COULEE REGION – The Coulee Region trout enthusiasts received big recognitions at the 2021 Wisconsin Trout Unlimited Annual Banquet, which was held virtually this year. The work of both Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort and Coulee Region Trout Unlimited were honored.
Resource Award of Merit: Jeff Hastings
Wisconsin Trout Unlimited’s highest award, the Resource Award of Merit, recognizes a person, corporation or organization for outstanding contributions to conservation. This year, the recipient is Jeff Hastings of Westby.
Not only has Jeff Hastings done a masterful job of leading TUDARE as its project manager since 2006, but he had a long first career as Vernon County’s Conservationist for 25 years before that. In his former position, Jeff helped set a county-level model for the collaborative, wide-ranging projects that TUDARE has worked to develop across the 42 counties of the Driftless Area.Jeff came to Vernon County from UW-Stevens Point, where he earned his master’s degree in natural resources. As county conservationist he devel- oped a program using federal Farm Bill dollars and the support of Trout Unlimited chapters and other conservation groups, bringing several hundred thousand dollars a year to trout stream habitat projects across the county. County easements guaranteed angler access to all those projects.
That model became the blueprint for TUDARE when TU leaders got to-gether in 2004. When the national office of TU made TUDARE a Home Rivers Initiative in 2006, Jeff was hired as its project manager. He turned out to be the perfect person to move it forward and expand its reach. He brought credibility among county conservation personnel and had headed Wisconsin’s professional association. He already knew the partners in TU and agencies from his previous projects. And his strategic vision helped TUDARE become an important force for environmental restoration across the Driftless Area of southwest and western Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, north- east Iowa and extreme northwest Illinois.
At each step in the growth of TUDARE, Jeff brought strategic vision and unlimited patience in solving the problems that were posed as the program grew. He is a skilled and credible grant writer, and he carries out his propos- als in projects. Jeff’s grant proposals have brought in well over $22 million from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and his work with MNTU in securing grants from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Pro- gram has put another $25 million into projects there.
Jeff would probably tell you he’s most proud of the emphasis TUDARE places on non-game habitat in its projects: places for turtles, frogs, snakes, insects, birds and native plants. The nongame habitat handbook he assem- bled has become a national resource. His shepherding of the Driftless Sym- posium each year has also allowed the experiences and ideas here to be shared across the region and beyond.Jeff Hastings’ work with TUDARE and his career in conservation make him an ideal recipient of TU’s Resource Award of Merit.
Silver Trout Chapter of the Year Award:
Coulee Region Chapter
With its 370 members, The Coulee Region Chapter serves six southwest- ern Wisconsin counties: La Crosse, Vernon, Monroe, Juneau, Crawford and Richland. Led by a hard-working group of officers and board members, and working with numerous other chapters and local conservation groups, the chapter has been hitting on all cylinders in 2019 and 2020. Working in the heart of the Driftless Area, CRTU‘s efforts benefited from strong regional interest in the area’s fisheries and supported strong habitat work led by the DNR, TUDARE and Vernon and Monroe county land conservation departments.
Among its accomplishments, the CRTU chapter and its members accomplished the following:
• They helped assemble and support seven habitat projects and an angler parking lot in 2020.
• They helped assemble more than $90,000 to cover landowner costs on more than $425,000 worth of stream habitat projects.
• They worked with seven other TU chapters, the State Council’s Friends of Wisconsin TU grant program and TU National’s Embrace-A-Stream grant program to fund their efforts.
• They contributed more than $28,000 toward various projects.
• They wrote or co-wrote grants to Cabelas/Bass Pro Shops, Madison Fishing Expo and other funders.
• They developed the capacity of a new easement partner—the Prairie Rod & Gun Club — which holds two new public fishing easements in CrawfordCounty, enabling two new projects.
• They carried out six Trout In the Classroom projects and taught Girl Scouts and other kids about angling and conservation.
• They partnered with the Tainter Creek Farmer-Led Watershed Council to carry out two very successful Stream Days along Tainter Creek, and planned for a third.
• They worked with Illinois TU’s Lee Wulff and Gary Borger chapters to site, permit and install more than two dozen angler stiles to protect farmers’ fences.
• They provided $2,000 to support a brook trout restoration study on Mapledale Creek in Vernon County.
• They developed a social media presence, including more than 5,500 visitors and 930 Facebook followers.
• They organized public showings of public service films including Patagonia’s “ArtiFISHal” and on the Pebble Mine.
• They regularly contributed to state council efforts and meetings.
• They supported a high school student who attended the state and national TU youth camps.• They conducted chapter Zoom meetings on a diverse range of topics including climate change, flooding, Driftless geology and watersheds. These meetings drew many new attendees.