The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 3, 2007

Group pushing for streams protections

CHARLESTON — In the small, close-knit world of angling where Orvis is a household word, there is a growing fear that West Virginia could be spoiling one its bigger assets — some 1,500 miles of trout streams.

Concern is growing among Trout Unlimited over an anti-degradation proposal that has telescoped what once was a list of some 400 protected streams down to mere 39.

Which explains why TU, a group with 1,500 members distributed among half a dozen chapters, took its case directly to the Legislature last week.

Don Gasper is among the worried.

Gasper has been angling for trout fully three decades, and manned a booth just outside the House of Delegates chamber, making his case to anyone who stopped by.

“We’re here to protect water quality,” said Gasper, a retired 38-year veteran of the Division of Natural Resources.

All during the interview, Gasper, a member of the Clarksburg chapter of TU, kept his eyes riveted on the passing traffic, hoping to recognize a legislator.

“If I could get them to stop for a moment, I’d be telling them the same thing I’m telling you,” he said.

“We have a real interest in water quality because it’s our fish habitat. The brook trout, particularly. We think there are 1,500 miles of brook trout streams in this state. They are the coolest, cleanest waters we have.”

At one time, West Virginia set aside some 400 streams with protected status, barring pollutants from being dumped into them.

“That was really good science, too,” Gasper said.

“They brought in a guy in charge of the state’s fisheries program. He said these are our brook trout streams. I don’t know what more anyone could ask.”

Before the Legislature was SB255, an anti-degradation bill that, while lodged in a committee beyond the Senate deadline for passing its bills, has been rolled into a rules bill.

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