(Opinion) The key to conservation is collaboration
Time and again, confrontation doesn’t work to achieve goals
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s premier cold water conservation organization. For over 60 years, Trout Unlimited has been the voice in preserving, reconnecting and restoring the watersheds of America.
The vision of Trout Unlimited is for communities across America to engage in the work of repairing and renewing the rivers, streams and other waters on which all Americans depend — a vision vital in these times of climate change.
The mission is to bring together diverse interests to care for and recover rivers and streams, so our children can experience the joy of wild salmonids.
Trout Unlimited is a true grassroots organization. Trout Unlimited is uniquely positioned to execute the mission/vision through its grassroots organizational structure. The structure begins with local chapters who form a state council. The state council is the go-between for the big picture of the national organization and the “boots on the ground” of the local chapters.
With eight chapters and over 1,500 members, New Hampshire Trout Unlimited (NHTU) has all the necessary resources to make a difference in the state.
In just the last 10 years, NHTU has expended 44,000 volunteer hours valued at $1.2 million, and executed over 30 restoration/conservation projects valued at more than $6.5 million. There are millions of dollars more in projects in the pipeline.
All of this does not happen without partners. Trout Unlimited’s strength lies in its ability to collaborate across all stakeholders: Fish & Game, Department of Environmental Services, Department of Transportation, Department of Cultural Resources. Trout Unlimited partners with all of them to improve the health and safety of our waterways.
Non-government agencies include The Nature Conservancy, Forest Society, Wildlife Federation, County Conservation districts and local river advisory committees. These are just a sampling of collaborative partners that Trout Unlimited works with to restore cold water resources.
Most importantly are the towns in which we work. Our members are the local citizenry. They have a stake in improving and protecting the environment. They can go to town hall and work with local officials to make things happen.
Local membership means issues can be discussed, all stakeholders heard, and a course of action plotted without waiting for approvals from national headquarters. It’s a system that works for the good of the majority.
Trout Unlimited is recognized for its ability to reach compromise and to keep projects moving in a positive direction. Unfortunately, in the recent past, there are those who do not invest the time or the energy to collaborate. Their modus operandi is to confront. And if confrontation doesn’t work to achieve their goal, then circumvention becomes the tool of choice.
A recent example was the push to change the makeup of the Fish & Game Commission, a system that has served the fish and wildlife community well for decades. The parties who confronted the Fish & Game Commission and were rebuffed went to their local legislators to try and have the Commission changed to meet their specific needs instead of investing the time to collaborate with the commission.
Trout Unlimited learned a long time ago that the most precious commodity, time, is best spent collaborating.
Confrontation only ends in disappointment. The bill was defeated in committee. Much time had been wasted by all parties involved.
Because Trout Unlimited chooses collaboration, we are able to speak with governors, executive councilors, legislators, Fish & Game commissioners, executive directors and state personnel. They take our calls, because we want to collaborate with them and not confront them. We want to help them reach our mutual goals.
So next time you are sitting near a cool, clear stream, remember that it may have been your neighbor, a Trout Unlimited grassroots member, who helped to preserve, protect or restore that body of water.
Michael Croteau is chair of the NH Council of Trout Unlimited.