Ken Reed LEWISTON, MICHIGAN
When a tree falls in Michigan’s Au Sable watershed, people call Ken Reed. He comes with a chain saw by boat or helicopter to build what he calls “trout hotels.” Due to early logging activity that harvested most of the timber in the river corridor, underwater debris rarely occurs naturally in the Au Sable. Heavy canoe traffic knocks loose what structure exists. “So, I put waders on every day and get in the river,” Reed says. He works 40 hours a week for the nonprofit Huron Pines RC&D to sink deadfall in strategic spots where it deflects water from eroding banks and creates the shady cover, riffles, and backwaters that make the Au Sable an anglers’ mecca. In summer, Reed recruits teams of young fishermen to help. Since 2002, they’ve placed over 5,800 trees in more than 20 miles of stream.
Kathy Boone LUBBOCK, TEXAS
Although Kathy Boone may never draw a tag to hunt bighorn sheep in her native Texas, for her, it’s enough to know they are there. By the 1950s, market hunting and livestock-borne disease had wiped the wild sheep from the arid Trans-Pecos mountains. In 1981, the founders of Boone’s organization, the Texas Bighorn Society, begged other states to send sheep, and for the last 20 years, she has labored to ensure the future of that herd. Several times a year she climbs to mountain peaks with dozens of volunteers to build water catchments that allow bighorns to survive up high, away from cougars and civilization. “It’s real easy to tell they belong in that country,” Boone says. The 800 bighorns in Texas today may be the most genetically viable population in North America.
Jerry Lowery RENO, NEVADA
Mule deer have been wintering on northwestern Nevada’s benchlands for centuries. “But now, they’re starving,” says Jerry Lowery, who for the last 15 years has spent weekends taking down fences so that deer can migrate freely between ranges. Invasive cheatgrass has exploded across the Great Basin, choking out protein-rich shrubs and creating a perfect fuel for wildfires that burn so hot and fast that native vegetation never recovers. Each fall, after fires have smoldered and before the first snow, Lowery and members of his local chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation hike into the foothills to plant sagebrush and bitterbrush seeds, which will sprout in the spring. “The habitat takes such a long time to come back. We try to help nature along.”
In the fall of 2006, F&S will hold the first annual Heroes of Conservation Awards to recognize men and women dedicated to the protection of fish and wildlife habitat and the future of our sports. To nominate a hero, go to fieldandstream.com/heroes.