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If We Unbuild It, They Will Come

Matt Stoecker
Kid's Fall 2010

High up in the mountains where steep canyon walls meet, submerged in a cold and clear flowing stream, a pocket of orange-pink eggs lies protected among the colorful gravel. Small eyes and a long skinny body move within one of the translucent shells. The egg shakes with life, then a crack appears in the shell and golden eyes emerge and peer out. The small rainbow trout swims away from the now lifeless shell.

After two years, as winter flows subside, the trout gets the urge for something more. Followed by others, the trout lets the swift current pull it downstream away from its home and the trout that decide to stay behind.

Down rapids and over small waterfalls, the trout suddenly enters an artificial reservoir. The trout swims around the large, still body of stagnant water looking for a way downstream. Flows spill out over a concrete wall that rises from the depths of the reservoir and the trout slides over the lip and plunges hundreds of feet through the air, smacking onto the water’s surface below. Almost unconscious and lucky to be alive, the trout slowly revives in the shadow of a massive dam and recovers just in time to dart away from a large bass that emerges at full speed from the deep pool. The bass is a non-native intruder here and only survives because of the artificial stillwater habitat created by the dam. The trout quickly moves downstream and is happy to be playfully riding the current again.

About the Author
Matt Stoecker is a restoration ecologist for whom the distinction between work and play is blurry: rock-hopping creeks loaded with surveying gear, snorkeling and studying trout populations, assessing habitat conditions, restoring migratory access for steelhead and, on the rare occasion, blowing up a dam. Since his first wildlife restoration project at age ten, Matt’s passion has been to explore and better understand the natural world, prioritize restoration opportunities and, most importantly, take action to spearhead dozens of projects that have restored steelhead trout habitat and migratory access to the watersheds we both call home.