Get to Know Jamie Vaughan - TU's Great Lakes Engagement Coordinator

Hi Jamie, we’re glad to hear TU has hired you to be the Great Lakes Engagement Coordinator.  It looks like you’ve done some great work in Michigan and we’re excited to have the opportunity to work with you in Wisconsin.

 

Let’s start with this, why did you want to work for TU?

 

I was lucky to get an internship with TU right out of college after studying environmental science. Fly fishing was something foreign to me at the time, but my passion aligned with TU’s mission, and I couldn’t be happier that I ended up in an organization with a great culture, effective leadership, and an incredible thirst to find the best and most creative ways to protect coldwater resources.

 

Could you tell us a little bit about your involvement in the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative?

 

In 2014, I began working with Nichol Demol, who launched and led the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative since 2010. Under Nichol’s leadership, I honed my skills in watershed management, working on both urban and rural projects from small rain gardens to large wetland restorations. Working in the greater Grand Rapids area presented lots of opportunities for engaging the community, and over time we grew an informed and impassioned community around coldwater conservation in the Rogue River. I eventually took over as Project Manager in 2019 and helped bring the initiative into its 10th year.

 

Are there any specific accomplishments from the Rogue River Initiative that you’re most proud of?

 

We started an initiative called the Rogue River Tree Army to increase shade along coldwater streams and combat the effects of the emerald ash borer, climate change, and more. In just three years, we’ve planted over 37,000 trees and shrubs along coldwater rivers and streams in West Michigan!

 

Wow, that’s impressive. Let’s back up a little. Can you share some of your early upbringing with us?

 

I grew up in a residential neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago. Growing up, my access to and experiences in natural areas was pretty minimal. Despite that, I had an innate care for the environment starting at a young age; I loved going to Lake Michigan, walking along the Chicago River, and knew early on that I wanted to study and pursue a career in the environmental field. My upbringing has certainly informed my interests in the relationship of urban areas and the environment and my passion for bringing all people into coldwater conservation.

 

Do you recall a moment in your childhood when you made a special connection with fishing or the outdoors?

 

When I was younger, every summer I would go with my aunt and uncle to spend a day on a small lake outside of the city. I got to fish off a dock with my Snoopy fishing pole, take rides in a paddle boat, and soak up the outdoors in ways that were totally new and exciting to me. Though the days were few, I look back now and see how influential they were in shaping who I am and how I arrived at a career with TU.

 

Ah the Snoopy pole, I can relate. We’ve all been stuck closer to home since the pandemic first hit.  Secret fishing spots aside, do you have a favorite local area to recreate outdoors?

 

I really enjoy small, icy, groundwater-fed Michigan streams. Whether I am getting some line wet, foraging for ramps, or just hiking, these streams inhabit some of my favorite forests and I much prefer them to more exposed, larger river systems.

 

Alright, back to business. We know the position you’re in now used to be called “Advocacy Coordinator”.  Can you tell us a little bit about how that role is expanding with the change to “Engagement Coordinator”?

 

In the Great Lakes and nationally, we have a strong base of staff and supporters who are keeping their fingers on the pulse of legislative issues at the state and federal level, from national government affairs staff, to our TU State Councils, and other policy experts in the community. While I don’t have a policy background, in this new role I will harness the knowledge of our vast network of experts to help educate TU members about various issues and empower them to play a role in legislative issues, from calling their representatives to writing letters and much more. I will also be advancing engagement more broadly beyond policy issues. Through social media and other outreach, I will work to keep members aware of TU staff’s Great Lakes activities and create volunteer opportunities for people to get involved in projects in a hands-on way, ultimately creating a stronger and more collaborative TU community. (You can find us on Facebook at Trout Unlimited’s Great Lakes Program, and on Instagram at Instagram.com/troutunlimitedgreatlakes

 

We realize you’re based in Michigan (we won’t hold that against you) and there is a Great Lake in between us, but we’d be happy to have you at one of our upcoming State Council meetings. Aside from that, what’s the most efficient way for our chapters to connect with you?

 

I welcome chapters to reach out to me with questions, ideas, or just to say hello. I am most quickly responsive to e-mails, so I’d recommend sending me an email to get the conversation going! Chapters can expect that I will be reaching out to keep them updated as policy issues arise, when there are opportunities to partner with National staff on projects in Priority Waters, and I am always happy to share out information on chapter events or stories to our growing social media audiences. I can be reached at jamie.vaughan@tu.org.

 

In a typical year, our TU volunteers in Wisconsin will put in over 50,000 hours working on conservation, education, advocacy, and public outreach. While that’s an impressive number, I think we can do more. Do you see opportunities for expanding the volunteer involvement within our TU Chapters?

 

Absolutely! The work that TU does has so many positive auxiliary benefits that its very easy to make the case to non-anglers why the work we do is so important for local communities. I see potential in bringing in the wider community that is concerned about environmental issues and recognizes the importance of clean, cold water. Additionally, it can be intimidating for new and existing anglers to come out for a variety of reasons, so the more welcoming and inclusive we can demonstrate our organization to be, and reaching out to new or overlooked audiences, the more people will feel confident to step up and get active in the TU community.

 

Perfect, I think we’re going to get along well. Thank you for spending some time with us, Jamie.  We’re really looking forward to working with you to help strengthen Wisconsin’s TU Chapters.  - Mike Kuhr, WITU

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