No Meeting of the Minds

A MEETING OF MINDS: Protect Rhode Island Brook Trout began its fourth year by hosting an event dubbed “A Meeting of Minds on the Future of Wild Brook Trout in Rhode Island. This took place on March 1st at the East Farm campus of the University of Rhode island. Joining us by invitation were personnel from the RIDEM, representatives of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, the GoodwinNiering Center for the Environment, the Sea-Run Brook Trout Coalition, the Wood/Pawcatuck Watershed Association, local Trout Unlimited chapters, and university students. A factual and well documented presentation was made Presentation1

articulating our position and in support of our request for an experimental wild brook trout management area on the upper Wood River. Questions and
commentary were then invited.

Of the five RIDEM representatives in attendance, it was the agency’s Associate Director who was its spokesman. In sum, he said that there will be no change in how the upper Wood Ri
ver is managed i.e. it will remain a heavily stocked, put and take, trout fishery. This, despite the documented degradation of the environment there, that attributable to the overuse engendered by the state’s approach to managing the resource. He dismissed the designation of this water, by both the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture and the state’s own Wildlife Action Plan, as offering the best opportunity for protecting wild brook trout. he was also dismissive of the ample evidence from the peer-reviewed, fisheries literature that supports our proposal. When asked where in that literature we might find anything supportive of current ageny practice, he deflected the question. His defense of the status quo consisted of the following assertions: “it’s complicated”; “many are opposed”; the department is resource-poor; “license sales would decline (if PRIBT’ss proposal were implemented); and we cannot make changes withoiut a science-based justification. All of this ignores: the department’s own angler opinion data and PRIBT’s 1100+ Facebook “likes” ; tht our proposal asks less of the department not more; that licence sales have declined dramaticlly despite heavy stocking of the upper Wood River; and that there is no science based justification for current managment practice on the river.presentation

The Associate Director introduced the idea that the state might consider a wild brook trout refuge elsewhere. We indicated that we can support all efforts to preserve what is left of our wild flora and fauna but remain committed to our Wood River focus. In response, the Associate Director sought to characterize PRIBT as demanding, inflexible, and unwilling to compromise and charged us with bias in our selection of presentation content and in the choice of who it was we invited to this event. The latter ignores the fact that the contingent of five from RIDEM rejects our proposal and that both of the local TU chapters are on record as opposed.

The Associate Director’s performance on Tuesday suggested that he had not familiarized himself with our proposal and that he had not given his attention to our presentation. Yes, Mr. Mouradjian, to say that “it’s complicated” is to describe the politics of trout fishing in Rhode Island. There was no “Meeting of the Minds” on March 1st.

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