younger members to our chapter. The Seedskadee Chapter of Trout Unlimited is full of passionate, driven, and intelligent members and it’s great seeing everyone work together towards a common goal. Overall, being involved with the chapter has been a wonderful experience and I look forward to continuing to serve our members and the local cold water fisheries.”
Embracing Our Future Needs:
The torch needs to be passed. Accept new ideas and direction. The “old guard” needs to realize that the younger generation has the same passion and respect for the local fisheries they do. A huge part of leadership is creating space for new leaders to grow and providing them with the support they need to be successful. In this new, diverse leadership you inherently build in strength and sustainability to carry your board’s legacy forward well into the future.
Sadie St. Clair (STU President – 27)
From growing up on a ranch and my father owning a ready-mix business, I believe that it gave me a respect for the land and community involvement that continues to hold strong to this day. In college, I got involved with American Fisheries Society, volunteered at the Westslope Trout Unlimited Chapter’s banquet in Montana and took as many fish classes the University of Montana had to offer. Being active in my youth has always given me a drive to do more and help out more.
Making the decision to be chapter president was not any easy one because I was already managing our social media pages, volunteering on the board for the Southwest Chapter of Muley Fanatics Foundation banquet and spending my free time out hunting and fishing with my fiancé.
There were a few nights that I sat down with him to talk things over to make sure this was the right thing to do, was I going to be able to handle the responsibilities, and how much was it going to conflict with our time. As the time got closer, I had a gut feeling that I just had to go for it.
From only being chapter president for two months, it is a lot of work, but I know that I wanted to bring a change to the group and did not want it to go under. The people involved in the Seedskadee Chapter #533 of Trout Unlimited are incredible for their passion for the trout fisheries that I want to be able to lead them with opportunities to help keep southwest Wyoming thriving. I plan to go out and talk to different organizations to figure out what we, as a chapter, can do to help hands on. I feel that getting people out in the field brings them back to the roots in which the past generations have worked so hard for us to enjoy as we continue to hold onto its’ richness.
I never really thought about being the first female chapter president until after I was motioned into acceptance. I have always considered myself to be one of the guys, but now I feel that I also need to work even harder to get more women involved. This might actually be toughest challenge to come because it’s easier to confront a population as a whole where mostly the men show while the women just stay behind. I want women to see that putting their selves out there is not a scary thing nor should it be frowned upon. We have the same amount of desire for change and giving as the men out there. I always have to remind myself that life is too short which leads me to push myself everyday ether by being physically active every day or making sure that I connect with the people who influence my day to day life. YOLO!
The chapter has organized a women’s float for the past three years on the Green River. The chapter members help guide, shuttle, and make food for the day of fishing on the river. Last year there were 30 women that participated, 15 guides and 8 other volunteers that helped with shuttling, food and other needs.
Time marches on, things change, but the passion for the fisheries and their habitats don’t.
Scott Neff (STU Treasure – 47)
I didn’t start fishing until I was in college. After graduating, I went to work in a gold mine in Elko, Nevada. I was new to the area and new to fishing. I was looking for an opportunity to meet people that would help me become a better fisherman and show me places in northeast Nevada to fish. One day I was talking to a mechanic at the gold mine and he told me about Trout Unlimited. I went to a meeting and joined Trout Unlimited. The chapter there was very small, just a handful of people. I became the secretary of the northeast Nevada chapter after the first or second meeting I attended. That was in 1996 (I was 29 years old). I was single and didn’t have a family, so it was easy to spend time with our small chapter. I learned pretty quickly that I really enjoyed getting my feet wet and hands dirty doing the conservation projects.
About a year later I moved to Wyoming. Because of my work, I was not able to be involved with Trout Unlimited and the chapter in Green River was dormant for quite a few years. About 7 years ago I heard that the chapter was coming back to life, so I went to a few meetings. The chapter was looking for treasurer, so I volunteered. I was a bit hesitant to take the position because I was now a family man and had two young girls at home. I quickly realized that I still really liked doing conservation work. My family and I have always enjoyed doing things together outdoors. I didn’t see any reason my family shouldn’t also be involved with TU, so I started taking them with me to the TU projects. I began to recognize that being involve in TU leadership was creating great opportunities for me to do conservation work, and fish with great people in southwest Wyoming, and do it all with my family.
As a leader in TU, I have been able to create opportunities to teach my girls the value of working hard to protect the things we love. As a result of my involvement in the Seedskadee Chapter of Trout Unlimited, my youngest daughter was the first recipient of the Wyoming Youth Fishing Challenge in Southwest Wyoming. As a freshman in high school, my oldest daughter volunteered to be a project lead for a project on a very small stream south of Rock Springs that has a wild population of pure Colorado River cutthroat. This project, and her interaction with the great people in TU, has inspired her to want to be a wildlife biologist. She was selected to attend the 2017 TU Teen Summit and now is a member of the TU Youth Leadership Council.
My involvement as a leader in Trout Unlimited has enriched my life in ways I could have never imagined. But it was up to me to make the choice to get involved, stay involved, and get my family involved.