Brown Folks Fishing Lab Program Manager
Over the last year, Willamette Partnership had the privilege of partnering with Eeland Stribling and his work at Brown Folks Fishing through our Health & the Outdoors Fellowship. Eeland is a wildlife biologist from Denver, Colorado. His Gramps, a wildlife biologist, named him after the largest African antelope. After working for the State, Eeland started teaching outdoor education and fly-fishing to BIPOC kids around Colorado. He is also a full-time standup comedian. He’s your Aunty’s favorite comedian.
Brown Folks Fishing Lab
Over the past few years, Brown Folks Fishing (BFF) has been trying to figure out how to support people serving their communities to focus on inclusive conservation on and off the water. As a result, we created the Brown Folks Fishing Lab. The Brown Folks Fishing Lab is a mentorship program that seeks out and develops diverse anglers to become conservation-minded leaders in their local communities. The Lab provides anglers with one-on-one support, gear and resources, skills workshops, and networking opportunities. It is more than just a Fellowship, though. The lab develops these multi-hyphenates into storytellers who can inspire their communities to action through their journey. The BFF Lab will cultivate a diverse network of anglers who can lead at the intersection of diversity, media, and conservation. At its core, the Fellowship is designed to help anglers of any level advance their knowledge and skillsets in fishing, conservation, media and storytelling, and community organizing. We based the Fellowship on four areas of learning:
- Angling and Ecosystem: Fellows develop angling skills through an in-depth understanding of fish and their ecosystem. Fellows learn about fish behavior through the seasons, river and stream ecology, habitat, and how to read water. Techniques and approaches are based on these fundamental understandings. Fellows develop both conventional and fly fishing skills.
- Justice and Environment: The Lab focuses on the intersection of identity, race, and environmental justice. By developing a foundation of knowledge around how socio-environmental forces interact, Fellows can better connect the impacts of environmental degradation and disaster on their own communities. Through this module, Fellows develop advocacy skills.
- Equity and Stewardship: The Lab examines environmental stewardship through an equity lens to guide fellows toward reimagining conservation to include a community and justice-centered focus. Through this module, Fellows are introduced to a variety of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) environmentalists as well as community-based environmental movements.
- Community and Impact: Fellows workshop their projects through this module and receive mentorship and guidance from various community organizers, leaders, and impact producers. This module also supports the cultivation of storytelling skills and techniques.
Program Manager and Mentor
When I came into the fly-fishing world, it was challenging to learn about fishing from other people in the community. It was a struggle to learn about fisheries, species, and, most importantly, conservation. Becoming a mentor in the Brown Folks Fishing Lab allows me to bridge the gap and make those principles easier to access for upcoming anglers. I do not know everything about angling, the environment, community, or stewardship. However, in my mentorship role, I gave my best answer based on my experiences or found the right person to help with projects, conservation efforts, or general fishing questions. For example, one fellow was interested in fish behavior and physiology, and I got to share my knowledge on that subject over several phone calls and meetings. I went to school for Wildlife Biology and Conservation, but the only class I got an A in was Ichthyology, the branch of zoology dedicated to fish. The fellow asked about trout, saltwater species, and steelhead. To make sure they didn’t feel alone, I asked friends who I trusted to reach out to them so they could catch fish in their local area.
Over the past year, I put on six casting classes, two fly-tying nights, and took people from my childhood neighborhood fishing. We had a total of 143 people attend the casting classes and tying nights. I learned how to successfully promote events using social media and community boards. I also learned effective ways to teach and introduce people to fishing. I shared these experiences with the BFF Lab Fellows, and several of them implemented similar events in their communities.
We’re excited to see and support all of the projects that the BFF Lab Fellows will be implementing this coming year.
In addition to the four learning areas, fellows receive mentorship, instruction, and gear.
Mentorship: Each Lab Fellow is paired with a BFF Ambassador who is their mentor throughout the duration of the fellowship. Mentors provide active feedback, information, and support for their progress as an angler and with their proposed project.
Instruction: Fellows receive basic casting and fishing instruction in spin and fly fishing. Online seminars are provided throughout the year to help Fellows improve their knowledge and ability to get on the water. These seminars cover fishing, conservation, and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion)-related topics.
Gear: Fellows receive a set of waders and boots, outerwear, spin combo, fly rod and reel, and basic tackle.
To support Eeland’s fishing and comedy, add him on LinkedIn or Instagram @blacksteveirwin.
Learn more about Brown Folks Fishing and their Lab at https://www.