WisBusiness: Trout Unlimited chapters get $800,000 federal grant

By Gregg Hoffmann

Secretary Matt Frank of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other officials gathered near the banks of Timber Coulee in Vernon County Thursday to announce a major increase in stream habitat restoration for 2009.

Seven local chapters of Trout Unlimited have been granted more than $800,000 in federal funds for 10 stream projects in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area, one of the most popular fishing destinations in the United States. The grants are part of the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

These new projects – featuring a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to stream rehabilitation – will focus not only on trout, but on the habitat needs of frogs, turtles, snakes, birds and invertebrates, including several endangered species such as the Wood turtle and Blanding’s turtle.

“This is very important for this part of the state, and the state as whole,” Frank said. “Fishing is very important to our economy of not only this area, nut the entire state.

“Wisconsin is second to Florida in the number of fishers from outside the state. Trout fishing is a big part of that in Wisconsin.

“These grants pull together a lot of partners, and include the entire ecology of the stream. We felt it was only appropriate to announce it here, where the first restoration project took place. It is part of our tradition, and demonstrates the facy we like to lead in these areas.”

More than half of the projects take place on DNR-managed properties. One of the largest of these is a $180,000 project in the Coon Creek State Fishery Area near Coon Valley where Timber Coulee flows into Coon Creek, the site of Thursday’s announcement.

Jeff Hastings, area project manager for TU, said 42 counties in a four-state area will undergo restoration projects on streams because of the grant.

“The area NRCS went after funds in a very short time frame,” Hastings said. “Several agencies and groups worked together on this.“ The projects will also be pieces of the overall DARE (Driftless Area Restoration Effort) announced a couple years ago.

The grants total $933,000. The amount beyond the $800,000 will be used to directly work with farmers on conservation practices.

Trout fishing contributes more than $1.1 billion to the economies of the 42 counties in the Driftless Area, according to a TU study.

Also attending the press conference Thursday were Dave Vetrano, DNR fisheries supervisor for the Coulee area, state Sen. Dan Kapanke and members of TU and other interested conservationists.