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Guzzlers & trout houses

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POSTED April 6, 2014 9:53 p.m.

Several times I have encouraged folks to donate money to conservation organizations that assist the wild critters we all love. It’s good advice for those who can afford it, but what can you do if money is tight? It seems as though this recession has affected all of us to some extent. Unfortunately the recession has also affected charitable groups as well. At a time when the need is greatest non-profits are also hit with reduced contributions.

OK, so if you’re not Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, how can you help improve the lot of the wild critters you love? You can volunteer your time, of course. Almost every conservation group has a need for hands on volunteers to help improve the lot of our wildlife. Whether your favorite critters are trout or elk or bald eagles, there are conservation groups that would love to put you to work.  If improving elk habitat is of interest to you, The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is looking for volunteers to work on guzzlers that provide drinking water to elk and other wildlife. If trout and salmon are what float your boat, the Tuolumne River Trust is looking for volunteers to plant streamside vegetation make other streamside improvements.

Why would you volunteer to work yourself to the point of exhaustion for no pay? Because it’s downright fun, that’s why. I recall a work day with the Stanislaus Flyfishers one Saturday when a bunch of volunteers spent a whole day fin-clipping thousands of Brown Trout fingerlings at a local fish hatchery. You had to grab a little squirming trout from a tank, clip his adipose fin and then place him into another tank. I think we clipped 5,000 baby trout that day and by the time we were done our hands ached from constant immersion in the icy water. The fingerlings were then planted in the Merced River. Several years later I caught an 18 inch Brown Trout in the El Portal stretch just outside Yosemite & discovered that his adipose fin had been clipped. It was like meeting an old friend.

On another outing with a conservation group called Cal Trout, a bunch of volunteers built “Trout Houses” to provide cover for trout in an otherwise sterile stretch of stream. With volunteer labor citizens can make a real difference in improving the habitat for the critters they love. Several years ago I fished a stretch of the Green River upstream from Flaming Gorge Reservoir and came across a wide section of stream where other volunteers had made “Trout Houses” in the stream. Every “Trout House” held a nice trout that you could catch & release for others to enjoy as well.

When the sun is setting and you are bone tired after a long day of working knee deep in freezing water, you can sit around the campfire sipping a cold one and realize that it’s a pretty good feeling. If you’ve got a few extra bucks & can write a donation check, that’s great! But you don’t have to be rich to help your beloved wild critters, even we poor folks can help too. All you have to do is go on line to your favorite conservation group’s website and offer to help. You’ll be glad you did.

Until next week,

Tight Lines

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