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Western Pennsylvania Conservancy



A Fishing Fable
By Nick Pinizzotto, Senior Director, Freshwater Conservation

There once was a 12-year old boy named Chet who lived on a dairy farm in Indiana County. He loved to fish, but growing up on his family’s dairy farm meant chores at daybreak, school and then more chores waiting for him when he got home.

Each morning, the rooster ordered Chet out of his bed and into the overalls and rubber boots he laid out the night before. Leaning close to his dresser was a worn out fishing rod with an antique reel, half-filled with old line. Outside his door, he kept an old coffee can full of worms and a retired miner’s lunchbox that served as a tackle box.

A couple of years back Chet and his dad were able to grab a few minutes together at the beginning of the day and hiked to a neighbor’s pond where they fished for a few moments as the sun came up. Chet’s family has a pretty sizeable stream flowing through their pasture, but there were never any fish in it because there weren’t any trees around to cool the water and they had an ongoing problem with Holsteins regularly finding their way down the banks and into the stream.

Last summer, Chet’s father worked with WPC, county conservation officials and the local conservancy to remove his cattle from the stream, repair the stream banks, and make other positive changes around the barnyard to buffer the stream from manure and other pollutants. There was a lot of planning and several meetings at the farm, and eventually, the money was in place to do the work. With the price of fuel and equipment significantly outpacing the return on a gallon of milk, it was important that several different Federal Farm Bill programs, as well as grants and private dollars, helped finance the job.

A couple of months ago, while he was retrieving an ornery calf, Chet noticed a pair of nesting mallards in the high grass that was growing just inside the fence that lined the stream banks. When he moved in to get a better look, he saw that distinct flash of light in the water that every fisherman recognizes immediately as fish darting for cover. He had never seen fish in his stream before, and he wasn’t sure if he really had now. He raced back to the house, explained what he thought he just saw and pleaded to get out of milking the next morning to try and fish his stream,
using his solid report card as a bargaining chip. The next morning, he and his father were catching fish out of their own stream. Even though they were just common creek chubs and suckers, it was a start and neither fisherman was complaining.

Chet looked forward to many moments like this and he told his dad he was going to do all he could to protect that stream. He said maybe someday he and his children would be sitting in the same spot catching brook trout right there on his family’s farm.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s Freshwater Conservation Program works closely with
farmers across the region, to promote conservation practices designed to protect sensitive waterways. This work often includes devising a plan to pay for the project using a variety of state
and federal programs, and private funds. When staff members visit a farm to discuss potential pollution issues with a landowner, they also bring the solution. In most cases, that solution includes the funding to implement the plan. Since 2001, more than 80 miles of streambank fencing has been installed, dozens of stabilized stream crossings and alternative watering sources have been developed, and thousands of acres of warm season grasses have been planted. Working with county conservation district and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, the Freshwater Conservation Program offers a comprehensive suite of services to farmers that help
improve and protect water quality.