Leigh H. Perkins—who purchased The Orvis Company in 1965 and transformed it into one of the country’s most respected sporting, apparel, and dog brands—passed away last May at the age of 93. We continue to honor his legacy by supporting conservation efforts on his favorite trout stream: On this Giving Tuesday, Orvis will donate 10% of profits to the Trout Unlimited Battenkill Home Rivers Initiative, which is designed to conserve, protect, and restore the river’s fishery and watershed. This effort combines two of Leigh’s passions: his love of the Battenkill and his fervent belief that anglers and hunters must work to protect those resources that make time in the outdoors so fulfilling.
Leigh lived along the Battenkill in southwestern Vermont for more than two decades, fishing the river almost every day of the season during that time—often joined by his sons, Perk and Dave—and he knew every bend and riffle in the river, from Manchester to the New York border. When insects were hatching, especially Hendricksons or Tricos, Leigh would arrange his work day to allow time on the water for dry-fly fishing. And almost every evening after work, he’d go out in a canoe behind his house to look for risers.
In the 1980s, Leigh helped pioneer corporate conservation efforts by donating 5 percent of pre-tax profits to conserving fish and wildlife through organizations including Trout Unlimited, the Ruffed Grouse Society, the Nature Conservancy, and the Atlantic Salmon Federation. “I think this is his greatest and most lasting contribution to the outdoors and the industry,” says Orvis’s Tom Rosenbauer. “It wasn’t a cynical business decision. Leigh did it because he wanted to be a steward of this world he loved.”
Home Rivers Initiatives are TU’s flagship restoration programs, featuring dedicated staff in local communities who build partnerships and increase the pace and scale of watershed restoration. Over the past three decades, TU has used Home Rivers Initiatives to improve fisheries across the country. In January 2020, the newest Home Rivers Initiative launched on the Battenkill, and there is much to be done: Streams have had their banks denuded of vegetation, and have been channelized, dammed, and modified in various other ways. TU’s vision for the Battenkill is to protect existing high-quality habitat, enhance riparian canopy and in-stream habitat, reconnect fragmented habitat, and restore degraded stream sections.