Matt Clark, Backcountry Coordinator, Western Water Project and SCP

I grew up on a farm and ranch in SW Colorado. From a very young age, playing and working on the land was most of what I did. Growing up outside, and with a family that instilled an appreciation for all of our environment and our duty to work with, not against nature, is one of the big things that led me to conservation work and to TU. I didn’t become immersed in hunting and angling until after college, but when I did, it quickly became my favorite excuse to be outside. Spending days in the wilderness chasing elk and eating brookies for breakfast (catch and release is a great and necessary thing but about half my fishing these days is targeting brook trout in cutthroat waters and enjoying them with bacon and eggs) was the second thing that led me to Trout Unlimited. I represent TU for both the Sportsman’s Conservation Project on land protection, planning, and policy, as well as the Western Water Project implementing on the ground conservation projects with landowners and on public lands in collaboration with our local chapter, the Dolores River Anglers. Working across TU program areas, serving on the board of our chapter since I started with TU six years ago, and having been fortunate enough to work closely with CTU, has given me a deep appreciation of how much our organization, how much we all collectively, are accomplishing for fisheries and watersheds across the state.

Here are some current highlights illustrating what this means in my neck of the woods. In the on the ground category, there is a large cobble push up dam the spans the Dolores River for about 9 months of the year (the other three it’s blown out by spring high flows, after words it’s rebuilt to work as a diversion for the rest of the summer and fall), blocking fish passage both up and down stream because the cobble is so porous water flows through it, not over it. Working closely with the landowner, the NRCS, and the Forest Service (because the diversion happens to be on federal land), we are replacing the push up dam with a series of large rock cross vanes that will provide fish and boat passage and reliable and maintenance free access to the ranch’s water right. A win-win situation for everyone involved.

The policy and protection side has seen us working successfully for stream and riparian area setbacks and No Surface Occupancy stipulations to protect winter elk habitat on the San Juan National Forest and adjacent BLM lands. Currently we are diving into Travel Management Planning in the upper Dolores River watershed. The previously release plan failed to adequately analyze and account for impacts to fish and wildlife and was successfully appealed by a coalition of TU and other conservation organizations. We are now working with the Forest Service to help ensure a good conservation outcome this time around.

The common thread of needing the land and it’s resources both for enjoyment and sanity, as well as survival, was not lost on our forefathers. Leaders such as Teddy Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold helped point the way toward living appropriately on the land and the work that TU and it’s members do day in and out is building on that legacy. I look forward to continuing to work with you on projects and ideas large and small. If you have any questions or thoughts, please get in touch with me.

--- Matt Clark, Backcountry Coordinator, Western Water Project and SCP, 970-799-0274