Chairs Column - The Front Door is Open

By Scott Allen, WITU Council Chair


“Fishing is the front door to TU,” said CEO Chris Wood in his “State of TU” at the CX3 Portland, Maine event in July. I couldn’t agree more. For most of us it is fishing that landed us at the doorstep of TU, what lay across the threshold few of us held any vision, but hey, the place has curb appeal.


With summer behind us so are several successful “Front Door”  programs put together by tireless volunteers: Service Partnership fishing trip for veterans, a 5Rivers gathering of college students in Vernon County, Council Youth Fishing Camp, Women’s Fishing Clinic in Vernon County, Trout In The Classroom programs throughout the state. There isn’t enough room on this page or this entire newspaper, for the matter, to list all of the habitat work completed this summer by committed chapters. It’s habitat work that reconnects streams to floodplains, enhances quality of life for villages and communities (the hominid type).


There are times TU appears to be moving in many divergent directions but all are focused on fishing and fishing is focused on clean water. Those multiple directions are the headwaters and well springs of TU, the diversity of TU. As we have learned from healthy ecosystems, a monoculture is a stage set for collapse, but diversity begets resiliency. Diversity means much more than gender, ethnicity or age. It also means learning from our mistakes and building on our successes. It means looking beyond our personal needs and working hard for a common good. Our successes in TU rarely come to us as guilded trophies, sometimes hardly an acknowledgement. Yet, for certain we, meaning all of TU, do our best to recognize those members who know how to put the ideals of this organization ahead of their own.


It was the summer of 2015 that a young man named Gabe Stelzer attended the youth fishing camp in Waupaca organized by Linn Beck. Past Chair Mike Kuhr and I were recently honored to have Gabe as our guide on an unforgettable fishing trip on the Menominee River. Now it was Gabe’s turn as a professional guide to teach the old fellas a few things about technique and the river (If you have an hour to kill ask Mike about the ant hatch). The TU Youth Camp spearheaded by Linn Beck is but one facet of TU’s diversity that is now showing a generous return. Linn was awarded TU National Distinguished Service Award for Youth Education at the national meeting in Maine last July for his herculean effort put into the camp.


Maintaining a clean and visible welcome mat at the front door is proving its worth, as well. Did you know Wisconsin TU is growing? In my 10 years as an active member of the Aldo Leopold Chapter, it has doubled in membership, while statewide our membership has reached 6,400 members. It is that growth which is a trophy for all of us to hold and display.


I needn’t remind you of the worth of wetting a line, but please remember to help someone learn to fish. Keep the front door open. We are here to serve; we are here to get things done.