Ty Churchwell, Backcountry Coordinator, SCP

Having spent the last ten years or so engaged with TU, both in chapter leadership and on staff, I have a wonderfully unique perspective on our work as a ‘One TU’ team.  A decade ago, I had the pleasure of joining our local chapter in Durango just in time to fill a vice president’s void, then two years later stepped into the president’s seat.  I cut my conservation teeth performing chapter fundraising, youth education, learning water policy and developing relationships at all levels, all as a volunteer.  I found a family of trout warriors and a great desire to do conservation work full-time. Six years ago I joined the team of National TU’s public land programs, the ‘Sportsmen’s Conservation Project’ (SCP), headquartered in Durango.   I share office space with the director of our programs, Steve Kandell, who oversees about 28 staff in all eleven western states.  We’re the ‘…and their watersheds’ part of TU’s mission statement.  It is my pleasure to represent hunters and anglers in discussions around our public lands.

I primarily work on placed-based initiatives, which are directed at being legislative in nature at the federal level.  The campaigns I’ve coordinated were for special areas of BLM or USFS public land that had been identified as vital to sportsmen, such as the Alpine Triangle and Hermosa Creek.  I’ve also had the opportunity to assist colleagues in all areas of TU, on campaigns such as Browns Canyon, the San Juan Wilderness bill, Thompson Divide, Roan Plateau and the Public Land Renewable Energy Development act.  My work takes me to discussion around ATVs, mines, native trout, timber, oil/gas development, elk habitat, mountain bikes, sage grouse and on and on.  Our public lands are our birthright and trout fisheries rely on them.

At present my time is almost exclusively directed at the Hermosa Creek effort, a campaign of somewhat notoriety.  Hermosa Creek has long been a focus area for TU in SW Colorado.  A bill to protect the entire basin now works its way through the halls of Congress, including a wilderness component.  Each day seems to bring new developments.  Many consider Hermosa Creek to be one of the top bills in the country to possibly break the gridlock of public land bills in DC.  Congress has only enacted one wilderness bill since 2009.

The Animas River, my home water, is the poster child for Acid Mine Drainage in America.  The upper basin near Silverton is laden with heavy metals from historic mining.  I work with local stakeholders such as BLM, EPA, CDPHE and mining interests to resolve our water quality problem.  I worked with Rep. Tipton and Sen. Udall in crafting ‘Good Samaritan’ legislation, which was introduced in 2013, but has languished.  Thankfully the Animas’ water has been diluted by the time it reaches Durango and we enjoy a world-class brown trout fishery right in town.

I have always been a trout bum, for as long as I can remember.  Those beautiful trout have brought me great joy with wonderful friends and exciting travels.  I owe them!

Ty Churchwell - tchurchwell@tu.org