Remembering Don Garvin

Three great West Virginia conservationists (from left to right): Don Gasper, Don Garvin, and Larry Harris.

It was with deep sadness that I learned of Don Garvin’s passing.

Don was a true giant of conservation; and a real hero of Trout Unlimited. In addition to being one of the original founders, Don served as a leader, including the president and secretary, of the Mountaineer Chapter in West Virginia. For many years he planned and organized the chapter’s annual banquet which drew people from across the state. Don, because of his background in the oil and gas industry, played an important role in helping to develop Trout Unlimited’s national energy policy. He was also instrumental in changing how the Forest Service planned and managed timber sales along streams—particularly the Buckhannon, East Gauley and tributaries to the Elk River.

Don, however, was too full of energy to be a leader in just one organization. He was a founder and board member of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, the past President of the West Virginia Environmental Council, and was a board member with the WV Highlands Conservancy for 23 years, which are all partner organizations of Trout Unlimited. In those roles, and as a TU volunteer, Don was an absolutely tireless advocate for clean water. His land ethic, irascibility, and the passion and energy that he brought to his advocacy are legendary within Trout Unlimited.

In the 1990s, Congress was proposing to significantly weaken the Clean Water Act. The bill in the House of Representatives was sponsored by a Congressman named Bud Schuster (PA). Don called the bill “the Dirty Water Bill,” and then went around West Virginia in search of dirty streams which he then bottled and labelled “Bud Shuster’s Bilious Brew.” Many a member of Congress received those bottles of bilious brew, and due in part to Don’s advocacy, we turned that bill back.

Don was one of the first people to call me when I came from the U.S. Forest Service to work for Trout Unlimited. He began the call by saying, “Now that you have left the dark side…” If there was a person who fought more tirelessly for his beloved Mountain State rivers and streams, I have not met them. Don showed us what Trout Unlimited could and should stand for, and he lived those principles his entire life.

Don will be missed, but his legacy lives on in the thousands of people whose lives he made better.

By Chris Wood. Chris has worked at TU for 22 years, and is not the best angler, but he is among the most earnest.