Intern Spotlight: Bri Agenbroad Gains Experience in Work, Life and Trout

Gaining Experience - in Work, Life, & Trout
by Bri Agenbroad, TU's Snake River Headwaters Conservation Intern


When I saw the job posting for TU’s Snake River Headwater Conservation Internship in my hometown of Jackson, Wyoming, I couldn’t apply fast enough. Working for the powerhouse nonprofit that is Trout Unlimited was something I had always dreamed of, and as a Fish & Wildlife major at Oregon State University, I was eager to gain experience in fisheries but there was one small issue… I don’t fish.

I grew up in a hardworking, lower-middle class household with little time for hobbies in California’s Central Valley. We weren’t outdoorsy. So I came to the outdoors in roundabout way, eventually finding myself in Alaska rowing rafts down rivers. It was there that I fell in love with healthy, robust, free-flowing water. I worked, lived, and breathed those glacier-fed, salmon-spawning, eagle-congregating rivers for 4 years. For a while, my life seemed to ebb and flow with the cycles of the salmon. Then came the news of the Palmer project, a large-scale copper mining operation wanting to set up camp right on the Chilkat river that could forever change this important place. I realized that with all the talking I did with clients, I sure didn’t know very much about river ecology, fisheries health or what to do to save the places I cared about. I decided then, at 27, to pursue a degree so I could do more than just talk about issues.

I learned about Trout Unlimited from the work the organization has done in Bristol Bay on the Pebble Mine and have been following TU ever since. I’ve always been impressed by the unique space that TU occupies within the worlds of conservation and sport, and I admire its ability to leverage that space to effect positive change. TU’s mission - to care for and recover rivers and streams so future generations can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon - aligns closely with my own. To me, this mission extends beyond both fishing and rafting. It includes all conservationists who stand to enjoy and benefit from the experiences that healthy rivers give to us.

In my summer with TU, I have had the pleasure to be mentored by the tireless go-getter that is Northwest Wyoming Program Director, Leslie Steen. Under her tutelage, I have been a part of countless projects and events that serve to protect coldwater fisheries right here in my own backyard. From willow planting and stream restoration to redd surveys and data collection, I’ve been able to learn and practice new skills in the field. I’ve observed how agencies decide which projects will provide the greatest return and meet specific standards for funding, and how to work with multiple stakeholders throughout the process. I’ve participated in fundraising, community events, taught the public how to make their lawns “trout friendly”, and listened to my fair share of fishing stories. I’ve met a lot of people who care. What I’ve gained from all of this is that experiences on rivers connect us and inspire us to take action.

Rafting gave me inspiration and a love of rivers. TU gave me tools, knowledge, and a community of passionate people. I was recently gifted a fly rod but am hesitant to label myself an angler quite yet. But that’s okay, because you don’t have to be an angler to experience the joy of wild native trout and salmon. You just have to care.