Dust blown by the winds carries the demise of the hemlock forests of the Appalachian range. Tiny parasitic organisms migrate on the winds, killing their host trees. Late at night, they can be seen in such concentration that it almost looks like the small flakes of snow that herald overnight snowfall.
It is beautiful to watch the wind-borne assault, tragic to watch the huge hemlock trees sicken, weaken, and die. Yes, the birth>death>rebirth cycle is part of the biological pattern we all must follow. But it takes a good deal of foresight and comprehension when one sees bare branches where hemlock needles were last year’s residents.
By definition, rural blight. This blight extends beyond the human encroachment and the wanton human lack of concern for the forests and the watersheds.
The streams that carved the valleys and flood plains were, once, cooler, cleaner, clearer, and populated by beautiful native brook trout. They lived in a range from Canada down into Georgia. The streams remain but clean is no longer applicable in description. Neither is clear nor cooler. Strip mining for coal and minerals has brought about major deforestation. With no overhead cover, the creeks and rivers heat up beyond the temperatures that trout can withstand. As mountainsides and tops are blasted off and scraped off the earth’s surface the debris chokes watersheds and the by-products of mining poison the streams.
Who speaks for the trout? Trout Unlimited tries. So do other conservation groups. However, their collective voices are easily drowned out by the sound of lobbyists dropping money into re-election war chests. The energy and mineral companies pay sufficient lip service to conservation to afford them a presence on the evening news but no more. Local miners watch the jobs decrease in number and come to the sad conclusion that food on the table and gasoline in the truck matters more than clear creeks and fish that might not withstand the next long summer’s drought anyway.
Beside all that, trout fishing with those fly rods and feather-wrapped hooks is just something done by another group of college-educated elitists who try to keep people from fishing with worms, crickets, and plastic lures that are used by the real fishermen who drive bass boats and wear logos all over their cloths like NASCAR drivers. Those guys don’t complain about hotter water temperatures and lack of clarity in the big oil-sheened impoundments that they fish.
Elections are coming around again. The energy companies are going to be running TV ads in support of their tame congressmen. The sad truth is that the energy companies will win. The forests, the flood plains, the creeks and rivers will lose out to the companies that destroy mountains for profit. The flora and fauna that defined a region will vanish. The people who appreciate it most of all will be set against each other by propagandists who tell lies for a living.
It is time to buy new fishing licenses. That small act of defiance says that once again I’ve place myself in opposition to the soulless corporations who lay waste to the world. Who speaks for the trout? What college-educated, elitist, fly-rod-waving, small – stream- wading, believer in conservation laws and fish and game regulations speaks for the trout? I do!