Jack Imhof, Trout Unlimited

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Welcome to the inaugural edition of FieldWork. I’m James Sidney.

This program is dedicated to telling the stories of thoughtful and creative people, who contribute to the culture and health of their community. People who, as Jack Imhof says in our first profile, see things not as they are, but as they could be.

These are people with a calling: artists, activists, researchers and writers, whose imagination and hard work have left the world a slightly better and more interesting place. We hope you enjoy it.

We begin with Jack Imhof. A lifelong conservationist and biologist with Trout Unlimited. I met with him on the banks of Bronte Creek. In Lowville, Ontario.

The work that I do is, I try to do—look at damaged landscapes and try to restore them. The trouble is I’m never satisfied with things as they are, I always like to see if I can make them a little bit better.

As much as I love lakes, I’ve always been drawn to flowing water. As I got a bit older I got into fly fishing, started spending a bit of time on the Upper Credit River around the Forks, and that river is beautiful. It’s a very healthy system, it’s got a lot of wood in it, it’s got riffles and pools and runs, and I started looking at other rivers in Ontario and asking myself, “Why don’t they look like that?”

Back in 2010 I retired from the Ministry of Natural Resources and moved back to Trout Unlimited. I took an unpaid leave of absence for about five years of work with Trout Unlimited as their national biologist. I came back to Trout Unlimited in 2010 to resume that position, and I’ve been with Trout Unlimited ever since.

I just love tinkering around with things. I love taking a system that’s not very healthy, that’s maybe been fishless for a lot of years, working with the local community, local chapters of Trout Unlimited, other organizations and groups, and over time, watching that system come back to health.

The biggest challenges with our work is convincing people what needs to be done in order to make their landscape healthier. The greatest benefit we have are the people we work with, and the greatest challenge we have are the people we have to convince. And like everything else, people sees things as they are, I see things as they could be. And the challenge is trying to convince communities and individuals that live on watersheds, that they could have a better and healthier system.

The volunteers we have are spectacular. They work their rear ends off, they do phenomenal work, and we’re really happy to have them. And once they’re committed and they understand the process and understand what we’re trying to do, sometimes the biggest challenge we have is slowing them down.

Never be satisfied with the minimum standard. Try to work with the private sector and business to get the best out of change. That means, actually not thinking as a regulator, but as a manager and an environmental restoration specialist. And I think that’s where we should be going.

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