Noreen Clough will leave behind a firm foundation when she retires as B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director this month.
“We have directors in 47 states and Canada. They are the real story of bass conservation,” she said. “They bring a huge variety of skill sets and do a far greater variety of work today than just habitat improvement.
“They are volunteers who give up some of their fishing time because they are passionate about conservation and fisheries, and the work that they do goes unknown by many.”
The same can be said of Clough, who served as National Conservation Director from 2004 to 2007 and again from 2011 until her retirement. But those who have worked with her do know of her enormous contributions to B.A.S.S. specifically, and fisheries generally.
“Noreen has been a rock and a voice of reason for a lot of important fisheries issues,” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “She will be sorely missed, both as a friend and professionally.”
Todd Gentzel, Colorado’s state director, added that he would have been “in deep trouble dealing with some of these issues,” without Clough’s leadership.
One of the greatest assets that Clough brought to her position was decades of experience in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including as Deputy Assistant Director for Fisheries. In other words, she understood how things are done --- and not done--- in a bureaucracy. That proved invaluable as she partnered with the ASA, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council, and other advocacy groups.
“On any issue, Noreen never just criticized,” Robertson said. “She always had a thoughtful solution to offer. That’s a hallmark of high integrity. Anyone can just criticize.”
Clough is the fourth to serve as National Conservation Director since the position was created by former B.A.S.S. CEO Helen Sevier in the early 1990s. A retired fisheries biologist with the U.S. Forest Service, Al Mills began the work, building partnerships with state and federal agencies to improve fisheries.
Bruce Shupp followed. Former fisheries chief for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, he is most remembered for initiating a series of annual workshops about Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV). At these professionally facilitated events, state, federal and university scientists and fisheries biologists shared evolving news and research regarding the virus.
If not for Shupp’s initiative, it’s not unreasonable to believe that panic would have ensued regarding the threat LMBV posed. The result could have been massive restrictions on bass fishing, especially tournaments.
“This was one of the best collaborative processes ever,” said Dave Terre, chief of management and research for Inland Fisheries at Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Clough took over in 2004, and then, in 2007, thought that she was ready to enjoy a life of leisure and travel, including fishing in Costa Rica. But her replacement, Chris Horton, moved on to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, and she stepped back in.
During her second term, the B.A.S.S. Nation system of state conservation directors has seen a Renaissance of sorts. Today, these volunteers arguably are more knowledgeable and skilled than ever before, and they have made their priorities about much more than trash cleanups and encouraging catch-and-release. In addition to a variety of habitat work, they are involved legislatively, and, most importantly, they combat unwarranted attempts to restrict access and ban lead fishing tackle.
Not surprisingly, Clough takes none of the credit for this. She attributes their accomplishments to a “huge variety of skill sets” and said that they have become “very sophisticated.”
But state directors beg to differ.
Jim Cardillo, former Pennsylvania director, said she had a unique ability to concentrate the focus of state leaders “into one beam of intense magnitude to overwhelm any obstacle for the betterment and health of the bass we all love to catch.”
And Colorado’s Gentzel added, “She was always there to answer questions, and she worked tirelessly, sending us information and making sure that we stayed on top of issues,” he said. “She brought all of the CDs a lot closer with our conference calls, and she made this a lot easier for all of us. She will be missed greatly.”
Yes, she will.
(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)