Monday, March 1, 2010

Protecting brookies where brookies belong

Congratulations go out to the West Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited, which voted unanimously in a general membership meeting to cease natural gas leasing on the Monongahela National Forest, home to much of the state's remaining native brook trout fisheries.

The Monongahela sits atop the huge Marcellus Shale natural gas play that is causing quite the ruckus back east, where native and wild trout fisheries stand to take the brunt of the impacts from this troublesome industrial development. The biggest rub, of course, has to do with water, which must be pumped down into the rock formation (along with a cocktail of other "proprietary" chemicals) to force the pockets of natural gas to the surface. In many cases, industry is seeking to use water from surface sources, which naturally puts fish--and primarily native brook trout--in peril.

TU has been dealing with this issue in the West for some time and with some success, but the natural gas game is still quite new along the Eastern Seaboard, so the last couple years have been interesting, to say the least. Here in the West, intrusive an unnecessary drilling is threatening native cutthroat trout streams in places like Colorado's Roan Plateau. TU, its members and its sportsmen allies are trying to beat back irresponsible industrial incursion into priceless landscapes. On the East Coast, TU, as illustrated by the bold move undertaken by the West Virginia Council, is mobilizing.

Now, of course, the council's vote is hardly official, but it does carry the weight of anglers and hunters who have a very real connection with the landscapes of the Monongahela. A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to fish a native brook trout stream in West Virginia with friends--catching brook trout where brookies belong is a pilgrimage every Western blue-liner ought to undertake.

Congratulations again to the West Virginia TU Council. Protecting native fish, given their fragile state, is vital. Hopefully, the Forest Service and others in government are listening.

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