Volunteer Leaders, Scientists, Advocates and Partners Honored at Trout Unlimited National Gathering in Spokane


Spokane, WA—At CX3, Trout Unlimited’s annual national gathering held September 27 – October 1, a cast of remarkable leaders and volunteers were honored for their contributions to protecting and restoring the nation’s coldwater resources and salmon and trout populations.

This year, the Ray Mortensen Award, the organization’s highest honor, was awarded to Fran Smith for his tireless work leading the painstaking restoration of the Quashnet River in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Seventy years ago, the Quashnet River had been transformed from a free-flowing coldwater stream into an impounded cranberry bog by dam building, gravel fill, and removal of all the stream side vegetation. Hurricanes in 1954 led to the abandonment of the bogs. For nearly fifty years, Fran Smith has led the volunteer efforts of Trout Unlimited’s Southeastern Massachusetts chapter and the Cape Cod chapter to restore the Quashnet. Today its unique population of migratory brook trout, known as “Salters,” is growing thanks to their tireless, backbreaking commitment to their home waters.

When asked to speak upon receiving the award, Smith implored the gathered Trout Unlimited community to simply “Never give up.”

“Fran Smith is a true hero of conservation,” said Trout Unlimited President and CEO Chris Wood. “For decades, Fran led monthly work parties on the Quashnet. He, and the other volunteers, removed the old dams, installed hundreds of large wood structures, and planted almost 4,000 trees. Remarkably, they did all of this work by hand. Every TU chapter has a home water they work to care for and recover. I have seen few with the sustained commitment made over a long period like the efforts by the Cape Cod chapter on the Quashnet.”

A master plumber by trade, Smith also helped lead the advocacy that led to Massachusetts purchasing the land along the Quashnet to permanently protect it from development.

“I deeply appreciate the recognition given to me and the Quashnet River Restoration by Chris Wood, the Trout Unlimited Board of Trustees, and the staff at TU,” said Smith. “The many people over the past 47 years who have given so much to this ‘all-volunteer effort’ deserve every bit of the credit for the resounding success we are enjoying today, among them MassWildlife biologists Joe Bergin and Steve Hurley.  If not for the tireless commitment and dedication to the Quashnet River Restoration by the participating volunteers, the success of this effort would have never become a reality. Where we once had only one wild sea-run brook trout in 100 feet of stream, we now have 40 and the potential for this number to grow is staggering. Today there are hundreds and hundreds of wild sea-run brook trout that call the Quashnet River home.”

Smith’s award was named for Ray Mortensen, a founding member of TU’s Chattooga River chapter in Clemson, South Carolina. He held numerous leadership positions with the chapter and the South Carolina State Council, including council chair. As a member of the TU National Resource Board, he helped shape TU’s National Conservation Agenda until his death in 1998. 

This year’s meeting in Spokane drew more than 300 participants from across the country. It will be held in the Twin Cities next year. CX3 was supported by corporate sponsors including Cassidy and Associates, Patagonia, Parametrix, BrickWest Brewery, Browne Family Vineyards, Cheeky, Dry Fly Distilling, Greys, Hardy, Montana Fly Company, NRS Fishing, OnWater, OnX Fish, Orvis, Richardson, Roast House Coffee, TroutRoutes, and Yeti.

Photos of Fran Smith, as well as all other winners, are available upon request. 

Other CX3 2023 award winners include:  

Gold Trout: Rocky Mountain Fly Casters (Colorado)

The Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter takes innovative and thoughtful approaches to building community and advancing Trout Unlimited’s mission. The creativity, dedication and commitment of the chapter’s leaders has resulted in a high-functioning organization that serves its community and state, engendering community involvement, inclusion, and conservation advances.

Silver Trout: Oakbrook Chapter (Illinois)

The Oak Brook Chapter has overcome geographical challenges to become a shining example of dynamic, innovative, and generous coldwater conservation efforts. Despite lacking nearby coldwater resources, the chapter has collaborated with neighboring states like Michigan and Wisconsin, providing volunteer support for various projects, including macroinvertebrate surveys and invasive species removal. Locally, they actively participate in workdays like the DuPage River Cleanup in Naperville.

Council of the Year: Washington Council

Through deeply dedicated grassroots leaders and close partnerships with TU staff, the Washington Council of Trout Unlimited is working to care for and recover the Evergreen State’s iconic salmon and trout populations. They’ve built a powerful community of volunteers who are undertaking critical habitat restoration, groundbreaking citizen science projects, state policy advocacy, and assessing culverts that block fish migration.

Distinguished Service – Leadership: Russ Meyer

Russ Meyer has held various board and officer positions as an active member of the Mid-Missouri Chapter and the Sagebrush TU Chapter in Nevada, where he currently serves as Chapter President. His knowledge of the inner workings of a TU Chapter led to his role as a regional representative on TU’s volunteer Embrace A Stream Committee in the early 2000’s. Since its inception in 1975, EAS has funded more than 1,150 individual projects with more than $4.9 million in direct cash grants to local TU Chapters

Distinguished Service Conservation: Harvey Morrison

When the four Lower Snake River Dams are finally breached, Harvey Morrison will be among the key visionaries celebrated for their tireless advocacy to restore a free-flowing Lower Snake River and rebuild the region’s iconic salmon and steelhead runs. Beyond dam removal advocacy, Morrison has been a stalwart leader of the Spokane Falls Chapter and is leading key habitat restoration on the Spokane River

Distinguished Service Youth Education: Dick Shinton

Dick Shinton’s dedication to Youth Education has had a profound and lasting impact on his local chapter, state council, and hundreds of young people throughout Colorado. As a longstanding volunteer and leader of the Colorado River Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp for teens, Dick has been instrumental in shaping the program for 15 of its 18 years of existence. He fully embodies Trout Unlimited’s values and recognizes that engaging youth from diverse backgrounds is crucial to the sustainability of TU’s mission.

Distinguished Service – Communications: Linnea Turner

Linnea Turner made a significant impact during her tenure as a TU Costa 5 Rivers College Program leader. As the host of the Emerging Podcast, she successfully managed the entire production process, conducting interviews with a diverse range of guests, including TU staff, volunteers, industry partners, researchers and 5 Rivers students. Linnea’s strength lay in her ability to connect with listeners who may be new to fly fishing or conservation, inspiring them to engage in TU activities and pursue their passions.

Betty Winn Distinguished Service for Anadromous Conservation: Amy Cordalis

Amy Cordalis is a member of the Yurok Tribe. She is an attorney for the tribe and was a staff attorney at the Native American Rights Fund. She is a board member of Trout Unlimited and the Klamath River Renewal Corporation and is a co-founder of the Ridges to Riffles Indigenous Conservation Group. She is being honored for her tireless work to remove four dams on the Klamath River to improve water quality and restore salmon, steelhead, lamprey and other native species populations throughout the watershed.

Jack Williams Award for Applied Conservation Science: Tom Quinn

Throughout his long career at the University of Washington, Professor Tom Quinn’s research and teaching encompassed virtually every aspect of the behavior, ecology, evolution, and conservation of Pacific salmon, trout, and char, and their ecosystems. His seminal book, The Behavior and Ecology of Pacific Salmon and Trout is a beautiful and accessible work that dives deeply into all aspects of the life cycle of Pacific salmonids. Quinn was critical to the effort to protect Bristol Bay’s salmon from the Pebble Mine Project.

Conservation Professional Award: Matt Jaeger

In his career as a Fisheries Biologist for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Park, Matt Jaeger has been a champion of Montana’s native fish, a critical partner among diverse stakeholders, and a powerful advocate for hard science informing fish management and recovery actions. In addition to his work protecting Grayling and Pallid Sturgeon, he has led the development and data collection of the Westslope Cutthroat Trout Conservation Strategy for the Missouri River Headwaters of Southwest Montana. 

Corporate Conservation Partner: Patagonia

Patagonia’s unwavering commitment to environmental stewardship and advocacy in support of coldwater conservation and wild fish has been instrumental in raising awareness and mobilizing communities across the world. Patagonia’s dedication to sustainability and environmental activism is deeply ingrained in the company’s ethos. Since its inception 50 years ago, Patagonia has demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to giving back to the planet and has been a leading voice in the call to remove the four Lower Snake River Dams to restore salmon and steelhead.

Tim Gavin Steelhead Award: Dave Bouta

A member and grassroots leader for 25 years, Dave Bouta exemplifies TU’s mission, community, and commitment to protecting Washington’s incredible coldwater streams and native fish. He has served numerous leadership roles in multiple chapters and is a founder of the Yakima Headwaters Chapter. He frequently works closely with the Washington Council of TU, serves on the board of the Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, and maintains key working relationships with partners at the Yakama Nation, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Bureau of Land Management, among others.


Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to caring for and recovering America’s rivers and streams so our children can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon. Across the country, TU brings to bear local, regional and national grassroots organizing, durable partnerships, science-backed policy muscle, and legal firepower on behalf of trout and salmon fisheries, healthy waters and vibrant communities. For more information on our work, visit www.tu.org.