Service employee recognized for fish recovery work

Brown’s ‘herculean’ efforts to restore fish habitat leads to American Fisheries Society honor

a man in camo stands in a river near the bank with green shrubs behind him

Matt Brown has spearheaded efforts to increase instream flows in Battle Creek and provided fisheries expertise in the construction of the Battle Creek Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Project. Credit: Jim Earley/USFWS

By John Heil
December 12, 2019

For over 25 years, Matt Brown has worked tirelessly and collaboratively in the Sacramento River watershed to enhance, restore and re-populate winter, spring, fall, and late-fall run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead populations.

The deputy project leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Red Bluff office has focused on tributaries of the Sacramento River, where he has worked with numerous state and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations.

a man handing another man an award

Matt Brown, left, receives the conservation achievement award from Steve Baumgartner, president of the California-Nevada Chapter of American Fisheries Society. Photo courtesy of the AFS chapter

The American Fisheries Society California/Nevada Chapter recently honored Brown for his work by naming him the 2019 winner of its Conservation Achievement Award.

The Conservation Achievement Award recognizes non-member individuals or groups for outstanding contributions or service to fisheries conservation.

Brown has spearheaded efforts to increase instream flows in Battle Creek and providing fisheries expertise in the construction of the Battle Creek Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Project. This project will remove a total of five dams and increase salmonid habitat by 42 miles.

He has also led the development and implementation of the Clear Creek Restoration Program, which opened up 12 additional miles of habitat for spring-run Chinook and steelhead through increased instream flows, a dam removal, stream channel restoration, floodplains, introduction of spawning gravels and erosion control.

“Restoration in the lower six miles has also greatly benefitted fall and late-fall-run Chinook through improved spawning habitat and flows management,” said Jim Smith, project leader for the Red Bluff Fish and Wildlife Office.

“Partnering on herculean scale projects like these requires a vast knowledge of the complex water delivery systems of the Central Valley Project and the entities and resources that depend on them,” said Smith. “Matt exudes all that is required of a fisheries manager in today’s ever-changing environment. His willingness to listen to partners and negotiate positive outcomes for fishery resources are just part of his resource management aptitude.”

Brown also works with the Sacramento River Temperature Task Group and Flows Management Team to protect winter and fall and late-fall-run Chinook spawning and incubation conditions in the upper Sacramento River and has participated and led projects in Butte Creek, Deer Creek and Mill Creek in an effort to recover and improve fish passage for spring and fall-run Chinook and Central Valley steelhead.

five people wearing orange life jackets in a blue raft on a stream

Red Bluff Fish and Wildlife Deputy Project Leader Matt Brown (pictured front, far right) on a field tour of the Trinity River Restoration project. Photo courtesy of Dave Marmorek, ESSA Technologies Ltd

“Matt has mentored and supported numerous employees within his organization to continue to fight the good fight for recovering resources,” said Jim Earley, a fish biologist in the Red Bluff office. “As his employee, I have respected and appreciated Matt’s willingness to listen to his people and empower everyone working with him to understand the science, question why we do what we do, and be comfortable talking ideas with him.”

Since 1994, Brown has worked for the Service’s Red Bluff Fish and Wildlife Office with his primary focus on recovering salmonids and restoring their habitat under the authority of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.


John Heil

John Heil

About the writer...

John Heil serves as the deputy assistant regional director for external affairs in the Pacific Southwest Region headquarters in Sacramento, California.

An avid sports fan and boogie boarder he also enjoys the outdoors and all that wildlife has to offer. John is also an U.S. Air Force veteran and spent part of his career overseas as a television and radio broadcaster.

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