West Virginia Wildlife Federation Opts For Access First, Clean Water Second


Recently I was doing research about the Clean Water Act and its effects for an upcoming piece on West Virginia's famed Elk River. West Virginia is currently deciding just how much of its pristine trout water it wants to protect. According the Clean Water Act, the state must classify the state's waters into categories called Tiers. Tier 1 is imperiled water that you can't even swim, much less fish in. Tier 3 is water suitable for naturally reproducing brook trout, Tier 2.0 is in between of course but offers much less protection.

There has been a pretty good fight going on for a few years about a new listing in West Virginia called Tier 2.5. This was supposed to be a compromise between conservation groups and businesses where a listing of Tier 2.5 would only allow roughly 10-percent degradation of the stream. TU and other groups are now trying to get as many streams listed as Tier 2.5 as they can because if they don't get put on what is called the presumptive Tier 2.5 list it will go strait to 2.0 status even though it should be a 3.

With all the pressure to have a good bill passed in the West Virginia Legislature about what should be listed, or not listed as Tier 2.5 water, I was shocked to find out that the West Virginia Wildlife Federation (WVWF) supports Tier 2.5 trout streams only on public land. If the stream is on private property they think the stream should only be afforded Tier 2.0. I called the president of the WVWF and asked if this was so, and I was amazed that according to him their policy about how to protect a stream is based not on science, but strictly fishing access. I asked again to be sure I wasn't hearing things and he referred me to his cold water advisor Charles Nichols how informed me that they did not want to loose the right to hunt and fish on private land and would there for not support higher trout stream protections, since this was similar to a "taking" of private lands.

I have since called the headquarters of the National Wildlife Federation and asked if there Clean Waters Act position revolves around fishing access. I am waiting for an official statement. I wanted to know what you thought of this.

Beau Beasley