By Laurie Lane
How do you motivate a group of fishing folks towards achieving a common goal when all they want to do is fish? How do you bring together a group of unique and busy folks to work for free? Wait, why would anyone work for free? Because if you care so much about the things you love to do, you want to protect them. It’s a rare art form and, it takes an even rarer individual to lead a nonprofit for the greater good of all.
Meet WSCTU President and Program Chair, Mark Kuipers.
Mark is standing in Rattlesnake Creek near where the dam used to be. It is his backyard. He looks on with pride knowing that our chapter has helped the water flow free again. He smiles as he talks about how the fish can now move freely up and down this important fishery. Mark helps to make sure that our chapter meets these goals to protect our precious rivers and the life it sustains. We have an incredible group of folks who all work super hard yet, we still need someone to take the helm. Mark has done a fantastic job leading our chapter to win the prestigious Silver Trout from national Trout Unlimited.
Mark grew up in Michigan and at age 20 he hitchhiked around the country, working his way through Montana. Of all the places he visited, he vowed to live in Montana someday. Some 35 years later, his wife Kathy landed a job as a professor at the U of M and Mark says it was one of the ten happiest days of his life. You will have to ask him what his other nine are. My guess would include his kids, grandkids, and landing a 135-pound tarpon! It wasn’t until grad school in Pullman when Mark asked a guy from Montana if he could go fishing with him. He agreed to take Mark fishing but, only if he was a fly fisher. That started Mark’s obsession and four years later he was guiding on the Henry’s Fork and the Madison.
To let you know what kind of guy Mark is when asked what he loves about the sport, he mentions the challenge. Mark is always challenging himself, which is most likely why he took on the leadership role. Did I mention it’s an unpaid position? He hasn’t always worked for free. Mark's obsession led him to a marketing position at Scientific Angler/3M in St. Paul introducing new products like fly lines and the System One reel. He produced some of the first fly fishing instructional videos featuring Gary Borger and others in the industry. He also served as an editor on the five annual Scientific Anglers publications! Mark went on to run his own marketing firm for thirty years.
Conservation is a no brainer for Mark. He practices what he preaches and believes in healing the damage from the past to our resources so that future generations may enjoy clean rivers. He wants everyone to join in using their skills to help the community. As Woody Guthrie famously sang, This land is your land. This land is my land. Our chapter gets things done and, it’s because of everyone involved. Marks mantra is,"Why bother doing anything unless you do it to excess.” He’s quick to note that he can go overboard but it’s this passion that gets stuff done.
Thanks, Mark, for your unwavering commitment to making sure we get the dirty work done so we can all reap the benefits. The trout especially thank you.