Welcome to our series, #WHYoming, brought to you in partnership by Kaumo Law.
We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?
For this week’s #WHYoming, I had a chance to sit down with Hillary Walrath, a Project Manager for Trout Unlimited. Her focus area is the Henry’s Fork of the Green River in Sweetwater and Uinta counties, in which she works to improve cold-water fisheries habitat.
In October, Hillary was featured in the Women in Wyoming series by Lindsay Buk. Her recognition in that series was primarily due to her work in getting women involved with fly fishing and being a role model for women wanting to pursue a science-based career.
Hillary is a remarkable woman, not only in her career, but as a mother and wife as well. She has been a resident of Green River since 2013, and we are beyond proud to have her.
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Hillary, what do you do at Trout Unlimited?
I am a Project Manager and my focus area is the Henry’s Fork of the Green River in Sweetwater and Uinta counties. I work with landowners and other partners on private, federal and state lands to improve cold-water fisheries habitat.
My job duties vary with every project, but usually I am responsible for initial talks with partners on a project, fundraising and grant writing, hiring engineers and construction contractors, overseeing project construction, invoicing and monitoring once a project is complete.
I have also been involved with developing a water-leasing market in the Upper Green for Colorado River drought management.
I wear a lot of different hats with this job, and one of my favorites is the community involvement part. I work a lot with our local Seedskadee Chapter of Trout Unlimited volunteers on various habitat and community engagement projects, such as our annual women’s fly-fishing float trip on the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge.
I am also involved with several youth education programs around the county where I get to teach kids about rivers and the critters that live in them. I have done fish-tracking studies with the McKinnon Elementary School where the kids get to “Adopt-A-Trout” and follow their trout’s movement and have river ecology lessons throughout the year.
Every project is unique and has its own challenges, but that’s one of the things I love the most about this job.
What has your career looked like thus far?
I graduated high school in Sheridan in 2005 and attended Sheridan College for two years. During those years, I worked as an aquaculture technician for the college and waitressed. I then went to the University of Montana for two years to get a Wildlife Biology degree.
While there, I did an undergraduate study on river otters and a summer internship with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department as a fisheries technician in the Bighorn Mountains (which is where I met my amazing husband, Nick, who was also a technician).
After I graduated, I did various intern jobs including tracking sage-grouse around Baggs and tracking elk in the Wind River, Gros Ventre and Wyoming Ranges for the University of Wyoming. I got accepted into the University of Wyoming graduate program in 2009 and received my master’s degree in Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management in 2012.
I was hired by Trout Unlimited in January 2013, moved to Green River and have been here happily ever since.
You were recognized in the Women in Wyoming series. Can you tell me about this experience?
It was a huge and very unexpected honor when Lindsay Buk reached out to me to be featured. I had been following her stories and had recently listened to her podcast with Mickey Thoman, so it was quite a shock when she called me. At first, I really didn’t think I deserved that kind of recognition and almost said no right away.
I mean, she had interviewed a supreme court justice, state senators, a doctor and authors just to name a few- why on earth would she want to feature someone who works with fish for a living? But, after she asked me some questions and said why she wanted to feature me- primarily because of my work getting women involved with fly fishing and as a role model for women wanting to pursue a science-based career- I decided why not me?
Lindsay has a special talent for making people feel worthy and highlighting their unique qualities that make them good at what they do. So it really was an amazing and humbling experience to be a part of and I am incredibly grateful for it and for all of the wonderful feedback from people. The whole series is so inspiring, especially since these are just a tiny sample of all the awesome ladies doing great work around the state.
What is something unique about you?
I lived at a remote ranger station and went to a one room school house from kindergarten through 6th grade, and was the only girl for many years. I spent my summers at a fire lookout tower that my father manned.
How did you end up in Green River?
My husband was a seasonal fisheries technician here for a few summers and then got a permanent job with Trout Unlimited before I started graduate school. I applied for my job here so we could live in the same town again.
What do you appreciate most about our community?
I enjoy how family friendly and outdoor-minded everyone is. There are so many great opportunities for our family both within the town and surrounding area. We are blessed with vast amounts of public land to adventure in and, of course, having the river right in town for some afternoon fishing is a big bonus!
If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?
Make time for the things that make you happy.
Where is your favorite place to hang out in Sweetwater County?
I can’t pick just one! If it’s nice weather- on the river at the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge or the Henry’s Fork because they are both such beautiful and peaceful places. If it’s cold- drinking a warm cup of coffee at Get Real Coffee or wine at Sidekicks Book Bar because they both have such welcoming and comfortable atmospheres. Soul Studio is my favorite place to workout and have some time for myself.
Would you rather walk, ride a bike, take a horse, or drive a car?
I would rather walk because you can really take in your surroundings and may stumble upon something really cool that you would have missed otherwise. Just hiking around and exploring is one of the reasons I love hunting so much.
What would you sing at karaoke night?
I will belt out almost any Disney song because they make me happy and my kids will sing along. But if I’m going for a more adult crowd pleaser then Fishing in the Dark by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band because it’s fun and no one can resist singing and dancing along to it.
How would your friends describe you?
What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
My two spunky and sweet daughters. I love the fun little people they are and they are my reason for all that I do.
Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?
Emma Stone because she can pull off the red hair and seems like a really fun person to hang out with who wouldn’t be afraid to touch a fish.
Why do you continue to live in Wyoming?
I’ve been blessed to have lived in some truly amazing places in Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Montana- but Wyoming has been my home for almost 20 years. The one thing that I think sets Wyoming apart from all the rest is the sense of community we have across the state. I love that I can meet a total stranger in any town and probably figure out a mutual acquaintance in a matter of minutes.
I also think it takes a bit of grit to live here and that creates a comradery with everyone. I love how dramatic our landscapes are and all our wide-open spaces. It is a great place to raise a family and have adventures right out our backdoor and I feel incredibly lucky every day to call this wonderful state home.