Brule scholarship impacts local resources
The Brule River Sportsmen's Club handed out in 1999 its first scholarship, an investment in natural resource conservation. "I think this scholarship is one of the best things we do," said Paul Helbach, a member of the board of directors. A peek t...
The Brule River Sportsmen's Club handed out in 1999 its first scholarship, an investment in natural resource conservation.
"I think this scholarship is one of the best things we do," said Paul Helbach, a member of the board of directors.
A peek through past recipients reveals an area-wide benefit.
Brad Ray, the 2000 recipient, is a fisheries biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in Bayfield. Tyler Kaspar received scholarships in 2010 and 2011. He now works with the 1854 Treaty Authority in Northeast Minnesota as an environmental specialist.
The list also includes the foreman of the St. Croix Falls Hatchery a fisheries specialist with the Minnesota DNR in Grand Marais, a forester in northern Minnesota and more.
How big an impact does the scholarship - upped from $1,000 to $5,000 in 2012 - have on those who receive it?
"The things you need to be successful in fisheries are experience and education," said Ray, a Nebraska native.
Education is expensive, and getting that experience usually involves low-pay or unpaid positions. When Ray got the scholarship, he was paid $4.25 an hour for being a fisheries intern while studying at Northland College in Ashland.
"Even back then, it paid for my housing for the whole summer," he said. "It helps with the expenses immensely and then it also builds your confidence that you're on the right track ... you're getting recognized for what you're doing."
The 2018 recipient is aware his field of study, civil engineering, is not typically linked to conservation. But Kendall Hill, a junior at the University of Minnesota Duluth, said highway design can impact area waters and habitat.
He recently worked on a project in Ely that will realign Minnesota Highway 1 to go over a hill so it would get sunlight in the winter, reducing the amount of road salt it will need. Another project, a roundabout in Cloquet, has a trout stream running under it. A natural-bottom culvert will be designed for the site.
"It's important to have people in that industry interested in preserving our trout streams, because it's a lot more work to make a culvert that has a natural bottom, and a lot of contractors and a lot of engineers don't want to have to design and implement those, so having someone that cares about it will be essential for the future of some of our trout streams," said Hill, of Duluth.
His sensitivity to the way structural design of highways affects waterways and runoff is one of the reasons Hill, who carries a 4.0 grade-point average, was chosen.
"This was just before or right after the big flood, so it seemed like a timely issue," Helbach said.
The scholarship is funded through donations, said club member Ken Lundberg, and it has widened to include a variety of fields.
"I think it's great they're recognizing not just fish, but everything that impacts the resource," Ray said. "It's really neat to see they're still doing this."
In 15 years, he said, Hill could be designing highways in northwest Wisconsin.
Visit bruleriversportsmensclub.com for more information on the club and scholarship.