BASS HIRES U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE VETERAN FOR CONSERVATION LEADERSHIP

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Noreen Clough, former southeast regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been named BASS Conservation Director, Dean Kessel, Vice President and General Manager of BASS, announced Tuesday.

Clough replaces Bruce Shupp, who retired in January after nine years in that role. She will oversee conservation efforts at BASS while consulting on a wide array of advocacy issues in other areas of ESPN Outdoors.

"Noreen has both the experience and direction that we need to continue our conservation group's very important work," Kessel said. "BASS has a 35-year history of leadership in conservation and we anticipate a seamless transition in our key projects, including work on the Largemouth Bass Virus and wetlands restoration."

With Conservation Manager Chris Horton, Clough will also work with state BASS Federations and their conservation directors to enhance fisheries programs and protect public access to fisheries at the local and state levels.

Clough retired from the FWS in 1997 after 30 years in the federal government. She previously served as Deputy Director, External Affairs, in the U.S. Department of the Interior, where she was liaison to National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. She also administered the $500 million FWS Federal Aid program, and the FWS legislative and public affairs programs. She also worked as Deputy Assistant Director/Fisheries, responsible for development of FWS "Action Plan for Fisheries," and as Chief of Resource Management, National Wildlife Refuge System.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. This April, BASS introduces the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, a four-event, no-entry-fee circuit featuring a $1.6 million prize purse for the world's best anglers. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass-fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.

For additional information, please contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.

Q&A: BASS Conservation Director Noreen Clough

1. What experiences in your background prepare you for this new role?

Over my 20 years with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, I had the privilege of working on fisheries and aquatic resource conservation issues in a variety of areas. Even when I was working with the National Wildlife Refuge System, I worked with BASS to help publish The Guide to Hunting and Fishing on National Wildlife Refuges. But my broadest experience in fisheries conservation was as Deputy Director for Fisheries for the FWS.

It was there that I dealt with the issues of aquatic nuisance species, interjurisdictional fisheries, national fish hatcheries, etc, as well as guide the development of the FWS' Action Plan for Fisheries Resources. It was also there that I was able to outreach with Congress, ASA, AFS, FishNet and other fisheries groups, such as BASS, and Tom Bedell at Pure Fishing.

I also spent about a year and a half as the Deputy Director of FWS in charge of the Federal Aid program and liaison with the International Assn of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. So I understand how angler participation funds fish conservation. Since leaving the FWS in 1997, I have stayed in touch with many of these folks, most recently as project manager for the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council's report on the National Fish Hatchery System.

2. What do you see as the greatest threats to sportfishing?

I see three primary threats, but there are certainly more subtle ones. The three that concern me most are: Increasingly competitive demands for water resources; lack of new angler recruitment, especially youth; and the growing inability of the State Game and Fish Agencies to be all things to all people in a climate of declining revenue.

3. How can anglers become more involved in protecting our fisheries resources?

Anglers are out there - they're in the boats and on the banks; they are like proverbial "canaries in the coal mine." That needs to be harnessed toward not just increasing angler participation, but in conserving and protecting the fisheries resources.

By making the issues they see affecting fishing known, and by advocating for fisheries resources. There is a huge opportunity here for BASS Federation members to become a bit more involved in conservation by highlighting or focusing on the most pressing issues they see affecting their ability to fish and catch fish. I'm also a big advocate on ethical angling, something BASS has always taken a leadership role in, from setting the standard for catch-and-release, to the latest on how to handle tournament fish, to managing largemouth bass virus.

4. What excites you most about your new role as National Conservation Director at BASS?

What doesn't? This is an incredible opportunity to make a lasting impact on sportfishing and fisheries conservation - a once-in-a-lifetime chance, I think! So it's hard for me to narrow it down.

The expanded opportunities that exist with ESPN, which doubled the BASS Conservation staff as a sign of their conservation commitment, is exciting. And in my contacts with leaders of ESPN Outdoors, I sense their enthusiasm for BASS and the Conservation Department. I am especially thrilled to be back in the fish and fishing business, and back at the tables that develop policy to protect, respect and expand sportfishing - be it BASS Federation Conservation Directors, professional BASS anglers or support organizations, such as American Sportfishing Association, FishNet and others.

5. How do you expect the transition to take place from Bruce Shupp's leadership to yours?

Hopefully, as transparent as I can make it. I have great respect for Bruce Shupp, and great respect for what he accomplished in his tenure with BASS. Bruce did an incredible job, and his shoes are going to be hard to fill. I hope to build on his legacy and the firm foundation he's left Chris Horton and me, and from there, add a new dimension with all our partners, and especially with ESPN Outdoors and Disney.

6. The BASS Federation and its state conservation directors are on the front lines in efforts to protect and enhance sportfishing. How do you see their roles developing in the future?

Yes, they are in the front lines, and sometimes that's not such a comfortable place to be. But they are doing an admirable job. One of my priorities will be to sit down with as many of the Federation Conservation Directors as I can and learn how they see their roles developing in the future. Then, I'd like to look for ways in which Chris and I can add a measure of support to their efforts, support that we might not yet know about.

I look forward to talking with them soon, and learning their needs, their hurdles, and their successes, and try to define ways to build on those successes and eliminate some of those hurdles. But it's going to require a deepened commitment on their part, too. It's going to take increasing the partnerships with the state fisheries folks, and becoming vocal advocates for the resource. Which means meetings, and letter writing, and all those other things that keep you from fishing - so it's going to take some sacrifice, too.

Anglers can no longer rely on the states and the feds to cover all the bases. In most cases, the agencies are overwhelmed and under funded. In other cases, politics prevents the states or feds from entering the fray.

I'm sure much of this is already going on within many state BASS Federations - not just letter writing and meetings, but increasing the assistance Federations can give by such simple chores as collecting catch statistics, bank restoration projects, boat ramp clean-ups and the like. All these things, big and little, add up to increased conservation on the part of BASS and the BASS Federations.

7. I understand you're a lifelong angler. How did you become involved in the sport, and how would you recommend others get involved in fishing?

I learned to fish with my dad, mom and sister. "Take A Kid Fishing" is more than a slogan! Not once, but often. And remember, there's a "kid" in most adults, so if you've got a friend who doesn't fish, or a single mom with a kid - take them fishing. They'll be better for it, as will you and the fishery resources. As the saying goes, "fishing is catching."

8. Do up have specific goals that you would like to achieve while serving as BASS Conservation Director?

I don't want to jump the gun and outline very many goals before I get a better feel for what exactly the Federations are achieving, and where we may need to focus. I'd like to see each State Federation undertake an active conservation project of some type, and for the Federation Conservation leaders in the states to be on frequent speaking terms with the state game and fish folks, and others crucial to fisheries conservation as well as sportfishing.

I would also hope to elevate BASS' conservation messages beyond Federation discussions and accomplishments - to the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, and through ESPN Outdoors, where we can reach an even larger audience. And I want to work with others to find the keys to increasing angler participation - after all, you can only conserve what you love!

9. What is the single most significant threat to the future of fishing and what can be done about it?

While the conservationist in me wants to say the competition for water resources and aquatic resource conservation, I think that's more of a threat to fish than to fishing. If I have to pick just one thing, it would be increasing angler participation.

As participation goes down, it spawns a myriad awful affects - decreased revenue from Wallop-Breaux dollars, which impacts the states' ability to manage fishery resources. It also decreases the number of folks out there on the water, monitoring the state of the fishery.

It has negative local and national economic effects. It fails to create those healthy family and social bonds between anglers and their parents or relatives or friends. Decreased participation in fishing creates a disconnect with the natural world, which decreases the understanding and respect for natural resources in general.

10. When did you first learn of BASS? And what experiences did you have with the organization while you were working elsewhere? What were your impressions then and now?

I first learned of BASS way back when I was the Chief of Resource Management for the National Wildlife Refuge System, with the Fish and Wildlife Service, when we worked together to publish a booklet that highlighted fishing opportunities on Refuges.

That project included a couple trips to Montgomery, and at the time I thought, what a neat way to make a living! Over the years since then, I've continued my affiliation with BASS in a variety of ways, mostly through the Fish and Wildlife Service. I've attended many Bassmaster Classics, spoken at some, and attended the Federation Conservation Directors meetings at others.

My respect for BASS has grown over the years, going way beyond seeing it as a neat place to work, to one of respect for a vibrant, caring and professional organization. I gained a great deal more respect through the years as I worked with Bruce Shupp on any number of fisheries issues. He exemplifies what I'd like to do, what he did, and what the Federations are doing - anglers giving back to the resource that supports their sport.

11. Do you think that it's possible to bring "conservationists" (anglers) and "environmentalists" together on issues of importance to both of them, such as clean water and protecting wetlands? How?

Yes, and I've seen it done recently, when Chris Horton and I attended a Sportsmen's workshop sponsored by the Georgia Wildlife Federation. That meeting was to energize sportsmen's groups in a five state area to oppose proposed weakening of the Clean Water Act by further diluting protection of isolated wetlands.

Although our motivation might have ultimately been different that those of an environmentalist, our goal was the same. I think it is probably easier to bridge the gap between conservationists and environmentalists when it comes to water and protecting wetlands than on other natural resource issues, like endangered species. I'm not saying that it's easy.

It takes being at the table, and being willing not only to stick up for your point of view, but to back it up, and to be prepared to consider making appropriate compromises.