Trout Unlimited




Tax ID:


DUNS Number:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2016):

Revenue: $45,468,923
Expenses: $46,563,143
Assets: $23,795,727


Environmental Advocacy Group


Christopher Wood

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Trout Unlimited is an advocacy group for trout fishermen that is heavily funded by left-of-center environmentalist foundations and other groups and strongly advocates for various environmental causes.


Trout Unlimited (TU) was founded by 16 fishermen in July 1959 on the banks of the Au Sable River near Grayling, Michigan. The fishermen gathered at the home of George Griffith there to form the fishermen’s association. 1

The organization claims 300,000 members nationally. It connects fishing with environmentalism by seeking to “sustain trout and salmon habitat on behalf of today’s anglers and coming generations of sportsmen and women.” 2

They initially called the organization “Trout, Unlimited.” But, the group later dropped the comma to just be “Trout Unlimited.” Casey E. Westell Jr. was the first president of TU. 3

The organization asserts, “Donors invest in Trout Unlimited because we get things done on the ground, in statehouses and on Capitol Hill.” 4


Some of Trout Unlimited’s largest donors are left-of-center environmentalist groups and environmentalist private foundations: They include the Nature Conservancy, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Wyss Foundation. 5

The congressionally-chartered National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a quasi-nongovernmental organization, has given about $10 million in grants to TU. Other federal grants to TU have gone for environmental remediation projects. 6

Trout Unlimited has provided funding to other environmentalist groups: Recipients of Trout Unlimited financial support include the Resources Legacy Fund, Western Conservation Foundation, and American Rivers. 7


TU President Christopher Wood first worked for Trout Unlimited in 2001. Wood previously served as senior policy and communications advisor at the U.S. Forest Service during the Clinton administration. 8 Wood was part of the 2008 transition team for President-elect Barack Obama. 9

Wood was rumored to be President Obama’s pick for head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. However, he did not get the job because he had been a registered lobbyist for the previous five years, which violated the lobbying ban promise of the new administration. 10

Bernard C. Bailey is the chairman of the board of trustees. for Trout Unlimited. 11 Bailey is the president of the Committee for Economic Development and was the former CEO of Authentix Corporation, a private-equity owned information service. 12

Past Trout Unlimited board of trustee members include Kai Anderson, former deputy chief of staff to former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and former U.S. Rep. Walter Minnick (D-Idaho). 13

Elizabeth Maclin is the executive vice president of Trout Unlimited. Keith Curley is the vice president for eastern conservation. Kirk Deeter is the vice president of Trout media and editor of TROUT magazine. 14

Beverly Smith is the vice president for volunteer operations. Smith previously worked for the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League. 15

Robert Masonis worked for the environmentalist group American Rivers before he worked as the vice president for western conservation at Trout Unlimited. 16

Steve Moyer worked for the environmentalist National Wildlife Federation, lobbying for fisheries and wetlands issues before working for Trout Unlimited, where he is the vice president for government affairs. 17

Environmentalist Activism

The organization has opposed the Keystone XL natural gas pipeline and other natural gas extraction projects. 18

TU has also opposed mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska, which contains 10 billion metric tons of metals ore, including copper, silver and gold. 19

The organization has supported a carbon tax. During a Senate hearing on for a carbon tax in 2009, Wood, the TU president, said: “Federal climate change legislation that takes five percent of the total allowance value from a cap and trade program and dedicates it for climate change adaptation work is vital.” 20

TU has also pushed to remove dams that block fish migration. 21

In 2019, Trout Unlimited released a study that claimed the U.S. Geological Survey was inaccurate in its estimate of how may U.S. streams flow only after it rains. The TU study determined for every mile of stream on the National Hydrography Dataset, there is another 1.5 miles where no flow stream exists. The study was released to attempt to bring pressure against the Trump administration reversing the Obama administration’s controversial “Waters of the United States” rule. 22


  1. Michigan Wildlife Council. “Volunteers Dedicated to Conserving Northern Michigan’s ‘Crown Jewel.’” Detroit Free Press. July 23, 2019. Accessed July 25, 2019.
  2. About. Trout Unlimited. Accessed July 25, 2019.
  3. History. Trout Unlimited. Accessed July 25, 2019.
  4. About. Trout Unlimited. Accessed July 25, 2019.
  5. Ludwig, Hayden. “Left-wing Mega-Funders Target Alaska’s Natural Resources.” Must Read Alaska. June 18, 2019. Accessed July 25, 2019.
  6. Trout Unlimited. Green Decoys. Accessed July 25, 2019.
  7. Data compiled by subscription service, a project of Metasoft Systems, Inc., from forms filed with the IRS. Queries conducted July 31, 2019
  8. Chris Wood. Trout Unlimited. Accessed July 25, 2019.
  9. Ludwig, Hayden. “Left-wing Mega-Funders Target Alaska’s Natural Resources.” Must Read Alaska. June 18, 2019. Accessed July 25, 2019.
  10. Winter, Allison and Straub, Noelle. “Career Conservationist Picked to Oversee Forest Service.” The New York Times. May 6, 2009. Accessed July 25, 2019.
  11. Board of Trustees. Accessed July 25, 2019.
  12. Bernard C. Bailey. Bloomberg. Accessed July 25, 2019.
  13. Trout Unlimited. Green Decoys. Accessed July 25, 2019.
  14. Staff Directory. Trout Unlimited. Accessed July 25, 2019.
  15. Elizabeth Maclin. Trout Unlimited. Accessed July 25, 2019.
  16. Robert Masonis. LinkedIn. Accessed July 26, 2019.
  17. Steve Moyer. Trout Unlimited Accessed July 25, 2019.
  18. Morton, Joseph. “House GOP Plans to Tie Keystone XL Pipeline to Debt Limit Increase.” Omaha World-Herald. September 19, 2013. Accessed July 26, 2019.
  19. Response to Public Comments on the April 2013 Draft on Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska. Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed July 27, 2019.
  20. Prepared Statement Chris Wood. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Natural Resources. November 18, 2009. Accessed July 27, 2019.
  21. Leslie, Jacques. “The Dam Truth: The 91,000 Dams in the US Earned a ‘D’ for Safety.” Mother Jones. July 23, 2019. Accessed July 25, 2019.
  22. Wittenberg, Ariel. “Where EPA Saw No Data, Trout Unlimited Crunched the Numbers.” E&E News. April 1, 2019. Accessed July 25, 2019.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: September - August
  • Tax Exemption Received: March 1, 1972

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2016 Sep Form 990 $45,468,923 $46,563,143 $23,795,727 $5,369,729 Y $40,029,043 $4,699,625 $284,756 $485,718
    2015 Sep Form 990 $46,515,058 $48,655,091 $27,421,368 $8,245,391 Y $41,124,485 $4,868,310 $339,132 $526,973 PDF
    2014 Sep Form 990 $42,032,022 $43,512,269 $25,841,791 $3,806,187 Y $36,939,190 $4,718,743 $303,783 $505,653 PDF
    2013 Sep Form 990 $40,684,589 $40,880,871 $26,116,351 $3,189,019 Y $35,421,675 $4,876,985 $221,105 $507,001 PDF
    2012 Sep Form 990 $34,011,522 $34,235,954 $26,183,847 $3,475,679 Y $29,116,838 $4,535,432 $213,382 $443,660 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Trout Unlimited

    1777 N KENT ST STE 100
    ARLINGTON, VA 22209-2110