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Agreement between feds and DNR will allow trout program to resume normal operations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Division of Nature Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have reached a compromise which will allow the state’s trout stocking program to return to status quo.

Governor Jim Justice announced the agreement during his media briefing in Charleston Wednesday.

“Really and truly at the end of the day, the Fish and Wildlife people decided to see this in a different light,” said the Governor. “We couldn’t have gotten there if people had been hard-headed and stuck in the mud and everything. We presented and jumped up and down a good bit and low and behold everybody has come up with something that will really work and maybe work great for the environment in every way and work great for us in our trout stocking. That’s a win-win.”

It was a far different tone for the Governor than his January briefing when he first announced the action. Justice in that briefing blamed the action by the feds on the Biden Administration and said West Virginia was being blackmailed and punished by the White House.

The agreement will reinstate trout stocking on Pinnacle Creek in Wyoming County, Camp Creek in Mercer County, Laurel Creek of Cherry and North Fork of Cherry in Nicholas and Greenbrier Counties.
Those waters had been immediately removed from the stocking list when Fish and Wildlife raised concerns the stocked trout were potentially eating the candy darter and the Big Sandy and Guyandotte crayfish, all endangered species, which are known to inhabit those waters.

DNR biologists disagreed and suggested a study to prove their theory the trout stocked were not posing a threat to any endangered species.
The result will be a one-year trout food habitat study conducted by West Virginia University. The study is aimed at insuring conservation measures in place provide adequate protection to the endangered species identified.

“In response to a recent request from the WVDNR to change their trout stocking program while continuing to implement conservation measures for listed species, the Service provided a means to move forward as required under the Endangered Species Act. We have also updated the West Virginia grant to support the trout stocking program,” USFWS Regional Director Wendi Weber said in a press release from the Governor’s office. “We appreciate our strong working relationship with WVDNR. We collaboratively partner to conserve listed species and provide angling opportunities to the public.”

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