Conservation Project Plans Announced for 2017

OBTU’s 2017 conservation activities include financial and volunteer support for projects in both Wisconsin and Michigan in support of Trout Unlimited’s mission of conserving, protecting and restoring coldwater fisheries and their watersheds in the Midwest.

Our conservation financial commitments this year include TUDARE (Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort); Weister Creek restoration in Vernon County, WI; our continued stream restoration work in Sparta, WI; and an environmental assessment of the Dowagiac River in Southwest Michigan.

Volunteer support is needed for our June and October macroinvertebrate studies on the Coldwater River Watershed in Alto, MI outside of Grand Rapids and a summer stream restoration work day in Sparta, WI.

“We plan to continue the important conservation work on our Chapter’s priority projects in support of the Wisconsin’s Driftless Area and Michigan’s Coldwater River watershed,” said Dave Carlson, Conservation Committee Chair.  “The Conservation Committee is also pursuing partnering with other TU chapters on projects and is looking for new opportunities ‘closer to home’, such as beginning involvement with the Dowagiac River which is only 90 miles from Chicago.”

“Several Work Days are planned, which provide an opportunity for fun and friendship along with making a valuable contribution to stream conservation. As our projects are several hours from Chicago, we try to coordinate carpooling, lodging and fishing opportunities for interested members,” said Dave Carlson.

2017 Conservation Project Highlights

TUDARE (Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort) is a long-term effort to protect, restore and enhance cold water rivers in the Driftless Area of southeast Minnesota, southwest Wisconsin, northeast Iowa, and northwest Illinois. TUDARE relies greatly on the work and passion of TU volunteers. OBTU’s support is in the form of money donated to directly support TUDARE general operations. (

There are many organizations and agencies working in partnership to protect and restore the Driftless Area. For example, the Wisconsin Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced $688,000 in funding for 29 Wisconsin Driftless Area projects this year. Those projects are all going to need some form of matching dollars, usually somewhere around 20-35% of the costs. In many cases, TU can provide upfront payment and then be reimbursed by NRCS at the end of the projects.

The Weister Creek project is a great example of a stream restoration in the Driftless Area supported by OBTU. It is a multi-year effort to restore a 2.6 mile section of an important tributary to the Kickapoo River. The project is completely within the Kickapoo Valley Reserve which is open to hunting and fishing. Our contribution is financial with the restoration work done by expert Wisconsin DNR contractors. The project is a combined effort drawing funding support from numerous organizations, including OBTU and both Wisconsin and other Chicago area TU chapters.

Our ongoing Sparta, WI stream restoration projects in the Driftless Area encompass work to reduce soil erosion and phosphorus discharge within the city of Sparta, WI. Since 2014, OBTU has provided both volunteer and financial support that has been leveraged to get large government grants. This year, a work day to install LUNKER structures along with bank stabilization is planned for the upper reach of Beaver Creek. It will be scheduled for a Saturday morning in mid-summer and there will be an opportunity to get together for some fishing in the heart of the Driftless Area before and after our work day. To volunteer or for more information contact Dave Carlson.

Michigan’s Coldwater River Watershed Council (CRWC) will continue to receive OBTU volunteer support in the form of two macroinvertebrate work days on June 3 and in October (date TBD). This will be the first year of a second three-year study cycle. Our first study took place in 2014.  Members collect stream samples from designated sites, then count and classify the aquatic insects and various macroinvertebrates found. By classifying and trending the population data, the CRWC gets an idea of how stream health is evolving. Volunteers are encouraged to plan some fishing on the Coldwater or other rivers in the area such as the Rouge, Muskegon or Pere Marquette. OBTU is represented on the Coldwater River Watershed Council by Marvin Strauch.

The Dowagiac River represents a new stream restoration focus for OBTU.  The Dowagiac is one of the closest rivers to our chapter with potential for a high-quality coldwater fishery. The planned removal of the Pucker Street Dam in Niles, MI will open up the entire river system to upstream migrations of steelhead, salmon, and other fish species.  Last May 18, Marcy Hamilton, Senior Planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, and a board member of MEANDRS (Meeting the Ecological and Agricultural Needs of the Dowagiac River System), was our featured membership meeting speaker.

Marvin Strauch also represents OBTU on the board of MEANDRS. OBTU will be making an initial financial contribution to support a Dowagiac environmental assessment which will provide baseline data of the riverbed and upstream fish habitat.

Corporate Financial Grants Pursued

The OBTU chapter is pursuing financial corporate grants for the first time in support of key stream restoration projects. A $5,000 grant application has been submitted to the Orvis Corporation for Weister Creek and a longer term corporate sponsorship opportunity may be pursued with Steelhead Vineyards in support of a Dowagiac River project. If you have experience writing grant requests or know of prospective corporate sponsors committed to conservation initiatives, please contact Dave Carlson.

2017 Volunteers Needed

Volunteers are needed to make these 2017 commitments happen. The Conservation Committee is looking for members who are interested in leading or supporting an event. If you’d like to be on the Conservation Committee, email Dave Carlson at The Committee meets by phone conference calls each month, so location should not be an issue for ongoing participation.

The financial support of conservation efforts is made possible by the fundraising efforts of the chapter. Watch for additional information on fundraising activities in forthcoming newsletters.







2017 conservation projects include financial support for Wisconsin’s Weister Creek (left) and Beaver Creek (center), and macroinvertebrate studies on Michigan’s Coldwater River watershed (right).