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Rocky Mountain Flycasters’ Annual Awards for 2017

Our chapter instituted a series of Recognition Awards for chapter volunteers and a community service organization or individual. Each year in January nominations are submitted for the preceding year by chapter members, and recipients are determined by an Awards Selection Committee. The complete Awards Policy and Procedure can be viewed on our website. Award presentations are made at the May Annual Meeting, and it is not mandatory that every award category be presented every year.

Member award categories are:

  • Exemplary Conservation Volunteer,
  • Exemplary Chapter Function,
  • Project or Activity Leadership Award,
  • Exemplary Youth Education Award,
  • Exemplary Youth Member Award,
  • Outstanding Chapter Volunteer Award.

Community award categories are:

  • Exemplary Guide/Outfitter Award
  • Coldwater Resource Conservation Award.

2017 awards presentations were made by President Coy Wylie at our May Annual Meeting to the following recipients, and the nomination letters describing their contributions are displayed for each. Please feel free to express your appreciation to each of the recipients for their contributions to our chapter life and opportunities.

Lifetime Achievement Award 2017

Dave Piske, Conservation Project Leader

Dave Piske
Dave Piske
Dave Piske recently retired after more than thirteen years as Conservation Chair of our Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter, a position he accepted locally, after serving as President at a TU Chapter in Maryland.

Dave’s intellect and penchant for understanding fine points of contractual documents and extraordinary capability for contractual technical documentation were quickly apparent as he participated with our chapter’s conservation related needs. A local ditch company had recently proposed a new reservoir that would be filled with water diverted from the Cache La Poudre River. Our chapter was very interested to make sure the project would not harm the watershed and fisheries in Fort Collins, and Dave became our “man of the hour” to analyze and advise regarding the Environmental Impact Studies, and prepare official feedback and comments about the proposal in detailed and precise comments to the Corps of Engineers. Dave has served our chapter in every similar requirement since then, attending endless meetings and study sessions, and we have come to depend upon him for information and guidance. Dave has laid the framework for our chapter’s entire conservation program. Dave’s outstanding contributions were also almost immediately recognized by Colorado Trout Unlimited, and for many years he has also advised and supported CTU’s similar interests on numerous, similar statewide initiatives. In 2012 Dave was recognized by Colorado TU as it’s “Outstanding Chapter Volunteer”.

In 2011 Dave also led the review and rewrite of our Chapter Bylaws, a requirement from National TU imposed upon all chapters. Dave’s skill for detailed analysis and precise documentation was indispensable during this almost year-long initiative.

For many years Dave has also been a strong supporter of our chapter’s youth programs, particularly the Day Camp for its Poudre River sustainability module, and Trout in the Classroom to which he brought his previous chapter’s TIC experience to help get our program started. Dave’s affinity with the Fort Collins Natural Areas also helped foster our chapter’s Trail Maintenance and Monofilament Waste Collection & Recycling programs. Dave was recognized by our chapter as “Exemplary Conservation Volunteer” for 2014.

In 2012, our chapter is fortunate that Dave was available to us to first address what could unfortunately be our new normal – wildfires and floods. Shortly after the Hewlett Gulch and High Park forest fires, Dave began attending numerous meetings with other concerned individuals and organizations to determine the best way to address the immediate and long-term impacts of those fires on the Poudre watershed. His participation in those meetings led to the formation of the High Park Fire Restoration Coalition and eventually, the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed. Today the Poudre Coalition continues to address impacts of the 2012 fires, impacts of the 2013 floods, and more importantly has expanded its focus to become one of very few full watershed coalitions in the State addressing ecologic issues from headwaters to confluence.

Dave’s experience working with coalitions in the Poudre Basin enabled him to be a ready-made candidate to address ecologic impacts of the devastating floods of 2013. With Dave’s guidance, Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter immediately became involved in efforts to address flood impacts in the lower Big Thompson Canyon. His commitment, and that of RMFC, continues today through his ongoing representation on the board of directors for the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition. As the 2013 floods impacted drainages all along the northern Front Range, Colorado Trout Unlimited initiated a campaign to help multiple chapters with flood response efforts. Somehow, Dave also found the time to represent RMFC in efforts coordinated through CTU’s Restore the Range campaign.

Responding to the floods and fires of 2012 and 2013, might seem an insurmountable task to the average person. Dave however, is not your average person. Nothing better exemplifies Dave’s perseverance than the work he has done to ensure RMFC will proudly proclaim it is host to the largest greenback trout restoration and reintroduction in the history of Colorado. There is no question that receiving approval for the greenback reintroduction in the Long Draw drainage of the Poudre headwaters would have been more challenging had Dave not been leading the way in establishing and maintaining numerous relationships with staff at the US Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Water Storage and Supply Company. Dave’s contributions to the Long Draw project have been so numerous and meaningful he recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Colorado TU for those efforts.

Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter is deeply indebted to Dave Piske. Dave has more than earned and deserves our deepest respect and appreciative recognition, and is being recognized with this “Lifetime Achievement Award”.

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Exemplary Chapter Function, Project or Activity Leadership Award 2013

Tom Culbertson, Treasurer

Tom Culbertson took over our chapter’s Treasurer responsibilities in May of 2013. It was at a critical point in our chapter’s development to be qualified to handle many of the fiscal responsibilities that confronted Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter following the 2012 forest fires and 2013 flood disasters. Tom voluntarily stepped out of the shadows of overall chapter ‘fun’ activities in response to his recognition that his professional CPA background and financial consulting experience enabled him to bring sound and fiscally prudent accounting processes and procedures to RMF.

Tom Culbertson
Tom Culbertson
As our chapter undertook ever-increasing project scope, Tom was able to keep pace by understanding and providing requisite financial mechanisms and oversight that enabled us, as a board, to meet our fiduciary obligations and responsibilities. Tom’s most immediate action, also the most critical to establish RMF’s financial record keeping and reporting credentials, was to elevate our simple bookkeeping procedures to meet national standards of generally accepted financial recording and reporting principles.

Almost immediately after Tom became Treasurer, RMF was charged to initially serve as fiscal sponsor for the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed following the High Park and Hewlett Gulch fires. This responsibility extended through completion of the Multi-Basin Restoration Grant – Poudre River and Big Thompson River – while our chapter has also grown in scope and delivery of service. It is no small task to monitor the financial transactions that occur during any of these projects. Tom’s attention to detail and his always relevant advice and counsel has been piece and part of how Rocky Mountain Flycasters has become a trusted resource and partner in ongoing collaborative efforts throughout our two primary watersheds. Trout Unlimited has garnered praise and support statewide and nationally for its efforts to put boots on the ground. All too often we fail to appreciate the simple fact that no boots get on the ground until after pencil and pocketbook have been put to paper. This award serves to fully appreciate and honor Tom for his commitment and perseverance in service as the chapter Treasurer, and the resultant outcome of his efforts that enabled putting ‘Boots on the Ground’.

As a board trustee and leadership team member Tom also has become a mainstay of virtually every team planning and staffing chapter and community activity. Tom’s public face has always been seen helping with activities such as Guest Night, the Fly Tying Expo, Volunteer Orientation Forum, Kids Free Fishing Day, Youth Day Camp, Poudre River Fest and River Appreciation Day. We also see Tom working at virtually every general meeting to help run our raffle table and at most public events. He has worked in conjunction with the Membership Committee accounting for funds and donor contributions and providing bookkeeping accuracy that has been extremely important, and has streamlined all of the Youth Day Camp procurement, expense and financial transactions.

This award recognizes Tom Culbertson for the considerable tangible contributions he has provided to Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter, and also for his many efforts and much time devoted behind the scenes.

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Exemplary Youth Education Education Volunteer Award 2017

Wil Huett, Community Outreach Coordinator

Wil Huett appeared unexpectedly as a volunteer for Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter’s booth at the 2011 Larimer Boys & Girls Clubs annual Day for Kids Festival…and it was immediately apparent to all that he was a natural! The youngsters loved him, and he reciprocated enthusiastically. Wil has become a regular participant in virtually every youth activity that RMFC has sponsored ever since, and as such his quiet, persuasive manner has enabled him to become every youth’s favorite grandfather.

Wil Huett
Wil Huett
Wil is an invaluable member of the four-person ‘core team’ that is present every minute of every Youth Day Camp, fulfilling his assigned responsibilities, monitoring campers and progress during every activity, lending a helping hand as needed, calming a camper occasionally when there’s an upset, and filling in for volunteers’ absences. Wil has a comforting nature allowing him to successfully pull aside an overly energetic camper and return an imbalanced situation to equilibrium. Wil also has arranged several feature coverage articles in area newspapers for the campers’ restoration conservation projects.

The annual Children’s Water Festivals wouldn’t be the same without Wil. He delights sharing with the elementary students about the various fish, aquatic insects and predators and their roles in a healthy stream’s food chain and balance of nature and habitat.

Wil is a ‘fixture’ at every June’s Kids Free Fishing Day, teaching spin casting, removing fish from hooks and freeing tangled tackle. At the Ramble on the River activity at the Environmental Learning Center Wil is one of the stars teaching youngsters to tie a dramatically colored and styled Wooley Bugger on to a 2-inch safety pin.

But these samples of Wil’s interaction with youths in our chapter activities only tell part of the story. Wil has also served as our Chapter President, and is currently our chapter’s Community Outreach Coordinator. Wil is also an accomplished translator who helps acquaint our NoCO community about our chapter’s relevancy for youth. Wil collaborated with Colorado State University to develop an Undergraduate Internship whereby a student is selected each year and awarded a nominal financial stipend to interact with our chapter, including attending meetings with our chapter Board & Leadership Council, to become aware of Trout Unlimited’s mission, and for our leaders to become more aware of college young adults interests, concerns and communications channels. This relationship has expanded and exposed RMFC to CSU’s American Fisheries Society Chapter, resulted in RMFC leaders’ invitation to attend candidates’ presentations during a new professor pre-employment process, and also to benefitted RMF’s Trout in the Classroom program with fish dissection instruction.

Wil also is one of our chapter’s most dependable volunteers participating in trail maintenance with Fort Collins Natural Areas, and multiple flood damage and riparian restoration projects on both the Poudre and Big Thompson Rivers, in support of our primary Trout Unlimited mission.

We thank you, Wil Huett, for all of your past and continuing contributions to the youth of our chapter. Especially, we admire and appreciate your dedication to helping our Northern Colorado youths to understand the need for coldwaters conservation, with the hope that they will become the conservators of the next generation.

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Exemplary Conservation Volunteer Award 2017

Phil Wright

Rocky Mountain Flycasters members who regularly attend our general membership meetings are quick to recognize Phil Wright as he projects our monthly audio-visual slideshows illustrating our chapter’s numerous functions within its home watersheds of the Cache La Poudre and Big Thompson Rivers…and also assisting guest speakers by managing their presentation slides and later in the same meetings selling chapter fishing caps.

Phil Wright
Phil Wright
What is not so apparent to the general membership is Phil’s behind the scenes role helping organize and lead conservation-oriented volunteer activities within the chapter’s home watersheds. These activities consume much of Phil’s personal time beyond his employment as a consultant engineer. As examples of Phil’s efforts related to Rocky Mountain Flycasters activities, consider these projects he has lead, many from conceptual stages to productive operational programs:

  • leadership of organizational interfaces between Federal and State government agencies that manage streams and watersheds, with the volunteers’ resources the RMF chapter is capable of providing, as part of coordinated implementation of coldwater conservation projects.
  • inspiration and leadership behind initiation of our chapter’s annual Volunteer Orientation event that introduces members to a variety of chapter projects and activities, assisting them to meet chapter function leaders and select those for which they may have volunteer interests.
  • enthusiastic, multi-year champion of a need for our chapter to identify and implement a volunteer management system that correlates volunteer recruitment processes between the various technical skills required to implement a variety of watershed-improvement projects, and also for other non-conservation chapter programs and activities.
  • inclusion of our chapter with other non-profit organizations into a multi-organizational structure to manage complex conservation projects as the organizational complexity of some conservation projects may require. During recent years there has been a diverse range of projects where Phil has served as the Rocky Mountain Flycasters representative in coordinating multi-organizational relationships. Notable examples of these include:
    • Flood recovery/restoration projects on the North Fork of the Big Thompson River coordinated with U.S. Forest Service biologists.
    • A streambank re-vegetation project on the main Big Thompson River coordinated with the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition.
    • Support of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist collecting trout population data in Rocky Mountain National Park, coordinating chapter volunteers across a multi-year time span.
    • RMF chapter’s representative on the Greenback Recovery Team, a Front Range group of TU chapters that is coordinating a large-scale program focused on restoring dispersed populations of Colorado’s designated State Fish.

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Outstanding Chapter Volunteer Award 2017

Paul Wehr, Webmaster

What a member does each year for the chapter is important, and there are a goodly number of members who reliably support chapter leadership roles and activities across multiple years before they begin to increasingly relax a bit. But there are few, if any members currently who have consistently donated such a large part of themselves, as has Paul, across the recent 14 or 15 years. Paul has been an active and super-reliable member of the chapter’s Volunteer Leadership Council ever since his return stateside from international employment.

Paul Wehr
Paul Wehr
Some several years before 2007 Paul dedicated his programming and graphic design skills to custom design of our chapter’s first website…and after that while living and employed in Japan and later in Germany he maintained the website ‘long distance’ for about five years. Since returning stateside Paul has untiringly committed vast personal hours constantly improving the website capabilities, writing materials to promote and report about chapter programs, projects and activities, designing innovative site tools to support volunteer registrations, newsletter sign-ups, etc., and has been involved in virtually every promotional initiative that the chapter launched.

Paul was a valuable participant and contributor as a member of the Marketing & Communications Work Group a couple years ago. Again, his graphic arts awareness was useful as we discussed formatting PPT slides and scripting them, for formal civic presentations and also related to professional public display units.

Paul also has had personal participation in, or at least counsel into, almost all chapter activities posters, graphic public displays, brochures, our chapter logo, chapter sew-on logo patch, etc.

When, in 2011 the chapter needed a Treasurer, Paul stepped forward and set up a software documentation program to plan, manage income/expenses and report performance, and from 2011 to 2013 maintained this critical function for about three years.

Paul participates actively in almost every conservation related or restoration activity that our chapter undertakes:

  • River cleanups on both the Poudre and Big “T”
  • FoCo Natural Areas trail maintenance at Gateway Natural Area and also King Fisher Point in town
  • Post-2103 flood cleanup on the Big “T” at the Sylvan Dale Eastern sections
  • Post-2013 flood channel measurement & marking for work-reaches of the Big “T” and the Little Thompson
  • Asphalt removal workdays on the North Fork of the Big “T”
  • Skin Gulch stream banks restoration project on a problematic small flooding tributary of the Poudre

Paul helps setup/teardown and staff virtually every public “booth” our chapter staffs; Larimer Boys & Girls Festivals, Larimer Boat/Fishing Shows, Poudre Runs Through It Forum, Odell River Appreciation Days, New Belgium Poudre River Fest, etc.

When there’s a “call to duty” for even the smallest or uninteresting task, Paul typically is among the first to volunteer. When we first acquired our rental storage locker, Paul readily raised his hand to help erect the steel shelving into that space. And he still occasionally drops by to help straighten it out to be easier to store or find things. He also staffs a table at our monthly chapter meetings selling hats and other paraphernalia for members’ interest.

Paul also has been an invaluable volunteer and contributor to all of our chapter’s youth programs since day one:

  • He was a member of the camp’s “Core Leadership Team” for the complete camp week for our first eight camps, driving the van with 14 noisy, excited campers every day, cleaning the van, taking & cataloging photographs, helping prepare and later clean equipment and also serving as a Mentor on many activities.
  • For the past four or five years Paul has been a regular volunteer for the Children’s Water Festivals events, and for the past three or four years has also assisted with stuffing the 100’s of goody bags for the youngsters.
  • The past two years Paul volunteered teaching “safety pin” fly tying at the Environmental Learning Center, and also taught casting at the 2016 Girl Scouts Fly Fishing Fun Day.
  • Since 2012, Paul has participated at the USFS Kids Free Fishing Day at Red Feather.

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Last updated on 08 Jun, 2018