Revival and innovation

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Revival and innovation

My grandfather always told me that he wished he would have moved to Montana after World War II, to fish and hunt in places he only read about or watched on Curt Gowdy’s The American Sportsmen in the 1960s and 70s. After leaving the United States Navy at the young age of 19 he moved to the birthplace of Trout Unlimited, Michigan, for a good paying job in a papermill and to raise his family. He never got to live in Montana, but made trips west to fish mountain streams and chase elk in the dark timber. These were the stories I heard time and again around my grandfather’s cellar bar growing up.

When I moved West after college, I wanted to see, firsthand, the settings of my grandfather’s stories and the many articles I had read in Field & Stream. When I landed in southern Utah, I didn’t hunt and fish, something I now regret. The Paunsaugunt deer herd and Dixie National Forest were in my backyard! I was passionate about public lands but didn’t readily see my place within the angling and hunting community to pursue these conservation interests.

A rally for public lands on the steps of the capitol building in Denver, CO.

Upon seeing a job advertisement for a public land advocacy director at Trout Unlimited in the early 2000s, all that changed. Here was an organization working to protect fish and wildlife habitat on public lands. Anglers and hunters advocating for the places they loved, some for generations, was novel to me at the time. I accepted that job at Trout Unlimited and am very glad I did.


Trout Unlimited’s work to protect public lands was the beginning of a sort of renaissance within the angling and hunting community. Our tag line was habitat equals opportunity. Seems simple, you want good fishing and hunting you need habitat. Early in my tenure at Trout Unlimited people would scratch their heads when we told them we were anglers and hunters and wanted to designate new wilderness. “That’s what environmentalists do, right?” they’d ask.

Public lands advocates support public lands at the Colorado state capitol. 

 aNow, more anglers, hunters and sporting organizations are advocating for public lands. Could we do more? Absolutely. Are there segments of the community not engaged? Yes. But the worm has turned. In my time at Trout Unlimited we have gone from protecting Forest Service roadless areas, a fight that continues today, to designating wilderness, national monuments and wild and scenic rivers. In recent years anglers and hunters rallied, like never before, to oppose the bad idea of transferring our national public lands to the states.


This experience led Trout Unlimited to work more at the state-level where the “rubber meets the road” on issues like funding for state wildlife agencies and access. Earlier this year, Trout Unlimited led an effort to prohibit suction dredge hobby mining in Washington’s salmon and steelhead rivers. This was a hard-fought win resulting in new state legislation. And now we are organizing anglers and hunters to share their personal accounts of climate change degrading habitat while calling on lawmakers to act swiftly. What is next for Trout Unlimited and the anglers and hunters we work with across the West? The opportunities to protect habitat and sporting opportunity are without end.

Wild Colorado River rainbow trout. 

I think President Roosevelt would be encouraged by this reawakening, but would also yell from the pulpit for anglers and hunters of all stripes to join the fight.

If my grandfather had another bite at the apple, I have no doubt he would have lived in the West, and spoken up for his favorite fishing and hunting spots. I will do this in his absence and ask each of you to join me.

Steve Kandell
Director, Angler Conservation Program
Durango, Colorado