Strategic Plan 2021
Trout Unlimited charts a course with new strategic plan
AT TROUT UNLIMITED, we fix rivers and streams. We bring people together. We make waters and communities more resilient to the effects of climate change.
We believe the most complex and seemingly insurmountable challenges can be solved when people come together and get to work.
We know this from experience.
We were founded by anglers who saw that the rivers we loved were being degraded, and not much was being done about it.
We Banded Together.
We found willing partners, picked up shovels, planted trees, and rolled rocks. We knocked on doors, built coalitions, and passed state and federal laws to protect our rivers.
It hasn’t been easy. Challenges arise.
Through sheer determination and force of will, we have protected magnificent landscapes, cleaned up streams, and restored entire river systems. We have seen waters run clear and fish return.
A New Direction.
The harder we work, the more we realize how much work remains.
So we’re retooling, recruiting, and reinforcing. With a new strategic direction over the next five years and beyond, we will build on the great work of those who came before us.
We will recruit a larger, younger, and more diverse array of communities and conservation advocates willing to roll up their sleeves.
TOGETHER, we will do the good work of fixing our rivers and streams for the use and benefit of anglers, families, and local communities. I hope you’ll join us on this new direction.Chris Wood
President & CEO
Get yourself a copy of TU’s Strategic Plan Framework
Listen to Chris Wood and other Trout Unlimited leaders describe what we are doing—all of us, together—over the next five years to turn around prospects for our rivers and streams and trout and salmon populations across America. By applying the best science to our work, and by inspiring younger, more diverse communities to join us, we will make a difference.
Our mission is to bring together diverse interests to care for and recover rivers and streams so our children can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon.
What new directions is Trout Unlimited charting in its new strategic plan?
TU’s 2021-26 strategic plan reflects two realities: Not only has Trout Unlimited grown significantly over the past 20 years, but so have the challenges our streams and rivers face…Read more
More than 1.5 million miles of trout and salmon waters are degraded. Streams that supply drinking water, irrigation, and recreation are at risk. The effects of climate change pose real and immediate threats. On the flip side, huge opportunities have emerged for TU and its partners to protect, reconnect, and restore trout and salmon waters using tried and true strategies. We must scale up our efforts to both avert threats and seize opportunities.
To meet the challenges we face, we will:
- Identify shared Priority Waters for native and wild trout and salmon across the country and take strategic action to care for and recover them.
- Inspire people and communities across the country to care for and recover their waters.
- Invest in our staff, volunteers, and partners so we have the tools, technology, training, and resources necessary to achieve our shared goals.
What are Priority Waters?
Trout Unlimited is most successful when we pull together as staff, volunteers, and partners to focus our resources on shared priority areas—and stick with the work long enough to achieve an ambitious conservation vision…Read more
We have done this in Bristol Bay, Alaska, where everyone from local communities to Tribal partners to TU members in the Lower 48 is playing a part in the conservation of a globally significant fishery. We have done it in the Driftless region in the Midwest, where a strategic, all-hands-on-deck approach has leveraged $50 million to restore hundreds of miles of spring creeks. We are doing it in the Klamath along the California-Oregon border, where we are restoring hundreds of stream miles and removing four mainstem dams to reconnect 400 miles of habitat.
By identifying and conserving a set of Priority Waters, TU will take this approach national under our new strategic plan.
Earlier this year, staff and volunteer leaders in Oregon and New Hampshire piloted the development of Priority Waters for their states. Those pilots provided a blueprint for applying the best available science and engaging with partners to identify the places where TU can make the greatest contribution to the health, resiliency, and viability of our nation’s trout and salmon fisheries.
How will science inform the selection of Priority Waters and our strategies for their care and recovery?
Diversity promotes resiliency. Borrowing from the financial planner’s maxim that a diversified investment portfolio reduces risk, we will use a science-based “portfolio” approach to prioritize genetic diversity, life history diversity, and habitat diversity across the range of trout and salmon species…Read more
What that means is that, as a starting point, Priority Waters will include populations of trout and salmon:
- in large, intact, “stronghold” habitats;
- with unique life histories; and
- in habitats where our work can ensure their resilience in the face of climate change.
The last point is particularly critical. The urgent threat of climate change demands that TU, across the organization, from program staff to councils and chapters and supporters, be strategic in prioritizing our conservation efforts.
To build this scientific foundation, TU will aggregate existing assessments of native and wild trout and salmon species. Then, having used the best available information to identify potential priorities, we will consider other important questions: Is there an opportunity for TU to have an impact? Will our work be significant enough to speed the pace or scale of the work in these watersheds? What are the conservation priorities of federal, state and tribal fishery agencies? Are there com-munities that care about and depend on these native and wild trout and salmon waters, and will act as conservation partners?
As we seek answers to these questions, we will engage with, and learn from communities connected to potential Priority Waters, including underrepresented peoples with rich histories of watershed stewardship. Communities of color have long led conservation efforts in the very same places where TU works. Consider the efforts of the Apache tribe, for example, to keep their name-sake fish from going extinct. Or the heroic efforts of Questa, New Mexico, which long relied on mining, to advocate for restoring populations of the native Rio Grande cutthroat trout.
In the coming years, as we work in the context of the new strategic plan, we will put a premium on partnerships like these. Learning from and working with communities of color will be an integral element of our Priority Waters work.
What will change at TU under the Priority Waters approach?
First, let’s be clear about what will not change, and that is the kind of work we do at TU.
We will continue to protect intact habitat, reconnect fragmented rivers and streams, restore degraded waters, and engage anglers and communities as stewards of their local watersheds…Read more
What is new is that we will be concentrating our efforts—and amplifying our impact. State by state, TU staff and volunteers will be asking a series of questions about their trout and salmon waters to ensure that TU is being pragmatic, forward-thinking, and responsive in our conservation approach.
Our aim is to create a truly strategic portfolio of places where TU can work toward positive change at a meaningful scale.
How can volunteers, supporters, and communities get involved in the Priority Waters work?
In states where TU has an active staff presence, TU’s conservation staff will work with grassroots leaders to identify Priority Waters; where applicable, council leaders will take the lead in representing volunteers through this process… Read more
In Oregon and New Hampshire, we’ve piloted the process of identifying Priority Waters. Over the course of many collaborative discussions, a cross-section of field staff, scientists, and the states’ grassroots leaders debated which rivers and streams fit the bill. Staff and volunteers who participated in that effort walked away excited and inspired about the possibilities ahead. As we move forward to other states around the country, we expect our approach to evolve and improve as we incorporate feedback from volunteers, stakeholders, and local communities connected to the waters we are considering for Priority Waters designation.
Our plan is to complete the identification of Priority Waters in January 2022. Then the hard work begins: Developing a vision and a plan to care for and recover each water.
Stay tuned for more opportunities to learn about how the process is going across the country, and if you want to get involved in your state, let your council leadership know so they can plug you into the process.
Once the Priority Waters are established, it will be all hands on deck. We know that whether or not you have a Priority Water in your backyard, you care deeply about these special places. We have all been inspired by the outpouring of support for campaigns to protect trout and salmon in places like Bristol Bay in Alaska, the Snake River Basin in the Pacific Northwest, the Driftless region in the Midwest, and the Penobscot in Maine. Now, we will marshal that energy on behalf of important wild and native trout and salmon waters in every state, and pull together on a regional and national level to increase our impact.
What does it mean if my home water is not a shared Priority Water?
We get it. Home waters matter. They’re where you learned to fish, or introduced your kids to the wonders of the outdoors. Where you can skip out for a morning on the water and still get home in time for work… Read more
We also trust that you understand that, even as a nationwide organization of 200 staff and 350,000 members and supporters, Trout Unlimited has to make choices. As the business school saying goes, if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.
By way of the shared Priority Waters process, we’ll work together to make the hard decisions about where our energy and resources are best invested. Where we’re most needed and where we can make the biggest difference. It’s important to know that this process will be both collaborative and iterative—a back-and-forth conversation among staff, volunteers, supporters, partners, and communities. We expect to revisit, and if new information warrants, revise our Priority Waters selections during our next five-year strategic planning process.
We want—we need—the help of council and chapter volunteers as we work on Priority Waters. Everyone who wants to be involved will find opportunities, whether by helping with projects in your state or by standing up as advocates for a special place halfway across the country.
But at the same time, the TU model empowers volunteers through our chapters to work at the community level—at the home waters level. Volunteers will continue to do amazing work on their home waters, improving in-stream habitat, planting trees, building communities of local watershed stewards. So whether or not your home water is designated a shared Priority Water in this process, there is a way to be engaged in the care of and recovery of your favorite stream through TU.
To learn more about how get engaged with your local TU chapter or to start something new, reach out to TU Volunteer Operations staff.
How will TU continue to support local efforts in states without TU staff?
One of TU’s greatest strengths is the work our grassroots volunteers do, from planting trees and cleaning their streams to educating and engaging their communities…Read more
TU’s Priority Waters effort provides new avenues for TU’s volunteers to participate in our mission by helping us care for and recover high-quality wild and native trout and salmon rivers and streams in your region and across the country. We are staffing up with regional engagement managers, who will work to connect volunteers with our Priority Waters work and, in the process, diversify our conservation community.
TU has grown tremendously over the past two decades, but the reality is that our national field staff can’t work everywhere. In some places, TU may not be able to make significant impacts with finite staff resources. We are piloting ways to support council and chapter leaders in states where TU does not have dedicated staff.
As we do now, we will continue to support our grassroots as they work on their local waters and continue to assist chapters with guidance, tools, and funding to work in their local communities.
More than ever, our organization is engaging broader, younger, and more diverse communities in the work of caring for their rivers and streams. That happens everywhere, from city classrooms where we teach the next generation about trout, to suburbs where we train volunteers to do community science on their local waters, to rural communities with beloved tailwaters. TU will continue to invest in our network of 400+ community-based chapters to help them deliver on the mission at the local level, wherever that might be.
TU’s mission statement is changing. Is TU’s mission changing?
Fundamentally, no. But in a lengthy and collaborative strategic planning process—during which we worked with board members, partners, the National Leadership Council, chapter and council leaders, and other stakeholders—we saw that something was missing from our existing mission statement: people…Read more
Our new mission statement reflects the fact that we have long worked to engage meaningfully with parties that may not always see eye to eye and build collaborative partnerships to get things done. And it recognizes that we are committed to equity and inclusion—to building spaces where all individuals and communities are valued, heard, respected, and empowered.
All of which is captured in our new mission statement:
“To bring together diverse interests to care for and recover rivers and streams so our children can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon.”
What are your measures of success for this plan? How will you demonstrate that TU has made a difference?
If we’re successful, we will have a shared conservation agenda not just for Trout Unlimited, but also our partners and our constituents. Our community of staff, volunteers, partners, and supporters will be inspired and actively engaged in working with us to care for and recover Priority Waters… Read more
Equally important, that community will be larger, younger, and more diverse, because TU’s culture and approach will be more inclusive, equitable, and respectful of diverse voices and interests in the places where we work.
Finally, we will have made technological advances that foster collaboration across the organization, and we will have succeeded in raising the funds we need to accomplish our ambitious goals.
How will we measure all this? How will we show that we’ve done what we set out to do?
We are in the process of building business plans and establishing the metrics that will guide our work. In doing so, we are building on our past record of success—only now, we are doing it with a strategic focus on shared Priority Waters and a new engagement model.
We will protect, reconnect, and restore more miles of water. Remove more barriers to fish passage. Improve trout and salmon population numbers. Convert more hatchery-based fisheries into fisheries sustained through natural reproduction. Increase funding for restoration and improve fishing regulations. We will boost our ranks of members, boost the number of supporters who are active in TU events, campaigns, and projects, and boost the number of elected leaders who recognize that healthy waters and robust native and wild trout and salmon are good for their communities. We will move ever closer to a TU demographic that reflects our nation’s diversity.
We are confident that in the end, these numbers will add up—to cleaner water and healthier wild and native trout and salmon populations across the country.
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