People and places change lives. This maxim is evident in Liz Rose’s new position as Wyoming field organizer with Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project.
Rose spent a lot of her childhood at a family cabin along the Sacramento River near Lake Shasta in California. Her time there fostered an interest in natural science and love of the outdoors, which eventually lead to a Bachelor’s of Science degree in earth science (with an emphasis in environmental geology) from the University of California-Santa Cruz .
By 2012 Rose had a couple years of working for the U.S. Geological Survey under her belt, but was trying to navigate away from the stale, office cubicle path that is often too easy to follow.
She made a summer trip with friends back to her beloved river and was at her family cabin when a neighbor and family friend came by to say hello.
Robert Balcom was interested to hear about her college experience and catch up, and while talking about fishing in the area he reflected on an incident that happened not too far from that spot 21 years prior.
A railroad tanker, according to a Los Angeles Times story on the incident, spilled 19,000 gallons of a toxic herbicide into the Upper Sacramento River in 1991, forcing hundreds of nearby residents to evacuate and killing “tens of thousands” of fish for 40 miles.
“He said everything was wiped out, as he recalled how devastating it was to the river and to him personally,” Rose said. “He looked so sad telling me the story; it really stuck with me.”
That fall she found a new job working in the oil and gas industry taking her from California to Texas and drastically altering her lifestyle and career trajectory. As she learned about land and resource management, hunting and fishing in Texas, and oil train derailments and spills that are bound to happen during oil transport, she thought more seriously about going back to school.
“Every train crash or spill I’d read about reminded me of that conversation I’d had with Robert, and how those events all break peoples’ hearts. That one event in 1991 had such an impact on the river that Robert’s and my family valued so much, and on all the people that lived, worked, and recreated along that corridor,” Rose said.
Geology had explained the physical world around her but policy, she realized, defined what was permitted to happen and where.
In 2019 she completed a master’s degree in environmental policy from the University of Colorado-Boulder. Rose joined Trout Unlimited this past winter, just in time for the 2020 Wyoming legislative session.
As part of Trout Unlimited, she works to protect the hunting and fishing heritage that is so important to so many people. TU’s team works in collaboration with federal and state agencies, partner conservation groups and sportsmen and women for common-sense solutions to protect the wild places of the West. TU is engaged on the legislative level in every Western state and nationally on the congressional level.
“I ski, run, fish and hunt. I love our public lands and rivers and I want them to stay the way they are or be restored to the way they should be,” she said. “Things can get polarized. I worked in oil and gas. My grandparents are cattle ranchers. I understand livelihoods are impacted and I appreciate that Trout Unlimited believes protecting all of our resources can be done in a responsible way with respect for all the interests.”
Rose also has personal goals she hopes to accomplish in her new Trout Unlimited role. She always loved the outdoors, but only came to know and appreciate fishing and hunting traditions in her mid-20s. She hopes that understanding how she came to love those sports and the conservation world a little later in life will help her bring others into the fold. Because, she says, making people love things makes them want to protect them.
“Many fishing and hunting conservation groups have a hard time recruiting younger and non-white people frankly, and I know these things are really hard to get into without guidance or mentorship,” she said. “I want to help give more people the opportunity to experience hunting and fishing in an enjoyable way so more people might understand the value of fish and wildlife, public land and water, and conservation… and because fishing and hunting are very uniquely satisfying and fun.”
Brett Prettyman is part of the Trout Unlimited communications team, fondly referred to as TROUT Media. He is based out of Salt Lake City.