Monday, October 24, 2011

20 Questions: Russ Schnitzer

I've known Russ Schnitzer for years. For a short time, about six years ago, we actually worked together for Trout Unlimited's Public Lands Initiative. Russ was working on TU's abandoned mine reclamation program, doing the Lord's work on behalf of coldwater fisheries in the West.

But Russ is much more than a conservationist. He's a hell of a photographer, and his work for more than a decade in conservation has clearly sparked his passion for shooting the outdoors in a unique light.

Russ Schnitzer
Russ left TU not long after I joined the organization, and continued his good work with other organizations that work to protect some of the best resources the West has to offer. Our good fortune brought Russ back to TU not too long ago--he's now the senior policy advisor for the organization's Western Water Project, a progressive arm of TU that works to reconnect and restore fisheries habitat in conjunction with private and public partners, including ranchers, farmers and state and federal agencies. His work these days deals specifically with the Colorado River basin.

Photographically, his work concentrates on outdoor adventures, lifestyles, travel, and, substantially, fly fishing. Drawing on experiences across diverse western landscapes, Schnitzer’s independent photography strives to make a connection between people and nature. He believes that these unique relationships are fundamental to a conservation ethic that works in a West valued deeply by many disparate interests. Recent gallery shows have been in Jackson Hole, Denver and Kansas City, with awards received for both color and black-and-white images. He is a regular contributor to Trout Magazine, Catch Magazine, The Flyfish Journal and The Contemporary Sportsman. His work has also been seen in Patagonia catalogs, Fly Fish America, Fly Rod & Reel,, and several conservation titles, including 2008’s “Rivers of Restoration.” Recent clients include The Nature Conservancy, Brunton Outdoor Group, Portis Group, Wyoming Department of Tourism, and Western Rivers Conservancy.

In addition to photography and fly fishing, Russ's interests include hunting, road cycling, running and gardening. Schnitzer grew up in northern Minnesota, and has lived in Idaho, Montana, Michigan, Vermont, Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., and Colorado. He and his wife Kelly Conroy currently live in rural Wyoming with two dogs, a cat and some chickens.

On with the questions:

Just a sample...
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Steelhead and chukar cast-and-blast during an endless autumn with my wife Kelly and a couple good friends.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Jim Bridger

Which living person do you most admire?
My father.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
A tendency toward selfishness.

What is the trait you most deplore in others? 
 Ignorance, as well as laziness and/or complacency.

What is your favorite journey?
Man, there are a lot of good ones. Thus far, any that lead to Alaska.

On what occasion do you lie? 
Whenever there are cops involved.

Which living person do you most despise?
That's a moving target.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Pretty much every piece of dialogue from "The Big Lebowski."


 What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My wife, of course. I'm ridiculously lucky.

Which talent would you most like to have?

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
There's a line from an old favorite song that goes: "Be careful not to crest too soon." I'm still building toward that.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
If I had any say in the matter, I'd wish to come back as a well-tied orange #14 Stimulator.

What is your most treasured possession?
A pocket watch that belonged to my great-grandfather, who purchased it as a young immigrant in the late 1800s. It was given to me by my late grandfather.

Where would you like to live?
I've lived in a lot of places. From that, I've learned no matter how much I might idealize a new place, no one place is or will ever be "perfect." So, that said, I'd like to live in a place with the following characteristics: relatively easy access to rivers, mountains and backcountry; hunting opportunities; good growing season; relatively mild winter; and with plenty of nearby friends with whom to fish, hunt and mess around.

Leopold tops the list.
Who are your favorite writers?
Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Edward Abbey, Ernest Hemingway, Aldo Leopold, Rick Bass, Barry Lopez, Robert Ruark, Wallace Stegner, Roderick Haig-Brown, Jack Kerouac, John McPhee, Tom Robbins, Gabriel Garcia Marquez,J.D. Salinger, Tennessee Williams, Bruce Smithhammer, Tom Reed, Scott Sadil, A.D. Livingston, John Muir.

How would you like to die? 
Quickly, quietly and outdoors.

What’s on your iPod?
It's eclectic by most standards, and voluminous. For example, my playlist right now includes: Pavement, Built To Spill, Modest Mouse, Sonic Youth, Blitzen Trapper, Silver Jews, Dinosaur Jr., The Flaming Lips, Liz Phair, The Pixies, Radiohead, The Rentals, Grateful Dead, Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Robert Earl Keen, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Charlie Daniels Band, Johnny Cash, The Avett Brothers, John Lee Hooker, Tom Waits, Holly Golightly, Rolling Stones. For starters.

If you were a pet, what would your name be?

What would your profession be if you couldn’t do what you do now?
Strategic communications consultancy and freelance photography. Which is to say, I would be a bum.

BONUS QUESTION: If there is a Heaven, and you go to Heaven, what would God say to you upon your arrival? 


  1. Amazing how much you can learn about a person with well asked questions. Nice one.

  2. Russ is a good dude... glad I could shine a little light his way. He's more than earned it.

  3. Much enjoy these peeks in. Thanks!

  4. New goal- to fish, hunt or hang out with Schnitzer, if for no other reason than that our iPod contents are eerily similar. I only know him through his blog, but love his photography and writing. Thanks Chris, for letting us get to know him a little better.

  5. "a well-tied orange #14 Stimulator" Classic.

  6. Glad you like the 20 Questions idea... it's made keeping the blog fresh a little easier, that's for sure...

  7. Excellent series that has given me cause to be a copycat. At least for one time.