Fishing for advocacy

Trout Unlimited rises again in Juneau waters

Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2006

A group of Juneau anglers has reconstituted a Juneau chapter of the nonprofit advocacy group Trout Unlimited and hopes to develop a comprehensive fish-based watershed management plan for Montana Creek in one of its first projects.

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"It's such an incredible little fishery, and it's right in the middle of town," said Tim Bristol, the Alaska program director for TU. "We certainly don't want to see Montana Creek become Duck Creek, which is a mess. We're trying to be proactive here."

Trout Unlimited (www.tu.org) is a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring the habitat of cold water fish.

It had a Juneau chapter from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. The branch included about 100 members at one point and worked on a series of projects, including restoration work on Duck Creek.

About 25 people attended the group's reorganizational meeting in late March at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School. Officers were elected. Chris Zimmer was named the group's new president.

"I think we can get there again (100 people)," Bristol said. "It's going to be two things: to pick issues that resonate with people who live here and to put some emphasis on having a good time when we get together. Certainly, there's going to be a large fishing component to it."

TU's Alaska national office opened in June 2005 and has three staff members, including Bristol.

"We're sort of this tweener organization between a straight-up environmental advocacy organization and an agency," Bristol said. "Alaska salmon and trout runs are in good shape, but there are some threats out there. We want to be able to be involved in making sure we manage our fisheries and do what's best for the fish."

TU and the Bristol Bay Alliance has organized in opposition to the Pebble Mine in southwestern Alaska. In Southeast Alaska, the group hopes to build a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Forest Service on a watershed restoration project in the Cobble area of Prince of Wales Island.

"In some cases, we'll be out there saying, 'We don't think this is a good idea, and here's why,'" Bristol said. "In other cases, we'll be a little more hands-on than what you usually see from a nonprofit organization, when it comes to watershed restoration and replacing culverts."

In the future, TU hopes to be involved in the reauthorization of the U.S. Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty.

"Ideally, our role will be to work with other groups to build some additions to the treaty that focus on habitat protection," Bristol said.

The Juneau chapter hopes to use a $5,000 Embrace a Stream grant from the national office to begin its stewardship project on Montana Creek.

"There's a fair amount of information that's been collected by (University of Alaska Southeast) and by Fish and Game, and we're looking at pulling some of this data together," Juneau chapter vice president Brad Elfers said. "What's we'd like to first-hand is find out what information is out there.

"There's encroaching development and all sorts of things that are going on, and no one knows what will happen in the future," he said. "We haven't completely defined the parameters of what we're going to do, but it's mostly just seeing that Montana Creek remains in the future as great a creek as it is today."



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