Aquatic Stewardship Education in Theory and Practice

The Trout Unlimited Experience Teaching Aquatic Stewardship to Youth

Duncan Blair


Abstract.—Trout Unlimited (TU) is a private, nonprofit organization with more than 150,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds in North America. TU staff and volunteer members engage in education programs, restoration projects, advocacy campaigns, and other conservation activities in support of the organization’s mission. In 2001, TU launched a new national initiative named First Cast to teach students the principles of coldwater resource stewardship through the skills of fly-fishing. The initiative, delivered by TU’s nationwide network of more than 400 volunteer chapters, teaches children from age 7 through 18 in a variety of settings ranging from 1-d casting clinics to 5-d residential camps. These programs have led to demonstrable benefits, including increased angling participation and stewardship behaviors by the participants and strengthened TU chapters. There have also been significant challenges in implementing a rigorous evaluation system and spreading the use of best practices in a decentralized, volunteer organization.