The Coldwater Conservation Fund

By Chris Wood

Donna Marcotte wanted to go somewhere special for her birthday. So, she and her husband Ivan decided to attend the Coldwater Conservation Fund (CCF) trip to the Carrileufu River Lodge in the Patagonia region of Argentina. Donna managed to catch the largest trout of her life—a 25” rainbow from a spring creek. Such good fortune happens to everyone who joins the CCF—Trout Unlimited’s equivalent of a venture conservation fund.

Donna and Ivan were joined by fellow CCF members John Bell, Joe Anscher, Andy Roberts, and Richard Johnson (who is also a former TU trustee). Amidst the fishing, wine, and incredible hospitality shown by Pancho Panzer, the lodge owner and a TU Business member, was serious thinking about how we better engage more people as advocates for conservation.

Richard and Joe talked about ways to engage millennials. Ivan noted that the World Economic Forum recently identified climate change as a major problem in its Global Risks Report. Andy talked about the imperative of supporting TU’s stream of engagement as a way to build future conservation leaders. John Bell emphasized the importance of planned giving for TU to continue to grow to meet new and existing challenges to trout and salmon.

These and the other CCF members contribute 10k a year to Trout Unlimited for five years. It is a serious commitment, and they do serious and good work. In addition to taking epic trips to places such as Patagonia, they meet once a year to fish together, and then vote to determine how and where their money is spent. In the process they meet fellow anglers who love to fish and also understand the connection between healthy habitat and better fishing. They engage with senior leaders from TU, and learn more about specific projects on rivers and streams they love to fish.

Last year, the CCF helped to finance ballot initiatives to improve mining practices in Montana and Alaska, and protect places such as Bristol Bay and the Smith River. They provided core support for TU scientists to develop an app that will allow our 300,000 members and supporters to document stream degradation in a way that will help us to better set restoration priorities.

The CCF is helping us to stop the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes while also financing specific restoration work for salter brook trout in Maine, salmon and steelhead on the Lochsa, and wild trout on the Big Wood in Idaho.

The strength of Trout Unlimited rests on two pillars—science and volunteers. As state and federal governments continue to cut funding for science, TU is a vital voice in promoting science and its use to influence policy. The CCF has helped TU to become a leader in the application of remote sensing to conservation. We use remote sensing to map side channels and inundation areas in floodplains. We use aerial photographs and drones to produce compelling pre-/post-project videos. We use satellite imagery to track the response of stream-side vegetation to improvements in grazing practices.

As they themselves are volunteers, the CCF realizes that volunteers are the heartbeat of the organization. Our 300,000 members and supporters give us credibility in thousands of communities across America. That helps explain why the CCF supported funding to develop a tool in Wisconsin that will allow volunteers and staff to better set native brook trout restoration priorities. They are also supporting development of interactive web based tools that will increase staff and volunteers ability to partner with local land trusts on priority land protection work.

I told a fish story. Donna did in fact catch a 25” rainbow, but that won’t necessarily happen to you if you join the Coldwater Conservation Fund. You will, however, join a community of like-minded anglers who give back to the lands and waters that give so much to us, and ask for so little in return.

Please let me know if you would like to become a member of the CCF!

Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited


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