Trout conservation is like eating a Vermonster

Paula Piatt is TU's eastern sportsmen organizer. You can reach her at ppiatt@tu.org

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Trout conservation is a lot like eating a Vermonster.

You can’t look at 20 scoops of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, four bananas, four ladles of hot fudge, three chocolate chip cookies, one chocolate fudge brownie, 10 scoops of walnuts, two scoops each of four toppings of your choice and whipped cream and have a remote possibility of thinking that you’re going to finish it.

Take it one scoop at a time, or break it down by flavors, textures or colors; however you want to approach it, you’re going to have to have a plan.

As the new eastern sportsmen organizer for TU, I’m staring at a Vermonster in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays. Energy companies have descended on the East Coast, bringing prosperity promises (and in some cases prosperity) along with their well pad construction equipment and drill rigs. Pennsylvania, alone, has more than 6,500 new wells dotting the landscape. New York may be next, depending upon when, and if, a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking is lifted. New Jersey is staring at landscape disruption as pipelines are planned to take the natural gas to ports along the East Coast.

Some people are nervous. Will we have a place to hunt? Will we have streams that still hold native brook trout? It’s easy to walk along the stream with your head down, sneaking up on the next pool and not see the water withdrawal pipe until you trip over it. With over two million people identifying themselves as hunters in Pa. alone and Keystone Staters buying almost 740,000 fishing licenses a year, we’ve got a strong lobby, if only we would apply ourselves.

But if, like our ice-cream eating friends, you look at the huge bowl in front of you and you only see a mound of sugar and chocolate and a gooey, sticky mess and think you can’t possibly make a dent in all of that, well, then, you’re already defeated. Sportsmen, like myself, see an almost inscalable mountain of potential problems. But let’s break this down and have a plan. I’m sure the first guy to sit with a spoon behind the Vermonster didn’t go at it by himself. I’ll help sportsmen and women create that plan and come up with some solutions, so we can all sit at the table, spoons in hand, and dig into this.

One of the first things I did was ask someone who’d been there.

Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project has been working hard to protect the irreplaceable habitat in the West – the lands (largely public) that are home to large populations of wild and native fish, as well as healthy herds of trophy elk, deer and other big-game animals. After a decade, they’ve made great strides in several areas, including energy development, so I went out to look at the blueprint and see how it can work in the East.

These guys and gals are getting it done. They’ve mobilized sportsmen and women and they’re seated at the table with energy companies, federal and state governments and other sporting conservation organizations making a difference. They have already protected millions of acres of prime habitat.

Some of their work is already paying off here in the East. The Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Conservation (patterned after the west’s Sportsmen For Responsible Energy Development) has gained the support of over 20 groups representing more than 265,000 sportsmen and women working together to identify and proposed solutions to mitigate the effects of shale gas drilling in the Marcellus shale.

In the coming months, I’ll be traveling Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, primarily in the Delaware River Basin, asking sportsmen and women to join our effort, sitting down at the table with me and grabbing a spoon.

I’m not intimidated by the Vermonster.

 

 

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