Q&A with Buck Skillen Five Rivers Trout Unlimited
The Water Information Program (WIP) spoke with Buck Skillen, Five Rivers Trout Unlimited, which has been a WIP partner since 2016.
For those who aren’t familiar with Five Rivers Trout Unlimited, tell us a bit more about your organization: Five Rivers Chapter of Trout Unlimited (5RTU) was chartered in 1984 and is the local grassroots chapter of the national organization, Trout Unlimited (TU). The mission of TU is to protect, reconnect, restore, and sustain our cold-water fisheries–in essence cold-water conservation. 5RTU has approximately 400 members. We routinely partner with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the US Forest Service (USFS) on restoration projects. Our premiere project involved the establishment of 23+ miles of contiguous Cutthroat Trout water in Hermosa and the East Fork of Hermosa Creeks With the discovery of the thought-to-be extinct San Juan lineage Cutthroat, our partnership with CPW and USFS has expanded to many new areas of recovery and restoration. We have a 13-member Board and host almost monthly chapter meetings and an annual fundraiser with silent and live auctions. Other local partners include Mountain Studies Institute and the Animas Watershed Partnership.
What’s the scoop on Saturday’s Animas River Cleanup?
Five Rivers Trout Unlimited will host the annual Animas River Cleanup this Saturday, May 21st. To join, meet us at Rotary Park between 8:30am and 9:00am. We’ll clean up the river from Highway 160 upriver to 32nd street on both sides. Bring gloves, water, and waders if you have them and are willing to wade in high water (not at all required). We’ll meet back at Rotary Park for lunch and prizes.
What is one thing about river ecology you’d like to share with people? It’s all about the water. If we take care of our water, the aquatic insects will thrive and the trout and other non-game native fish such as mottled sculpin and the blue-head and flannelmouth suckers will thrive. With robust and abundant aquatic life in our rivers and creeks, we can be mostly assured we have healthy watershed that support our lives, businesses, and recreation.
What are the biggest water challenges facing southwest Colorado? Our warming climate and the ongoing drought. The dust-on-snow events that are becoming increasingly more common result in ever earlier runoff and loss of our precious snow water equivalent. We’d just as soon Utah and Arizona keep their topsoil to themselves.
Why does Five Rivers Trout Unlimited value water education? It is the life blood of our species, for starters. On a more local level, we have a thriving recreation economy that includes fishing. Statewide, in 2002, the economic impact of fishing alone was $820 million. It is vitally important for our young people as well as those folks moving to our wonderful area to understand from where our water comes and to understand the need for conservation.
What are three aspects of southwest Colorado’s watersheds that you find unique/intriguing?
Incredible variety, from small headwater creeks to whitewater rivers, the Animas River being a prime example of, perhaps, five reaches or stretches of very different character. There is an iron fen adjacent to Highway 550 west of Silverton that contains a sphagnum moss that is only found above the arctic circle. Probably more importantly, the absolute dependency we have on our snowpack to provide the water for our agriculture, our life blood, and our recreation.
Five Rivers Trout Unlimited is one of 28 local partners that support the Water Information Program, providing balanced water educational programs and content in southwest Colorado.