Trout Unlimited

Last updated
Trout Unlimited, Inc.
TU Logo .jpg
Founded at Michigan, United States
Type Nonprofit
EIN 38-1612715
Legal status Charitable organization
Purposeconserve, protect and restore America’s cold-water fisheries and their watersheds
Headquarters1777 North Kent Street
Coordinates 38°53′51″N77°04′10″W / 38.89746790324031°N 77.06931103714035°W / 38.89746790324031; -77.06931103714035 Coordinates: 38°53′51″N77°04′10″W / 38.89746790324031°N 77.06931103714035°W / 38.89746790324031; -77.06931103714035
Region served
United States
Membership (2018)
Official language
Board of Directors
Subsidiaries 387 local chapters in 42 councils [1]
Budget (2018)
$50 million

Trout Unlimited (TU) is a US non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of freshwater streams, rivers, and associated upland habitats for trout, salmon, other aquatic species, and people. It is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. The organization began in 1959 in Michigan. It has since spread throughout the United States and has local chapters in nearly every State in the United States.


Trout Unlimited History and Profile

Trout Unlimited was established in 1959 along the banks of Michigan's Au Sable River by a group of 16 anglers who were interested in protecting trout in that and other popular fishing rivers. Founders included Art Neumann and George Griffith, creator of the popular fly pattern Griffith's Gnat. The first president was Dr. Casey E. Westell Jr. Neumann was the first vice president. [2]

TU is a national organization with more than 150,000 formal members organized into about 400 chapters in nearly every state. The organization's annual budget is approximately $50 million. [3] Trout Unlimited has achieved a rating score of 88.26 [4] from Charity Navigator.

Trout Unlimited's staff currently numbers about 220. About 25 of the staff members are based in the organization's national office is in Arlington, Virginia. The others work throughout the country in regional offices.

The staff is organized into several departments, including Volunteer Operations, Science, Eastern Conservation, Western Conservation, Government Affairs and media and marketing.

The organization has developed various tools to help prioritize protection, restoration and conservation efforts. Tools include the Conservation Success Index (CSI), [5] a framework for assessing the health of coldwater fish species throughout their native range, the Brook Trout Portfolio Analysis, [6] which utilizes GIS technology to assess brook trout habitat strongholds.


Membership types include Stream Explorer youth member, regular member, life member, and corporate member. All members receive the TU magazine, Trout. Benefits of chapter membership includes receiving the chapter newsletter or e-newsletter, invitations to chapter meetings, events or projects. Chapters range in geographic size from a single watershed to an entire state and in membership size from less than 20 to more than 4,000. Because TU is a publicly supported 501(c)(3) organized under a group exemption, each chapter (and council) is required to have its own employer identification number (EIN) and file its own tax forms with the IRS. TU chapters are financially independent of the national organization. [7]

TU chapters in a region are organized into a council. Most are organized by state boundaries; however some councils are made up of more than one state (for example the Mid-Atlantic Council which serves Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C.). In most cases, the council serves as an umbrella organization for its chapters, state-wide. Councils are the key link between the TU staff and local chapters. The following Councils existed in 2021: [1]

  1. Alaska
  2. Arizona
  3. Arkansas
  4. California
  5. Colorado
  6. Connecticut
  7. Idaho
  8. Illinois
  9. Indiana
  10. Indian Nations Council (Oklahoma)
  11. Iowa
  12. Kansas
  13. Kentucky
  14. Maine
  15. Mid-Atlantic
  16. Massachusetts/Rhode Island
  17. Michigan
  18. Minnesota
  19. Montana
  20. Nebraska
  21. Nevada
  22. New Hampshire
  23. New Jersey
  24. New Mexico
  25. New York
  26. North Carolina
  27. North Dakota
  28. Ohio
  29. Ozark
  30. Oregon
  31. Pennsylvania
  32. South Carolina
  33. South Dakota
  34. Tennessee
  35. Texas
  36. Utah
  37. Vermont
  38. Virginia
  39. Washington
  40. West Virginia
  41. Wisconsin
  42. Wyoming

The National Leadership Council (NLC) is TU's volunteer body that helps to set the direction of TU and is made up of one representative elected from each council.

TU's Board of Trustees (BOT) guides the organization. The BOT, consisting of 32 individuals, meets in person three times a year to review and approve financial and organizational decisions.

The TU Strategic Plan identifies four key areas of focus for the organization's staff and volunteers, including:


Trout Unlimited undertakes projects, programs and awareness campaigns at both the volunteer/chapter level, and at the staff level.

Local chapter activities typically include stream restoration work, participating in citizen science, advocacy, educational programs, group fishing outings, and outreach activities for youth, women and veterans.

Stream restoration focuses on improving habitat for trout and other coldwater species, including aquatic insects. Tactics can include planting trees and shrubs along streams to reduce erosion while also increasing shade, strategic addition of boulders or trees to provide cover and improve water depth and flow, and removing or improving barriers that block fish passage, such as culverts and dams.

TU members tallied more than 734,000 volunteer hours in 2017. [8]

Trout Unlimited's staff of restoration specialists and project managers undertake similar restoration activities, often on a larger scale and often in collaboration with partners. The work is informed by research from staff scientists.

Trout Unlimited advocates on issues of interest at both a local volunteer and staff level. In recent years, for example, Trout Unlimited has publicly opposed a large-scale proposed mine (Pebble Mine) in Alaska's Bristol Bay. Trout Unlimited has also been active in opposing legislative efforts to transfer public lands from federal ownership. [9]

Trout Unlimited established a program in the early 2000s to train volunteers to monitor streams in areas of natural gas extraction in the East's Marcellus Shale region. [10] The program has expanded to include monitoring in areas where pipelines are proposed or being constructed. Several hundred volunteers have been trained in the program and they have helped to identify a number of pollution events that were subsequently addressed.

Trout in the Classroom is one of TU's largest youth education initiatives. Volunteers help teachers set up aquariums in the classrooms, and students raise trout from eggs during the school year. The program supports ecology-related curriculum and helps to educate students in the importance of cold, clean water not only for trout, but also for people. [11]

TU's Veteran's Service Program provides activities and engagement for former and current military members and their families. The organization also has an active diversity initiative to expand the reach of conservation and fly fishing. TU's 5 Rivers program is aimed at college students.


Trout Unlimited draws some of its funding from membership fees and contributions. Chapters often undertake fundraising activities to pay for their restoration work, or they may seek grants through TU's Embrace a Stream program. [12]

Projects undertaken by scientists and conservationists working for Trout Unlimited are funded through competitive grants as well as cost-share agreements with federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management. These grants fund large projects such as dam removal and culvert removals or repairs, bank stabilization and restoration, in-stream habitat building.

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  1. 1 2 "Find your chapter". Trout Unlimited. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
  2. "History of Trout Unlimited". Trout Unlimited. Retrieved 2018-07-20.
  3. "2017 TU Annual Report". Trout Unlimited. Retrieved 2018-07-20.
  4. "Charity Navigator - Rating for Trout Unlimited, National Office". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 2018-07-20.
  5. "Conservation Success Index". Trout Unlimited.
  6. "Focal Area Assessment" (PDF). Trout Unlimited.
  7. "Trout Unlimited". Charity Navigator. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
  8. "Trout Unlimited Annual Report" (PDF). Trout Unlimited.
  9. "Pebble Mine Permit Denied". NY Times. November 25, 2020. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
  10. "Eastern Shale Gas Monitoring Program". Trout Unlimited.
  11. "Trout in the Classroom". Trout Unlimited.
  12. "Embrace A Stream". Trout Unlimited.