Our Brother's KeeperBy Alanna Keating
Published: April/May 2013
Finding ways to turn anglers into the guardians of rivers and lakes drives the founder of Recycled Fish.
Fast forward 10 years and Recycled Fish has grown from an idea in the mind of a passionate angler to a national organization educating anglers on how to live a lifestyle of stewardship on and off the water. Recycled Fish started educating anglers on catch-and-release fishing. As these concepts began to catch on across the country, they expanded their mission to educate anglers on simple, practical ways to protect their waterways every day. That’s when Stouffer looked to the BoatUS Foundation for assistance through the Grassroots Grants program, which is funded by the generous donations of BoatUS members. For more than 20 years, the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water has awarded grants to nonprofit organizations around the
Last year, the Foundation invited boaters to vote on their website and on their Facebook page for their favorite projects. In 2012, with more than 11,000 votes from BoatUS members and the general public, Recycled Fish received a grant to seed their biggest program to date. Their "1 Million Stewards" program gives people a way to make a meaningful difference, on their schedule, and at their commitment level — a multifaceted approach to educate boaters and anglers to take care of their waterways. Each person who signs their Stewardship Pledge receives a Steward kit including a bag to clean up trash while on the water, a book that educates on stewardship actions, and access to a website that gives them a chance to share what they're doing, teach others, and really see the impact they're making. Stouffer feels people need a specific action that helps create the identity of being a steward, and access to resources to take stewardship behavior from the waterways and into their homes. Through the 1 Million Stewards program, people can embrace a new identity beyond consumer or user of our natural resources, and become a steward and
Stouffer and his staff have attended 12 fishing tournaments and events, sent e-newsletters containing stewardship tips to nearly 5,000 people each week, and built a popular interactive website, all resulting in more than 14,000 people signing the Stewardship Pledge. And they’re doing more than just signing. The program has tremendous reach and is building momentum every day. A study conducted by Recycled Fish of people who signed the pledge showed that 65 percent will change the way they interact with their waterways and 90 percent have learned more about stewardship.
While Recycled Fish has seen great success in building the 1 Million Stewards program, their work isn't done. If you've ever spotted Styrofoam bait cups floating in the water, you know their next challenge. This year, Recycled Fish partnered with DMF Bait Co., the largest bait distributor in the U.S., to tackle this problem. All bait containers from DMF Bait Co. are now biodegradable and sport the Recycled Fish logo as well as a link to stewardship tips.
With his endless enthusiasm for conservation and fishing, Stouffer is now a hero to many. He kept the letter that Houston wrote him and now gets to hang out with his hero at fishing tournaments and events around the country. Stouffer, his small staff, and their army of supporters continue to grow the 1 Million Stewards program and several other key programs, reaching new boaters and anglers every day with their stewardship messages. For more on Recycled Fish, visit www. recycledfish.org. For more on the BoatUS Foundation Grassroots Grants program, and how you can support our efforts, visit www.BoatUS.com/Foundation.
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