Monday, September 8, 2008

Kid Pro Quo

The Mountain Institute (TMI) hosts educational programming for students from West Virginia and many other areas of eastern United States. The students are here to to learn about themselves, the natural environment, and their responsibilities as citizens of our planet. Trout Unlimited (TU) works throughout the United States in conserving, protecting, and restoring North America’s cold water fisheries and their watersheds. The partnership of the two organizations serves both well and has provided plenty of valuable services and experiences for everyone involved.

In West Virginia, leading TU’s efforts on the Potomac Headwaters Home River Initiative is Gary Berti. Gary is managing a number of headwaters restoration projects throughout the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia, one of these being on Big Run. Within the Big Run watershed is the Spruce Knob Mountain Center and where TMI operates most of its programs.

TMI’s collaboration with TU on tree planting and riparian restoration has created, what Gary likes to call, kid pro quo, a term derived from the latin phrase quid pro quo. In legal usage, quid pro quo indicates that an item or a service has been traded in return for something of value. In TMI and TU usage, kid pro quo indicates that both organizations and all involved students are providing services and gaining something of value. Tree planting in riparian restoration adds a valuable service component to TMI’s existing stream and watershed programming and fits well into the organization’s overall mission. These events provide an excellent opportunity for TU to share their message and plant thousands of trees in their project area. The students are provided with a unique service opportunity, where they can have a real impact on the improvement of the natural world. Many students come away from their TMI program and remember their riparian restoration efforts as a highlight of their week-long experience.

TMI programming has brought students from West Virginia and all over the Mid-Atlantic region to three separate TU restoration sites in Pendleton County. These sites, on Big Run, Black Thorn Creek, and White Thorn Creek are all undergoing riparian zone restoration from deforestation and cattle degradation. TU and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are fencing around these streams to keep cows out of streams and off of stream banks while providing the cattle with alternate water sources and bridge crossings. Keeping cattle out of waterways should reduce erosion, lower the nutrient load to normal levels, and reopen the smaller tributaries of these streams as native brook trout spawning grounds. The planting of trees near the banks will also reduce erosion, while at the same time increasing the shade cover of the stream, and as a result, keeping the water colder and well oxygenated. During the spring of 2008, over 400 students planted approximately 3000 red spruce and 200 balsam fir.

Through this collaborative project, TU, TMI, and hundreds of students are providing a service in the mountains of West Virginia that will benefit local waterways, the native brook trout population, and the millions of people who depend on the state’s freshwater. In return, West Virginia’s streams will begin to heal themselves, continue to provide fresh water, and create a better home for what is perhaps the state’s oldest resident, the brook trout.

Article by Josh Nease(pictured with a nice brown trout)

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