Brian Hodge is an aquatic restoration biologist with Trout Unlimited’s Western Water and Habitat Project. He lives outside of Steamboat Springs and works on projects in the White and Yampa river basins. In 2015, Brian received the prestigious Rise to the Future Award from the U.S. Forest Service in recognition of his work in protecting watershed resources in the Routt National Forest. We recently caught up with Brian and asked him a few questions: Tell us about your work and its goals.
My work is anything related to fishery restoration—from identifying, designing, and fundraising for restoration projects, to implementing and monitoring those projects. I typically partner with private landowners and agencies, and I’m especially interested in conserving native fishes. One of my primary goals is to plan and implement projects that benefit coldwater fish and landowner alike. By helping to improve irrigation efficiency, for example, we might improve stream flows for trout and operational efficiency for ranchers.
What motivates you to conserve coldwater fisheries--why do the fish matter?
The fisherman and father in me hope to conserve fisheries so that I have opportunities to catch fish in the future and my son has opportunities to catch fish in the distant future. And in my opinion, there’s a difference between catching wild and hatchery fish. But fishing is only a piece of it—for me, conservation is about more than preservation of fishing. The scientist in me knows that removing or replacing one piece of an ecosystem might set off a string of dominoes, with undesired results. I see the logic in conserving the original pieces. Finally, some part of me is, and always has been, drawn to fish. I can explain why I like working on lakes and streams and why fish fascinate me, but not necessarily why it was fish—and not deer or football—that captured my interest 25-30 years ago. Fortunately, I found a way to build a career around my interest.
What do you do for fun apart from work?
When I’m not working, I like to spend time with my son. We ski, fish, and hunt, among other things.
What’s something people don’t know about you?
I coached junior ski racers for 12 years. Ski racing is a great sport and, in my opinion, among the best for developing the mind, body, and spirit of young athletes.
I couldn’t choose just one favorite book, though a book I read about once a year is Indian Creek Chronicles by Peter Fromm. It’s a true story about a 19-year-old who skips a semester of college to guard salmon eggs on the Selway River in Idaho. It’s a great read on a camping or backpacking trip. Other books I like are River of Renewal by Stephen Most and Totem Salmon by Freeman House. There’s definitely a fish theme.
Do you have a conservation hero?
I don’t know that I have a hero, but I know that I’m constantly motivated and inspired by the people I work with. I work with an outstanding group of conservation biologists in northwest Colorado and, of course, I don’t have to look too far within TU to find conservation leaders. If TU’s Chrysten Lambert and Brian Johnson (among others) succeed in removing four dams from the Klamath River, they’ll be my conservation heroes.