BECKLEY, W.Va. — For many years, DNR Fisheries Biologist Mark Scott has been known to his friends as “Big C”. The nickname, according to Scott, was given to him playing pick-up basketball. A man of large stature, Scott’s exploits on the court reminded teammates and opponents alike of former Oklahoma State basketball standout Bryant “Big Country” Reeves.
As of April 1, 2018, the “Big C” may also stand for “Chief.” Scott was promoted this month to Assistant Chief of Fisheries for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. He replaces longtime Assistant Chief Brett Preston who retired earlier this year.
“Our state is very blessed with streams, probably more so than anything else. We’re a ‘stream state,'” said Scott on this past week’s West Virginia Outdoors. “We’ve got a lot of great streams which we need to promote a little bit better and maintain them.”
In recent years, the Division of Natural Resources has been able to do a lot of stream enhancement and improvement in some parts of the state which has improved fishing. Programs like the musky reintroduction and habitat restoration of native brook trout streams are examples which have enjoyed notable success. But Scott said there are also places where they best thing to do is nothing at all.
“Being in District 4 I learned that quickly. I grew up in Beckley so I knew what we had,” he explained. “People asked me what I wanted to fix in District 4, I said nothing the Good Lord made the New River right the first time. My job is to keep man from messing it up.”
Scott has learned in the first few days on the job that will be a big part of his work as the man at the top of the DNR’s fisheries program. The first day he sat down at his desk, the requests for stream permits for pipeline construction began to roll in and haven’t stopped.
“We’re getting permit requests constantly for stream crossings and spawning waivers,” he said. “We probably have Billions of dollars worth of gas in this state. It’s coming, it’s not going to go away, so we need to sit down at the table with them and try to come up with some agreements we can both live with and minimize impacts as much as possible. The gas is going to be taken out of the ground one way or the other, so we’ve got to work with them.”
Scott knows it will be a delicate balancing act. It always is when one tries to protect the environment and resources without unnecessarily roadblocking industry and resource development.
One of the key factors to aid Scott is an increasingly involved and educated constituency. Anglers are taking greater ownership of the resources than ever before and are becoming greater stewards of the state’s fisheries. The changed attitudes help people like Scott do their job. Anglers are more interested in protective laws for the native trout streams or laws to regulate fishing on some waters. Sometimes, thought that can cut both ways as in the case of the catch and release ethic.
“There’s nothing wrong with keeping a few fish to eat,” Scott said. “Sometimes catch and release really isn’t the answer and other regulations may be better. You can only have so many fish in a system and if you end up with too many, you wind up with a stunted population.”
Whether it’s tightening controls on anglers’ limits, or reeling in plans for a stream disturbance for a pipeline, the “Big C” says priority one is to protect the fisheries we all love in West Virginia.