Steamboat fisheries biologist Brian Hodge gains national recognition | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat fisheries biologist Brian Hodge gains national recognition

Trout Unlimited biologist Brian Hodge of Steamboat Springs will travel to Washington D.C. in May where the U.S. Forest Service will recognize his conservation work in Northwest Colorado when he is announced as one of the recipients of the 2015 Rise to the Future Awards for excellence and leadership in fisheries, hydrology, soil science and air programs.

— When spring runoff subsides on the flanks of Ripple Creek Pass in the Flat Tops this year, Steamboat Springs-based Trout Unlimited aquatic restoration biologist Brian Hodge will head for tiny Poose Creek. He'll be eager to learn if some of the Colorado cutthroat trout he tagged there two years ago are using a new fish ladder to spawn in the upper reaches of the stream that flows into Vaughn Lake.

Before that happens, however, Hodge will be summoned to Washington D.C., where the U.S. Forest Service will recognize his conservation work in Northwest Colorado when Hodge is announced as one of the recipients of the 2015 Rise to the Future Awards for excellence and leadership in fisheries, hydrology, soil science and air programs.

Hodge has collaborated on numerous aquatic habitat and riparian projects on the Routt National Forest and adjacent private lands, often emphasizing the native Colorado River cutthroat trout. Among them is the restoration of Armstrong Creek, part of the Elkhead watershed in California Park north of Hayden.

"I think the cool opportunity we have as partners in California Park is that, with the Forest Service being single owners, it's a place where we can take the watershed scale approach, restoring the landscape and the streams piece by piece, stream by stream over the course of years and decades," Hodge said March 9. "I'd like to think that we could step back within a couple of years and find a measurable effect in the distribution and the abundance of the native species — more places and more of them."

"Since he arrived in 2010, Brian has become an integral advocate, partner and colleague," Routt National Forest fisheries biologist Rick Henderson said in a news release. "He has been involved in 19 stream and riparian restoration projects, represented Trout Unlimited on numerous teams and become a recognized leader in aquatic restoration within the region."

Colorado Trout Unlimited, part of the national organization, has more than 10,000 members in 23 chapters, including the local Yampa Valley Fly Fishers. Members at the local level advocate for their home rivers and volunteer for habitat enhancement projects.

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Since coming here in 2010, Hodge has helped raise funds and participated in the design and construction of 10 aquatic passage structures, such as the fish ladder at Poose Creek that aids in the recovery of Colorado River cutthroat trout, as well as that of the mountain sucker.

He is also working with several water rights owners to find ways to increase summer streamflows, improve irrigation infrastructure and reduce fish loss into irrigation ditches.

Hodge will be honored by the Forest Service at its annual awards ceremony May 17 on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Whitten Patio in Washington, D.C. He said this week it will be his first visit to the nation's capital that didn't begin and end at the airport.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1