Trout Unlimited / DR. RENE HENERY
Dr. Rene Henery works as the California Science Director for Trout Unlimited, as well as Letter of Appointment Research Faculty for the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). Rene’s work with TU on the recovery of salmon, rivers and their ecosystems through reconnection and reconciliation; of mountain meadows and streams, valley rivers and floodplains, and human beings from different parts of the West’s complex political landscape.
“Salmon are the hemoglobin of the landscape”, Rene explains. “They’re an exceptional mechanism for linking life together”. The way Rene explains it, the life cycle of Salmon provides the ultimate evolutionary means for transporting resources from the ocean to the rivers where they spawn. Through their spawning and decomposition cycle, salmon are the vessels for rich, foreign nutrients to make their way into the riverbeds and banks that run throughout the country.
Rene was born in San Francisco, the son of a Guyanese father of African, South American, European, and Chinese ancestry, and an American mother of western and eastern European ancestry. For the last almost 20 years Mount Shasta, CA. has been his home.
Rene first discovered his love for fly fishing at age 11, when a dear friend’s family who were affiliated with the Sierra Club began bringing Rene with them on their summer backpacking and fly-fishing trips in the high Sierra’s. Wanting him to feel comfortable among the group, his father brought him down to the local fly shop and they outfitted Rene with a rod, reel, selection of tippet, and tiny box of hand tied flies. That summer, he caught his first trout- a California Golden Trout in the upper reaches of King’s Canyon - on that little four-piece Sage backpacking rod.
After finishing his undergrad with a bachelors in African American and Colonial literature and art, Rene began working for Amazon.com in the early stages of its existence and the evolution of the internet.
“I landed there because working for a bookstore felt close to my roots in literature and, having been isolated in private academic spaces, I wanted to learn about the culture of commerce. When I left Amazon, (which by that point had grown and changed in ways I never envisioned) I felt conflicted about the mechanism for consumption it was becoming and my role in its trajectory. In response, I resolved to dedicate my life to service. I wrote an email (Subject: “My Tenebrous Future”) to all of the people close to me (family, friends, professors, mentors) and asked what they thought the biggest issues/ challenges on the planet were, what they would focus on to make change around them, and what I should read in order to get my head around those topics”.
He received an amazing suite of responses from which he drew guidance and crafted a reading list. He spent a year and a half working through their thoughts and recommendations. By the end, Rene concluded that water is the most important thing for life on earth and that it is in need of greater protection and care; that in order to contribute to a system, to make change within a system, he needed to be part of that system; that information and education are less corrupting pathways to change than money and power; and that in his home, the western pacific region of North America, the condition of Salmon is an expression and indicator of the related conditions of water and people.
A few years later, Rene earned his Ph.D. in Eco-geography with a focus on the opportunities for salmon conservation in the mending of connections on the landscape and in ecosystems.
Fast Forward to the last two years, and among many other projects, Rene has been working alongside TU to work with a (growing) group of other TU staff, board and grass-roots members on cultivating a more equitable and inclusive organizational culture within TU. He believes that the condition of his internal world (physical, mental, emotional) also defines the seeds he sews in the world around him.
“Similarly, I see TU’s capacity to affect positive change in the world as an expression of our internal organizational condition. TU is an organization that is rooted in certain types of diversity, with a vast membership that falls equally on both “sides” of the political fence for example. That inherent diversity and the inclination to work across difference towards a shared vision is one of the things that initially drew me to work with TU. Supporting the organization continuing to diversify in other ways, to become more inclusive, and to heal and grow so that we might be of even greater service to the world around us has been one of the most compelling initiatives of my life to date”.
Moving forward with his conservation battle, Rene will be part of a team leading a new effort in CA in which NGOs and water users in the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary, many of whom have historically been on opposite sides of contentious political and legal battles are coming together, along with state and federal agencies and other stakeholders from across California’s Central valley, to co-create a shared understanding of what Salmon recovery looks like, explore their own and each other’s values, and advance a suite of actions that recover salmon in an equitable way, honoring and balancing the range of values and interests in the state.
“The project is just in its infancy, but independent of where it ends, the feeling of working together and cultivating a non-transactional more equitable and inclusive experience of collaboration has already been profound and inspiring”.