For more than a decade, Dave Brown has quietly helped boost wild fish populations locally with little more than his own determination and a small army of volunteers.
His one-of-a-kind fish rescue operation is well-known within many circles in Clark County. Later this month, Northwest Wild Fish Rescue will be introduced to a much larger audience. Brown will receive a national award from the American Fisheries Society.
The President’s Fishery Conservation Award will be presented to Brown on Monday, during the organization’s annual meeting, held this year in Portland.
Brown learned of the honor in June. He said recently that he’s heard many congratulations since then as word has spread. But don’t expect Brown to spend much time patting himself on the back.
“I’m just an ordinary guy,” Brown said.
Northwest Wild Fish Rescue captures young salmon and steelhead from waterways where they would otherwise become stranded and die when the water drops or dries up. Brown holds the fish in several pens on his property — fed by an elaborate system of pipes tapping natural spring water — before releasing them back in their native habitat when water is higher.
The operation focuses on the East Fork of the Lewis River and Salmon Creek watersheds. The goal is to improve ailing wild fish runs in area waterways once bursting with them.
“I cannot think of anyone more deserving than Dave Brown for one of our President’s Conservation Awards,” Carl Burger, a senior scientist with Vancouver-based fisheries technology company Smith-Root, wrote in a nomination letter. “He is a genuine role model for what citizen-based fishery conservation is all about and a definite contributor to our society’s mission and goals.”
Burger, himself a past honoree and leader within the American Fisheries Society, first met Brown in 2007, he said. Burger described being blown away by Brown’s efforts and the volunteers supporting it.
“I think the world of Dave, and we need more people like him,” Burger said by phone.
Brown will join some good company with the award. Past winners include a former Canadian prime minister, Turner Enterprises’ Biodiversity Division, and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
Another letter of support for Brown came from volunteer Brice Crayne, who has worked with Northwest Wild Fish Rescue in the past.
“Dave is the most driven person I have ever met, hands down,” Crayne wrote. “He asks for no recognition or praise for what he’s done; he only asks that his program might be accepted as a legitimate means to assist the recovery of wild salmon.”
Indeed, Brown said he hopes the award will lend more weight to Northwest Wild Fish Rescue and highlight its success.
Brown will accept the award on the second full day of the American Fisheries Society’s 145th annual meeting, which runs Aug. 16-20 in Portland.
The event will bring together scientists, policymakers, fishermen and others for a wide variety of presentations and talks. Among the major topics covered will be ecosystem-based management of fisheries and ocean resources, according to the organization.