By SARAH ROY
We started off our big camping trip with some hands-on aquatic activities. Instructor Andrea Stephens took all of us to see how culverts can affect the connectivity of fish populations and we even got to crawl through one ourselves!
Later that day we met up with Ryen Neudecker from Trout Unlimited. She offered great insight on river and stream restoration and took all of us around to various streams that had been restored under her supervision. Ryen brought "before" pictures that really put the value of her work into perspective. It was truly amazing to see the progress that can be made in just a couple of years. After meeting with Ryen, instructors Andrea Stephens and Sara Halm decided a spontaneous canoeing trip was in order. We were all pretty pleased with this decision. Canoeing Clearwater creek into Seeley Lake was not only a fun activity, but it also allowed us to better understand how local streams connect with lakes and larger fish populations.
After canoeing we headed to Upsata Lake to set up camp! While at Upsata we set out to get multiple perspectives on local conservation in order to foster a broader view of things. First we visited Kathy Schoendoerfer at her flyshop in Ovando to get an idea of how a local business owner feels about conservation and how she interacts with the angling community. Kathy was so welcoming, and shed so much light on how even a small business can aid in conservation efforts by selling the right gear or making the right suggestions. We also got to meet with Randy Gazda and Sarah Schmidt from the Blackfoot Challenge. The Blackfoot Challenge is an organization that helps bring together diverse groups in the community in order to discuss and work on conservation objectives. Hearing about the Blackfoot Challenge and their impacts really helped show the students how to get different groups of people in a community to work together on common goals. This is so vitally important in the field of conservation, and we are all extremely grateful to them for sharing their time and outlooks with us. Of course after all of this talking, we were itching to get back into the field. We all were able to go snorkeling in Dunham Creek in order to get a first-hand view of the fish inhabiting our local streams. What species were they? Where do they reside? In the slow moving pools or in fast-moving rifles? These were all questions we asked ourselves when observing the diversity of life below the water. Snorkeling gave all of us a look into the life of a fish, if only for a moment.