Highland • A chance encounter involving a fisheries biologist, two Boy Scouts and a desperate duck led to a program that will help protect wildlife and keep a community outdoor treasure clean.
John and Steven Petersen, brothers from Lehi, were fishing at Highland Glen Park back in June when they noticed a duck wrapped in fishing line. They wondered what had happened and what they could do to help the bird.
While they were pondering what to do Tonya Kieffer, a community fisheries biologists with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, showed up and started chasing the duck.
"A friend who is birder told me about a duck that had fishing line wrapped around it and I went to see what I could do. They saw me and came over to help me corral it," Kieffer said Monday.
The biologist explained to the boys the dangers of abandoned fishing line as the trio worked to get line untangled from one leg where it was so tight that circulation was being cut off and then removed a hook from inside the duck's beak. Kieffer finished by explaining that there were opportunities for the boys to make fishing-line recycling receptacles.
Four months later the three returned to the Highland Glen pond behind Lone Peak High School on Monday to install four of the containers.
"It feels good to be helping keep wildlife from getting damaged," said John Petersen, who used the fishing line recycling project to help complete his requirements for becoming an Eagle Scout. "Now we have recyclers, we don't have to worry about so many animals getting hurt and maybe there won't be fishing line all over the place."
Scott Root, an outreach manger for the Division of Wildlife Resources, said that in addition to the dangers of entanglement in the pond, many birds use discarded fishing line as nesting material.
Chicks often become wrapped up in the line and eventually fall out of the nest where they hang until they die.
The boys raised $675 in donations to buy materials to build the recycle containers. Signage for the containers was provided by the BoatUS Foundation and recycled line will be sent to the fishing company Berkley, which creates Fish-Habs underwater fish habitat structures using recycled line, line spools and other items like milk cartons and soda bottles. The Fish-Habs are available for purchase or can be obtained using proof of purchase codes from Berkley products.
Kieffer said other community fishing waters along the Wasatch Front in Herriman and Murray have installed the recycle boxes to not only protect resident wildlife, but also migrating waterfowl.
Highland Mayor Lynn Ritchie joined the community in thanking the Scouts for their efforts.
"I wasn't aware of that much line being left here and how it can be tangled up with ducks and other wildlife," Ritchie said. "It is wonderful to have these Boy Scouts identify a need and then do something about it. "
Local Scouts will be responsible for cleaning out the recycle centers and sending the line to Berkley, but the mayor offered to have the city help do the job when required.
The Petersens are not only providing the bins for Highland Glen.
Steven Petersen, who is also using the project to help earn an Eagle Scout award, contacted other cities with community fisheries and had a response from four of them. The boys will be providing bins for Brigham City, Clinton, Syracuse and Ogden.
How to help
Anglers can send monofilament fishing line and line spools to:
1900 18th St.
Spirit Lake, IA 51360
For more information, www.berkley-fishing.com/about/berkley-conservation-institute/recycling/line-recycling.
Some local fishing stores, like Fish Tech Outfitters in Cottonwood Heights, also have recycling bins.