As I look back on my experience as an intern for Trout Unlimited, I can not help but think about how I ended up in the position to work for such an amazing organization. I grew up in San Francisco, hundreds of miles away from the pristine rivers, mountains and wilderness areas that make up Idaho. But as the grandson of a rancher in Northern California and the son of two avid outdoor sports enthusiasts, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a family who fostered a love for the outdoors and emphasized the importance of protecting it. Even though I was exposed to so many aspects of the outdoors, these areas that TU and other leading conservation organizations fight to conserve still seemed so far away.
I moved to Idaho during the summer of 2016 and was immediately enamored with my surroundings. Living in such proximity to Silver Creek, one of the most beautiful and untouched trout fisheries in the United States, conservation and proper resource and land stewardship finally became tangible. Through skiing, hunting, angling, and working with livestock, the environmental issues that contribute most to climate change became evident in my everyday life. I had always been acutely aware of climate change, but now I got to see its impact on the place I had fallen in love with, the place I now called home. It was around this time when I made the decision to dedicate my career towards protecting these wild places, the very same places that had provided me with so much joy and happiness over the years.
When I began my internship with Trout Unlimited towards the end of June, I genuinely did not have much of an idea of what to expect. The summer before, I had an internship with The Nature Conservancy where I performed mostly manual labor. Was this new opportunity going to follow along similar lines? I did not know what I was getting myself into. On my first day, my first task was to join a call regarding the Cat Creek Reservoir Project, a proposed hydropower and water storage project outside of Mountain Home, Idaho. TU is protesting the water rights applications associated with the project. After the call, I was given several long documents to read to familiarize myself with the project’s ins and outs. With such a steep learning curve, I quickly came to realize that Trout Unlimited had geared this internship towards learning. During the onboarding process, I had been asked which aspects of conservation I was interested in, and it became clear that my eight-week internship was tailored specifically to my interests and aspirations. In the first few weeks, I worked predominantly in environmental policy as well as writing an application for a grant that would provide TU’s Ted Trueblood Chapter, based in Boise, with more rods, reels and other angling gear to expand the youth and community outreach programs. I had already learned so much more than I thought possible and could not wait for what the rest of my time with TU would hold.
There have been so many highlights over the course of this internship that it is hard to pick favorites. As someone who loves to learn, especially when it comes to things that are applicable to my life and career aspirations, I have found enjoyment in each day of work. If I had to choose, my favorite moments and tasks would be my work on the Cat Creek Reservoir Project, the Trout Unlimited Next Generation Gear Grant, and the several meetings with established TU staff.
The Cat Creek Reservoir Project is the proposed construction of a new 100,000 acre-foot reservoir outside of Mountain Home, Idaho. I started my internship during the time that TU and the other protestants of the project were commenting on the Pre-Application Document (PAD) and Scoping Document 1 (SD1). These documents are essentially the outline of the project presented by Cat Creek Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), respectively. In reading through the PAD and SD1, I was able to not only achieve a firm grasp of the size, scale and specifics of the proposed project, I was able to develop such a deep understanding of what the flaws and inconsistencies were. I was tasked with synthesizing comments made by others within TU into a coherent and easily read document. This document was then used as part of TU’s official comments on the project. I had never seen my words included in a document that carried so much weight, and that experience was incredibly rewarding.
The Ted Trueblood Chapter of Trout Unlimited did not receive the TU Next Generation Gear Grant, but the experience of writing the proposal was still a valuable one. I had the opportunity to speak with members of the board and staff to learn more about why the chapter’s youth and community outreach programs were so successful and how they could be improved. Even though we were not awarded the grant, I learned how to market the chapter, gained experience writing grant proposals, and developed relationships with people who have dedicated their lives to protecting Idaho’s fisheries.
Among the several meetings I had with Trout Unlimited staff and individuals working for adjacent and like-minded organizations, the two that stand out are the conversations with Beverly Smith and Chris Wood. Beverly Smith, vice president for volunteer operations for TU National, talked about how she always let her passion for her work and for those that worked with her be her motivation. For years, Beverly has worked long hours with very little time off, but it does not matter to her because she genuinely cares about and believes in the work she was doing. Chris Wood, President and Chief Executive Officer of Trout Unlimited, is one of the most passionate and insightful people I have had the pleasure of speaking with. He talked about making connections and building relationships with people, not just the places we are trying to protect, in order to achieve our goals. To Beverly, Chris, and everyone else who took the time to speak with me, thank you so much.
As I finish up the last week or so of this internship and my time with Trout Unlimited comes to a close, I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the most driven and passionate people I have ever met. The feeling is bittersweet; I am sad to be leaving but, at the same time, so thankful for the opportunities provided and the lessons learned. To Kira Finkler, Ashlynn Goody, Dan Dauwalter, Chris Wood, and everyone else who made this experience possible, thank you.