Report from the 1999 TU Annual Meeting in Colorado

My wife and I attended the 40th Annual meeting of Trout Unlimited in August at Colorado’s Copper Mountain Ski Resort, about two hours west of Denver off I-70. It was our first time to attended an annual meeting, and I was very pleased with the program, activities, meals, and accommodations.

Day One was a hosted fishing trip, with a choice of several nearby locations. I picked the Roaring Fork River between Aspen and Basalt. Our host for the day was a local TU member who had fished the river often and knew it well. The water was still pretty high and difficult to wade, so that day the fishing was better than the catching, but we all had a good time. It was a great start to the meeting.

Day Two was a bus tour of the Upper Arkansas River basin. We visited Leadville, toured a mine water treatment facility, viewed a land restoration project, and toured a fish hatchery.

The first stop was a molybdenum mine in Leadville. Like many sites in the area, heavy metals and sulfides from the mine and tailings had leached out of the mine shaft into the Arkansas River. Today, as remediation, this mine's drainage water passes through a treatment plant prior to release into the river. The pH is adjusted to 8.6, and heavy metals, mostly zinc, are removed prior to discharge in the Arkansas River.

Then we visited a land restoration project in the agricultural Arkansas River Valley, where heavy metals that had been flushed out of the tailings were left in concentrated, toxic deposits. The project's goal is to remove, contain, or alter the sediment deposits so they are no longer toxic.

I was particularly interested in our third stop, a trout hatchery dedicated to production of native greenback cutthroat trout. We had a chance to fish for the greenbacks in a protected stream for a couple of hours before retiring for a "bonding and beer BBQ" at a nearby campground.

Day Three was the official start of the TU Annual meeting. In his welcoming speech Greg Walcher, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, gave a good overview of the conservation issues facing his department. Many of these issues are related to use of water and open space. He indicated that too many people have discovered Colorado and are choosing to stay. He would prefer that they come and spend their money and then go home.

The morning seminar on "Instream Flow Protection" revealed that many of the area’s problems stem from water rights—water distribution rules firmly entrenched in the Colorado Culture. A panel represented the interests of both consumers and conservationists, with speakers representing the Forest Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, resort managers, newspaper editors, attorneys, and activists.

The afternoon seminar dealt with native trout restoration in the Rockies. Topics covered were whirling disease, stream channelization, forest roads, and siltation.

Day Four was a TU business day, with explanation of the Trout Unlimited Y2000 Conservation Agenda. The agenda dealt with water quality, instream flows, Pacific and Atlantic salmon recovery, and wild salmonid genetics.

Issues submitted by regional groups were discussed during the morning session, while the afternoon session was a "Watershed Symposium" from a national and state perspective. We were encouraged to enlarge our thinking from concern for merely one stream to concern for an entire watershed.

I was unable to stay for the banquet and last day activities, but I'd had an excellent experience. I was really impressed by how much I had learned from all the presentations. Another plus was meeting and sharing fishing time with fellow trout fishers from all over the US.

Gerald Bacus, Houston