TU Annual Awards

Each year, Trout Unlimited (TU) bestows awards to publicly recognize the outstanding achievements of its members, chapters and councils that have embodied the values of TU and fulfilled its mission 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. TU also recognizes the contributions and accomplishments of individuals and groups outside the organization that have demonstrated significant leadership and success in the world of coldwater conservation.

Presented at Cx3, these peer-nominated awards offer a highly visible opportunity to thank and recognize a deserving volunteer, professional, chapter, council or partner organization. The deadline to submit a nomination is March 1, 2023.

TU is actively seeking nominations for the following awards:

  • State Council Award for Excellence
  • Gold and Silver Trout Chapter Awards
  • Mortensen Award for Outstanding Volunteer Leadership
  • Jack Williams Award for Applied Conservation Science
  • Trout Conservation Award: Professional, Partner Organization/Business, and Communications
  • Distinguished Service Award: Conservation, Leadership, Communications, Youth Education, and Service Partnership

Scroll down for award descriptions.

Trout Unlimited national awards will be presented at a special ceremony held during the 2023 Cx3 event in Spokane, Wash. on Fri., Sept. 29. Every effort will be made to have recipients (or a designated representative) present at the awards banquet to accept their award. Because of this, award winners will be granted a travel stipend to help with their travel to the Cx3 event. Recipients will also be noted in the winter issue of TROUT magazine.

The award winners will be selected by a committee with diverse areas of expertise and interest. Those making nominations will be notified of the selections by May.

For more information, contact Jeff Yates at jyates@tu.org or 203.216.7078.


Award Descriptions:

State Council Award for Excellence

Candidates for the Council Award for Excellence will be those councils whose leadership and organizational actions have strengthened the ability of the organization to carry out our mission in the state or region. In order to do this, a council must be multifaceted – focused not only on state-wide conservation or advocacy projects but also building partnerships, facilitating communications throughout the organization, mentoring and encouraging new leaders to step forward, and simply providing routine organizational, administrative and supervisory chapter support. A TU council is at the center of what we call, “One TU,” a concept that binds together our many chapters, councils and various staff program areas in order that we are working in lock-step towards our shared goals. Therefore; each nomination for the Council Award should fully document the council’s efforts at strengthening “One TU.” Be sure to highlight obstacles overcome due to conservation threats, resources available, etc… And don’t forget to highlight partnerships with other organizations or agencies.


Gold and Silver Trout Chapter Awards

The Gold Trout Chapter Award, TU’s highest award for chapters, recognizes the chapter that over the last year took innovative and thoughtful approaches to building community and advancing our mission. TU’s 386 local chapters all have different strengths, resources available, local conservation opportunities or threats. Some chapters are well suited for culvert removal or restoration projects, some chapters excel at youth outreach or veterans services projects, and some chapters are excellent at fundraising and building community. Chapters don’t necessarily need large-scale, shovels in the ground project to be successful at creating a conservation-minded community and building on our mission. Therefore; each nomination for the Gold Trout Award will be judged on the following five areas. Not all chapters will have examples from each category, but the award winners will show well-rounded, diverse strategies. On the relevant categories below, be sure to highlight obstacles overcome due to conservation threats, resources available, etc… And don’t forget to highlight partnerships with other organizations or agencies.

1. Conservation Impact
2. Communications
3. Member & Community Engagement
4. Fundraising
5. Volunteer Leadership Development

Mortensen Award for Outstanding Volunteer Leadership

In honor of long-time grassroots activist and TU volunteer leader Ray Mortensen, who passed away in 1999, TU established the annual Mortensen Award for Outstanding Volunteer Leadership. TU’s highest honor for an individual is presented in recognition of the vital role that TU’s volunteer leaders play in the success of the organization and the execution of its mission. Each year, the Mortensen Award recognizes an individual from within TU’s grassroots leadership – a current or previous chapter president, state council chair, grassroots trustee or member of the National Leadership Council – who has made an extraordinary contribution to coldwater fisheries resource conservation by fostering the development of the just-as fragile TU volunteer resource. This award is presented annually to that “one-in-a-thousand” volunteer whose work on behalf of trout and salmon over a period of years or even decades has made him or her an example and inspiration to the rest of TU’s volunteers.


Jack Williams Award for Applied Conservation Science

The Jack Williams Award honors the accomplishments of TU’s long-time senior scientist who retired in 2018 after leading the organization through the development of many advances in data-driven decision making to aid our conservation effort and impact. The award will be given annually to a professional in the field who has demonstrated a commitment to the gathering of critical data or conducting research which drives new understandings and helps drive prioritization of conservation work. The winner will have demonstrated the ability to advocate for and demonstrate the importance of using data to develop management and tactical directions and to have helped change the culture or political environment to recognize the importance of science in critical thinking and decision making.


Trout Conservation Award: Professional, Partner Organization/Business, Communications

The Trout Conservation Awards recognize the distinguished contributions to the conservation of trout and salmon and the enhancement of coldwater habitat.

One award may be made annually in each of three categories:

  • Professional: for scientists, agency officials and others who are engaged in fisheries-related work;
  • Partner Organization or Business: for an organization or business whose contribution to conservation in the last year provided significant impact towards achieving our mission;
  • Communications: to recognize the efforts of journalists, writers, photographers and others who have contributed to broader public awareness and understanding of trout and salmon conservation issues

Current TU staff are not eligible for Trout Conservation Awards.


Distinguished Service Award: Conservation, Leadership, Communications, Youth Education, and Service Partnership

Distinguished Service Awards recognize outstanding individual volunteer contributions and those who have embodied the values of TU. One award may be made annually in each of the following categories, unless otherwise noted:

  • Conservation: This award recognizes the significant contributions of a volunteer towards achieving our mission at the local, state or national level. Two awards may be granted under this category, particularly if one qualifies as specific to native, anadromous (sea-run) fisheries, which would honor Betty Winn, whose years of work to ensure the future of salmon and steelhead has left a lasting legacy.
  • Leadership: In memory of Stan Griffin, whose enthusiasm, persistence, and leadership have inspired generations of conservationists, this award is for an individual whose leadership has enriched the TU community whether at the chapter, council, NLC or trustee level. A key attribute of leadership recognized by this award is the sharing of ideas, experiences and knowledge with others to nurture and mentor the next generation of coldwater conservationists and leaders.
  • Communications: In memory of Jean Bollinger, long-time TU employee who recognized the value of communications, this award celebrates quality and innovative communications between a chapter or council and its members and the community at-large. Although this award is intended for an individual, due to the sometimes collective nature of this work, nominees may choose to designate a chapter or council to receive the award instead.
  • Youth Education: Recognizes the fundamental importance of creating a new generation of conservationists in a manner that sustains TU’s conservation legacy. The award honors individuals who demonstrate exemplary leadership, and a deep passion for inspiring young people to become thoughtful, responsible stewards of North America’s coldwater fisheries. Adults and youth are eligible.
  • Service Partnership: For an individual that embodies the TU community building spirit with regards to nurturing first responders and veterans’ healing and involving these communities in their chapter operations.