State of the Native Fish Society 2018

Fall River Steward Gathering 2017 Photo: Conrad Gowell

Dear Members, Supporters, and Friends,

Over the past few months there's been a lot of exciting planning and work happening behind the scenes, and now we're at a point where I want to share with our members and supporters a few of the key efforts that Native Fish Society is undertaking this year to ensure that our River Stewards, are well supported and equipped to take on the challenges and opportunities that arise in their homewaters across the Northwest. These include:

  • Three River Steward Gatherings in 2018
  • River Steward Community Collaboration
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusiveness Work
  • Expanded River Steward Staff
  • Professional Advocacy Program
  • New Editor of Publications
  • 2018 Conservation Initiative - Homewaters: Converge

Three River Steward Gatherings in 2018

This year, we're hosting three River Steward Gatherings (April 27-29 on Whidbey Island, WA, June 1-3 at Scott River, CA, and September 14-16 in Stevenson, WA). Why? Because we've found there's a strong connection between the River Steward volunteers who attend these gatherings and the River Stewards who are most effective in their advocacy work for their homewaters and native fish.

The idea is that every year there will be three weekends to choose from, and at least one of the gatherings will be close to all River Stewards! All River Stewards are invited to the three gatherings and our goal is to have every River Steward attend at least one Gathering in 2018.

River Steward Community Collaboration Plan

Thanks to a partnership with the Oregon Community Foundation, we're working on two important River Steward Program tasks.

First, we want to get together with River Stewards at our River Steward Gatherings to come up with a plan for increasing the collaboration between River Stewards on conservation campaigns. For example, how do you know what conservation campaigns River Stewards are working on? How do you know what skills or information they need? How do you reach out to your fellow River Stewards for help? These are the questions we want to answer and address so that we can better leverage all of the incredible talent, skills, and passion in our community.

Second, we're going to create a short film about the River Steward Program to help communicate what it means to be a River Steward and visually share the diversity of our volunteers, watersheds, and native fish that we all care about. The purpose of the film is to help recruit new River Stewards and share the program with communities who may want to support their local River Steward's efforts.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusiveness Work

Thanks to a new partnership with the Meyer Memorial Trust, the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz, and the Center for Diversity and the Environment, we're embarking on Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness (DEI) work in 2018.

What does DEI mean and why are we doing it?

Fundamentally, it's all about restoring and protecting native fish. Our vision, at NFS, is to restore abundant, diverse and resilient wild, native fish to watersheds across the Northwest and provide each river with at least one local River Steward. To get to this vision we need to make people from all communities and walks of life feel welcomed and comfortable in our organization and River Steward Program. The DEI training held this past weekend and our upcoming strategy session in May are about increasing the capacity of our staff, board, and River Stewards so we have the perspectives and skills to collectively increase the diversity and inclusiveness of our community and the equity in our conservation work.

Additionally, the challenges facing wild, native fish need innovative solutions and good decision making. The research on innovation and decision making is clear - high functioning teams of diverse individuals make better decisions and are more innovative than groups comprised of similar individuals.

Regional River Steward Program Staff Expanding

In order to provide more localized hands-on staff support for River Stewards in the Northwest and British Columbia, we've created new, regionally focused staff positions for 2018.

Allison Oliver will serve as our British Columbia Regional Coordinator. She is based in Kispiox, British Columbia and is focused on reducing clear cutting along steelhead streams like the Babine and Morice rivers, promoting Keep 'Em Wet angling regulations, and identifying local River Stewards in the Skeena watershed. For more background on Allison, you can check out her bio here on our website.

Jennifer Fairbrother joined our staff this month as our new Campaign and Columbia Regional Director. She is based in Canby, OR and will work with River Stewards in the greater Columbia Basin on their watershed specific campaigns and developing strategies to advance region-wide campaigns. For more background on Jennifer, you can check out her bio here on our website.

Additionally, by mid-2018 our ambition is to add a full-time regional staff person to coordinate River Stewards and watershed-based conservation campaigns in Washington. In the interim, Conrad Gowell will continue to work on current Washington River Steward campaigns, such as Puget Sound Wild Steelhead Gene Banks and Sea-Run Cutthroat Campaign.

Jake Crawford will serve as River Steward Program Director. He is based in Ashland, OR and will continue to directly serve River Stewards along the Oregon Coast, southern Oregon and northern California and assist them with their watershed-based conservation campaigns. Additionally, he'll be coordinating River Steward Program content for Gatherings and grant writing for the program.

Director of Professional Advocacy

Conrad Gowell will be serving Native Fish Society in a new role, Director of Professional Advocacy. For years we've had skills based (biologists, programmers, photographers, artists, data scientists, attorneys) offer to volunteer for NFS, but we haven't had a good place for these individuals to plug into our work.

In his new capacity, Conrad will recruit and manage a team of skills-based volunteers and contractors (NFS Ambassadors). If River Stewards need specific skills-based help with their local watershed-based conservation campaign, Conrad will help get these Ambassadors connected with them. Additionally, Conrad and the Ambassadors will be working to develop the advocacy tools we all need to be more effective including hatchery and harvest comment templates, a rubric for identifying the most harmful hatchery programs, and communication materials on the hatchery issue to make these conversations increasingly substantive and consistent.

New Redd It and Strong Runs Editor

Brett Tallman is serving as the editor and writer of our two newsletters, the monthly Redd It and the print Strong Runs. He's just putting the final touches on the winter 2018 Strong Runs, and I think you'll like what you see. To get a taste for his writing in the interim, you can check out his recent article in Flyfish Journal, "Searching for Sheridan," a profile of Sheridan Anderson, the author of, "The Curtis Creek Manifesto."

2018 Conservation Initiative

Starting with Homewaters: Connection to Place in 2017, we're presenting a conservation initiative annually that helps describe our work, focus, and communicates a value important to NFS.

For 2018 our Conservation Initiative is Homewaters: Converge. When we look over the many efforts we're advancing together with your help, Native Fish Society feels like it's at a real inflection point where we're coming together with new partners for the common purpose of protecting and restoring the rivers and native fish we love. Our collective action, like our watersheds and fish, converge and increase their impact.

How Can You Help?

  1. Join NFS as a member. Your generosity makes our work possible.
  2. Attend our 2018 Benefit Banquet + Auction April 7, 2018. Don't miss the biggest party for wild fish in the universe!
  3. Donate to a specific conservation campaign in your area. Check out our conservation campaigns.
  4. Get to know your local River Steward. Search by state and watershed.
  5. If you're interested in volunteering as a River Steward contact Jake Crawford at jake@nativefishsociety.org
  6. If you're interested in volunteering your skills as a professional contact Conrad Gowell at conrad@nativefishsociety.org

Thank you for your help and support!

Warmly,

Mark

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