Join us "behind the fin" with TU volunteer and President of the Gunnison Angling Society, Briant Wiles. How long have you been a TU member?
I have been a TU member for six years now.
Why did you become a member and what chapter are you involved with?
I became a member because I was increasingly aware of TU's impact in the region. The more I learned about what TU stands for and what they do, the more I felt that this was an organization that aligns with my values. So a few years after becoming a member I started to get involved with my local chapter the Gunnison Angling Society.
What made you want to be involved with TU?
I wanted to get involved with TU because of the opportunity there was to make a difference in local waters. The more I learned about the issues impacting coldwater fisheries and their watersheds, the more I saw these impacts nearly everywhere I looked. Right now there exists a big opportunity to work to address a host of impairments with common sense approaches that could have long lasting impacts. TU is an organization that I see as being effective in working on these often contentious natural resource issues. So for me, wanting to make an impact and effect change, TU was an easy choice. Not to mention all the fun I have had connecting with other passionate anglers and improving my fishing game.
What is your favorite activity or project you have done with TU?
By far my favorite project I have done with TU has been the Gunnison Basin Adopt-A-Trout program. This grass root effort was really rewarding and I learned a lot. Through the project, we were able to tag and track trout, do riparian restoration, and I have had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of youth from the Gunnison Area and around the country about the importance of trout habitat. Through the project, I was really able to grow and develop as a community member. Now I am more aware and involved with local issues such as growth and development in our little mountain valley. I mean who among us would not jump at the chance to handle and track trout in the hopes of a better tomorrow?
I know you won’t tell me your favorite spot, but what is your second favorite place to fish or favorite fishing story?
The Gunnison area is a blessed place to cast a fly rod with plenty of options. There is, of course, a few places that I hold more dear than others. One that I don't mind sharing is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. For one, getting into this large hole in the earth and out again is difficult so not too many folks will venture there anyway. If your idea of fun is scrambling down loose scree, navigating large cliffs and thrashing your way through dense thickets of towering poison ivy than the Black may just might be right for you. I have had some of my more memorable experiences battling the geology in the depths of the canyon, finding large eager fish waiting in a pristine setting. A magical place for sure.
What does being a part of TU mean to you?
Being a part of TU means that you are part of the future. TU's commitment and values align well with my own. For me, the TU decal on a pickup's rear window is a sign that there are others out there that share those same values. TU is highly regarded among conservation organizations and is considered a major player in many local issues impacting water. A message of progress that I can gladly get behind while looking to a sustainable future.
What else do you do in your spare time or work?
I connect to the outdoors in three meaningful ways: Winter, I am splitboarding in the Crested Butte backcountry; Fall, I chase elk, grouse and ducks; all other times I am fishing. My passion for the outdoors has led me to a career in natural resource conservation and I am currently building experience working on water related issues. I hope to be able to grow my own business consulting and working on natural resource issues in the Gunnison Basin and beyond.