The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Bo Baxter takes helm of the crucial nonprofit Conservation Fisheries

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313389018 6003984879614115 2260947738162227737 nBo Baxter (right) and JR Shute examine one of many tanks hosting native fish species at Conservation Fisheries in this photo taken last year. Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

JR Shute and Pat Rakes declare semi-retirement, hand over operations to Hellbender Press board member

KNOXVILLE — A career biologist with deep experience in Southern Appalachian aquatic systems is the new captain of Conservation Fisheries.

The highly productive and robust nonprofit aims to secure, augment, preserve and protect the aquatic environs of the Southeast, namely through the reintroduction of native fish to areas they once inhabited 

Bo Baxter spent 25 years as a conservation biologist at the Tennessee Valley Authority. He became an active board member at Conservation Fisheries, Inc. (CFI) upon his retirement from TVA. He soaked up knowledge of its operations and was named executive director as of Oct. 20. His path comes full circle, as he was one of the first paid staff members at Conservation Fisheries, some three decades ago.

Baxter is a member of the Hellbender Press editorial board.

Conservation Fisheries celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2021. JR Shute and Pat Rakes founded the nonprofit in 1986 after an ultimately successful project to restore native fish to Abrams Creek in Great Smoky Mountains National Park years after it was poisoned by the federal government to make way for non-native game fish.

Now, decades later, Shute and Rakes said in a social-media statement it “felt like the time was right to pass the torch on to a new generation.” Both men will remain on the CFI board and actively contribute to the biodiversity-preservation mission of Conservation Fisheries.
“Bo was our very first paid employee way back in the early days of CFI. After 25 years with TVA, Bo retired and returned to his roots with us. Over the last few months he has been learning the ins and outs of the organization.
“With our current team, Pat and I feel like we are ready to step aside and let them run with it. I have never felt more confident that CFI is in good hands,” Shute said.
CFI also added two new board members, Peggy Shute and Liz Etnier.
“For now, we have much to do in our drive toward the future! I know Pat and I are excited to remain active partners in this place we’ve called home for all these years,” Shute said.
One of Baxter’s initial priorities likely will be overseeing a significant expansion of the CFI lab, aquariums and offices located on Division Street off Sutherland Avenue. Hellbender will cover that news.
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