“It just makes me blooming sick” Federal mandate to end trout stocking in certain Greenbrier, Nicholas, and Wyoming waterways

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has informed the state of West Virginia that it needs to stop stocking trout in waterways with populations of certain endangered and threatened species.

Governor Justice is not happy about it.

“It just makes me blooming sick,” Justice said in a briefing on Wednesday, just minutes after he says he was notified about the mandate for the first time. “Bottom line, we don’t want to be doing any damage whatsoever. But just to come in out out of the clear blue nowhere and say your trout stocking program is over if you don’t sign up to do all of this stuff and everything, your trout stocking program statewide is over. You know, it’s terrible.”

The streams affected are Camp Creek in Mercer County, Laurel Creek of Cherry in Greenbrier and Nicholas counties, North Fork of Cherry in Greenbrier County, and Pinnacle Creek in Wyoming County.

The Fish and Wildlife Service identified populations of candy darters, Guyandotte River crayfish, and big sandy crayfish in those waterways. All three are either listed as endangered or threatened.

The Fish and Wildlife Service says that stocked trout could prey on those species at dangerously high levels and has mandated the state to stop stocking in those rivers. If the state ignores that mandate, it could lose federal funding for the entire stocking program.

Justice says that the West Virginia DNR disagrees with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s assessment, saying that stocked trout do not affect native species in a significant way. He also said that the DNR is willing to stimulate the growth of native species in state stocking facilities and stock more of the animals in their native habitat.

He also wants to give the DNR time to study the problem and see if it is as pressing as the Fish and Wildlife Service believes it to be.

“We have the grant program that renews every three years. We’ve asked them to give us one year to do a study which our biologists believe will conclude that there is no effect, no effect from our trout,” he said.

Further, Justice worries that the move could have economic consequences.

“We’ve transformed our trout stocking program in West Virginia into an example the world is now following, and pulling back now would result in a real hit to our tourism industry and all the businesses, outfitters, hotels, and other companies that are thriving as a result of our incredible wildlife programs,” he said.

Candy darters are small fish native to the Gauley, Greenbrier, and New River watersheds. They are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, almost half of the species’ population has disappeared.

Ryan Hagerty/USFWS

Guyandotte River and Big Sandy crayfish are two closely related crayfish species. Guyandotte River crayfish are listed as endangered, and Big Sandy crayfish are classified as threatened.


They are native to several counties in Southern West Virginia, including Wyoming and Logan counties.

According to Justice, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision is part of a statewide trend of federal agencies tightening down on the state for what he believes are political reasons.

The service is also delaying progress on a portion of Corridor H in Tucker County after a Rusty Patched Bumblebee was found nearby. That bumblebee is also endangered.

The West Virginia Division of Transportation is working with the service to come to a solution, which includes creating pollinator zones in the area to support the species with critical habitat.

Meanwhile, the USDA forced the State Wildlife Center to due to an issue over a secondary containment fence. The center cannot exhibit animals until the issue is resolved and the center gets its new license.

Justice says it’s because of political differences between the state and federal government.

“I’m calling on President Biden to stop this all-out war on West Virginia by his federal agencies,” Justice said in a press release after the briefing. “It’s so blatantly targeted at our state and our people because we happen to disagree on political issues. It’s just plain wrong. “We aren’t asking for special treatment, just fairness and consistency in the decisions by these agencies that have the power to affect our state, our economy, and the livelihoods of hardworking West Virginians,” he continued.

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