A Saratoga County resident who has dedicated countless hours to improving the Batten Kill River was honored with a national award last month from Trout Unlimited.
Greg Cuda, a past president of the Clearwater Chapter of TU, received the organization’s “National Conservation Volunteer Award” for 2012 at TU’s annual meeting in North Carolina. He was the only recipient of the award this year.
His colleagues in the Clearwater Chapter nominated him for the honor, but he said he had no idea he had won or even been nominated until 10 days or so before the Sept. 14 meeting.
“It was quite a surprise,” he said.
Cuda was chosen for his years of volunteer work on the famed Batten Kill, a picturesque trout stream that flows from the mountains of western Vermont into the farm country of eastern New York.
The river saw a drop in trout numbers in the 1980s and 1990s, a decline blamed on a loss of habitat as woody debris was removed from the river by kayak and tubing outfitters and the river widened.
Cuda has helped lead a corps of volunteers, state and federal experts who have helped the river bounce back.
“Greg’s knowledge, judgment, energy and ability to motivate others are essential elements to the restoration work on the Batten Kill River,” TU spokesperson Beverly Smith explained in an email.
In addition to his TU leadership, Cuda serves as the chairman of the Batten Kill Watershed Alliance, a two-state consortium of volunteer and governmental organizations dedicated to protecting the river.
(He also works full-time as associate executive director of Saratoga Bridges, a non-profit that provides assistance for people with developmental disabilities.)
Cuda credited his colleagues in TU, the watershed alliance and the numerous other organizations that have worked on dozens of habitat improvement projects that have helped the river over the past 15 years.
The Clearwater Chapter alone has done $150,000 worth of work on 10,000 feet of river while the alliance has raised $300,000 for stream work. The Adirondack and Southwestern Vermont TU chapters have also put many hours and dollars in as well.
“We’re designing and using structures to put the river back the way it should be,” Cuda said. “Our focus has been narrowing the river and making it deeper.”
Part of that work has included removing old structures put in place years ago that new research shows were actually counterproductive and caused the river to widen and become shallower in New York.
Most heartening, Cuda said fish surveying the past few falls has found that the improvements have helped produce significant increases in trout numbers, and more big trout as well.
In particular, a 24-inch brown was taken this summer from one stretch of river near the Vermont-New York state line that habitat work transformed from shin-deep and wide to a deep, cool run.
“We’re hearing people are catching more trout and they’re catching bigger trout, too,” he said.
He said the Batten Kill Watershed Alliance is focusing on a membership drive that will help fund future work on the river. For more information on the alliance, log on to www.battenkillalliance.org.
The first week of bowhunting season has been decent in most of the region, by most reports.
John Aiken of John’s Outdoor Sports in Queensbury said his customers have been reporting good success early on, with a number of bucks in the 4- and 6-point range reported as well as two 10-pointers.
“It’s off to a pretty good start,” he said.
John West at The Crossroads Country Store and Sport Shop in Chester said his staff have weighed in a few deer, but nothing very big. Early bear hunting results have been slow.
I did get a picture from reader Jim Coughlin of a 10-pointer a buddy of his shot in the Pucker Street area of Chester/Warrensburg.
This week’s forecast calls for a significant cool-off, so conditions will be improving. And deer activity seems to be on the increase, two (judging by the hoof prints) destroyed my garden late last week, eating tomato, cucumber, pepper and bean plants down to the stalk, while a few blocks away in suburban Queensbury another neighbor reported deer in his front yard before 8 p.m.
Bear hunting has been slow, despite bear sightings all over suburbia as well. West said his staff has heard of one bear being taken in the Chester area.
If you were involved with Trout Unlimited around here or fished Adirondack brook trout ponds, chances are you met Patrick Sisti.
Sisti, an Indian Lake resident, was as knowledgeable about the region’s trout fishing and fly fishing as anyone I’ve met, particularly about remote Adirondack ponds.
I met him in the mid-1990s when writing an article about his getting two fishing stories included in an edition of the popular “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series of books. He stopped in the office occasionally over the years, emailed every once in a while, and frequently offered to take me to one of his favorite ponds some day. He was always outgoing, his enthusiasm and energy infectious.
Sisti died last week while on a fishing outing in his beloved Adirondacks. Though he was still relatively young at 69, I’m sure Pat wouldn’t have scripted his passing any other way.
Unfortunately, I never made the time to share the water with him, and that’s my loss.
Staff writer Don Lehman may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.