Eagle Point's Bob Hunter gets Forest Service fisheries, watershed award

Eagle Point resident Bob Hunter has received this year's national award from the U.S. Forest Service for his efforts to improve the Rogue River watershed and its rich fishery.

Hunter was recently presented with the "Rise to the Future" award during a ceremony at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

The award is given to individuals whose exceptional work enhances fisheries and watersheds on national forests.

Hunter, 59, who retired last year as the staff attorney for WaterWatch of Oregon but remains on its board, was cited as a "river champion" for his quarter-of-a-century effort to remove four dams from the river drainage, including the Savage Rapids, Gold Ray, Gold Hill diversion and Elk Creek dams.

Elk Creek dam blocked coho salmon, chinook salmon, steelhead trout, Pacific lamprey and cutthroat trout from migrating, officials said. The other three dams restricted migrating salmon and steelhead from making their way upstream to spawn, they added.

Although the effort to remove them was not always popular, Hunter was cited for his "unwavering commitment and tenacity" in working with a variety of factions through the years.

In addition to environmental benefits, his efforts are expected to pay off economically because of the positive impact on recreation, officials said.

But Hunter noted it was the result of a collaborative effort.

"It's very exciting to receive an award for river restoration, but the work that was done involved a lot of people and a lot of organizations, a lot of support from agencies and affected parties," he said.

In addition, Grants Pass resident Kevin O'Brien received the regional Pacific Northwest "Rise to the Future" award. He is the watershed coordinator for the Illinois Valley Watershed Council and district manager for the IV Soil & Water Conservation District.

O'Brien has managed or co-managed numerous major in-stream and riparian projects in the Illinois Valley on private and public lands, including Althouse, Sucker, Grayback and Deer creeks.

"These individuals are two shining examples of our many partners in conservation that we are privileged and honored to work with," said Susan Maiyo, fisheries program manager for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

"We simply could not accomplish many of our restoration projects without their contributions and involvement," she said.

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