Trout Unlimited is a national organization with more than 140,000 volunteers organized into about 400 chapters from Maine to Montana to Alaska. This dedicated grassroots army is matched by a respected staff of lawyers, policy experts and scientists, who work out of more than 30 offices nationwide. These conservation professionals ensure that TU is at the forefront of fisheries restoration work at the local, state and national levels.
The organization remains committed to applying “the very best information and thinking available” in its conservation work and has developed cutting-edge tools such as the Conservation Success Index (CSI), a sophisticated framework for assessing the health of coldwater fish species throughout their native range. Whether this range encompasses a few hundred miles or multiple states, the CSI helps the organization target its efforts toward those populations most in need of protection or restoration.
The CSI also enables TU to measure its progress in achieving the bold goals laid out in its mission and vision. These goals require the organization to work at increasingly larger scales, and to collaborate with other conservation interests, local communities and state and federal partners to begin to rebuild the natural resiliency of watersheds. Such efforts are crucial if North America’s trout and salmon are to survive climate change and the host of threats facing them at the start of the 21st century.
More than 50 years after its founding, no other conservation organization is as well placed as TU to make a difference for the nation’s coldwater fisheries.
TU’s goal is to conserve, protect, and restore brook trout throughout their native range. Within each state volunteers are:
Contacting elected officials in order to improve air and water quality, and reduce emissions that cause acid rain;
Developing education programs to teach youth about the importance of clean water, clean air, and healthy watersheds;
Conducting conservation projects to improve water quality and fish habitat, and to restore brook trout to their native streams.
TU is a partner in the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture (EBTJV); the nation’s first pilot project under the National Fish Habitat Initiative, which directs locally-driven efforts that build private and public partnerships to improve fish habitat. The long-term goals of the EBTJV are to develop a comprehensive restoration and education strategy to improve aquatic habitat, to raise education awareness, and to raise federal, state and local funds for brook trout conservation.
For more information, click here.
Virginia's Trout Program
With over 3,500 miles of coldwater streams, Virginia offers a wide range of trout fishing opportunities. Here is an overview of Virginia's Trout Program, from Virginia's Department of Wildlife Resources.
Virginia's Trout Program, by Mike Bednarski, Chief of Fisheries
Chesapeake Bay Coldwater Land Conservancy Fund
VCTU sees conservation easements as the primary vehicle for ensuring long-term habitat health on private land. To that end, it is collaborating with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF), the state’s primary easement holder, to promote conservation and recreational access easements that benefit trout habitat.
In 2011, TU established the Chesapeake Bay Coldwater Land Conservancy Fund, which provides matching grants to land trusts and conservation agencies to permanently protect habitat for Eastern brook trout through land and conservation easement acquisition. Grants must be used for the transaction costs (e.g. boundary surveys, appraisals, baseline documentation, other due diligence, monitoring, etc.) of land protection projects. Projects must be located within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Support for the Fund comes from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Trout Unlimited.
In 2012, TU announced the first recipients, three of which were easements held by VOF and sponsored by VCTU that protect brook trout habitat. You can learn more about these projects and the Fund itself here.
Embrace-A-Stream (EAS) is the flagship grant program for funding TU’s grassroots conservation efforts. Since its inception in 1975, EAS has funded over 980 individual projects for a total of more than $4 million in direct cash grants. Local TU chapters and councils contributed an additional $13 million in cash and in-kind services to EAS funded projects for a total investment of more than $17 million. In 2011, the EAS funded 25 projects in 15 states, including a project by the Shenandoah Valley Chapter in Virginia, with an average grant award of $5,000.
Learn more about Embrace-A-Stream here.
In partnership with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited has initiated a long-term campaign to conserve, protect, and restore coldwater streams in the valleys and mountains in the Interstate 81corridor which stretches from Bristol, Virginia/Tennessee 325 miles north to the West Virginia border above Winchester.
Called the Interstate-81 Coldwater Area Restoration Effort or ‘I81 – CARE,’ the campaign’s goals are to reduce pollution and thus improve habitat for trout in the headwaters of five major rivers: Shenandoah, James, Roanoke, New, and Upper Tennessee. The Status and Threats report from the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture noted that the I – 81 corridor’s streams once were prime habitat for brook trout, the state’s fish, but that the land use practices of the 1900s caused the trout to retreat to the high mountain headwaters where they are only found today. I81 – CARE is the product of a series of stakeholder meetings begun in April 2007.
Marcellus Shale Exploration
The Marcellus shale is located in the Appalachian region of the US. It spans approximately 600 miles from the southern tier of New York through Pennsylvania and Ohio, and into West Virginia and parts of western Virginia. It is estimated to cover about 54,000 square miles, and it coincides with the location of many wild trout streams.
Exploration of natural gas deposits in Marcellus shale has the potential to cause serious negative impacts to coldwater streams and everything dependent upon them. Click here to learn more about how TU is tracking Marcellus shale development.
Click here to download a fact sheet published by the Virginia Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.
Shenandoah Headwaters Home Rivers Initiative
TU’s Shenandoah Headwaters Home Rivers Initiative is working for the restoration of brook and other trout species in the spring creeks and mountain headwaters. A new partnership with Orvis is developing a broad-scale conservation effort in the Roanoke River watershed and discussions are just beginning with Appalachian Power, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, concerning habitat restoration in the Virginia and West Virginia sections of the New River watershed.
For more information, click here.
Virginia Trout Stream Sensitivity Study
The Virginia Trout Stream Sensitivity Study (VTSSS), led by scientists at the University of Virginia, is one of the most useful and fun things we do in TU. The purpose of the study is to track pH levels, acid neutralizing capacity, and related data for Virginia's mountain headwater streams that support reproducing populations of native brook trout. This is accomplished by periodic sampling of approximately 450 sites throughout the state. The first samplings were conducted in 1987, and TU volunteers and others have collected follow-up samples at the same sites in 2000, 2010, and 2021.
To learn more visit the VTSS 2021 website and the SWAS-VTSSS website.