Middleton set to host Trout Unlimited national meeting

Madison — Hundreds of volunteer leaders from Trout Unlimited will gather in Middleton, Sept. 25-29, as Wisconsin hosts the conservation group’s annual national meeting.

Activities associated with the meeting include a report on TU’s work across the nation from TU president Chris Wood, TU’s National Women’s Summit, a tour of the four-state Driftless Area restoration projects, and, not surprisingly, trout-fishing opportunities.

The 150,000-member group has almost 400 chapters in 36 states. Its staff of 180 works across the country with volunteers and partners to preserve, protect, and restore cold-water resources.

With more than 5,000 TU members in 22 chapters, Wisconsin trout streams have benefited from the group’s activities for more than 40 years. TU volunteers restore watersheds, advocate for policies to protect water, and sensible fisheries policy, and educate people about these resources and the recreation they have to offer. With more than 13,000 miles of classified trout water and an increasing amount of public access, Wisconsin anglers are seeing the benefits of TU’s work.

Within a long cast of the Middleton Marriott Hotel lies Black Earth Creek, which has repeatedly been described as one of America’s Top 100 trout streams. Protected by generations of conservationists, the stream features solid populations of naturally reproducing trout, abundant public access, and years of habitat work by volunteers from TU and other groups and agencies.

Black Earth Creek will be a featured site on the conservation tour, along with the Blue River/Big Spring in Grant County and Bear Creek in Iowa County. In all of those places, TU chapters have helped carry out large-scale watershed projects in recent years, in association with the Driftless Area Restoration Effort. 

Since its inception in 2004, DARE has worked to expand watershed restoration across the unglaciated region of southwest Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, and northeast Iowa. Almost four dozen projects are planned this year across the region. This is TU’s largest regional watershed program in the nation. Dozens of TU chapters have become partners with landowners, state DNRs, federal conservation agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, county conservation departments, land trusts, colleges and schools, and private conservation groups.

Wood will give his annual State-of-TU presentation on Friday, Sept. 27, at the Middleton Marriott. The public is welcome to attend this session without charge. Wood became TU’s top executive in 2010, and is considered by many to be one of the nation’s leading conservation visionaries.

Wood came to TU in 2001 from the U.S. Forest Service, where he served as the senior policy and communications advisor to Forest Service chief Mike Dombeck. Since he arrived at TU, Wood has helped form partnerships to clean up abandoned mines, with companies such as Tiffany & Co., and has worked with various sportsmen’s groups to protect iconic landscapes, such as the Wyoming Range and Idaho’s backcountry roadless areas.

From its hundreds of local stream restoration projects to helping lead the way in dam removal to compelling Congress to strengthen the Clean Water Act and opposing the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s rich Bristol Bay salmon fishery headwaters, TU has a 50-year track record of conservation achievements. One of its guiding principles has been that if we “first take care of the fish, then the fishing will take care of itself.”

Wood, a graduate of Middlebury College, lives with his wife Betsy and their three sons in Washington, D.C.

Wisconsin TU State Council chair Henry Koltz, of Milwaukee, is eager to show off Wisconsin’s trout resources, including those of the Driftless Area where the meeting will be held.

“TU, its volunteers, and its partners perform incredible work to improve and restore stream health and provide fishing access for the public in Wisconsin, and our state offers some of the best trout fishing in the nation,” Koltz said. We’re very excited to show off what we’ve accomplished.”

Jon Christiansen, chairman of TU’s National Board of Trustees and a resident of Mequon, said he was thrilled to have the national TU meeting in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin has long been a leader in scientific trout management and stream restoration and we want TU members from the rest of the country to experience first hand the terrific fishing that Wisconsin has to offer,” Christiansen said.

Wisconsin TU has hosted the group’s annual meeting twice before. In 1972, Madison was the meeting site, and in the early 1980s, Oshkosh hosted the meeting at which the featured speaker was celebrity Arthur Godfrey.

For information on scheduled events or registration, go to tu.org/events/2013-annualmeeting, or contact Duke Welter at (715) 579-7538.

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