OUTDOOR NOTEBOOK: West Virginia Backcountry Hunters and Anglers chapter’s river cleanup good way to ring in Earth Month

The freezing temperatures the last two days have been a stark contrast to the warm, breezy days we had just last week. It’s a clear reminder from Mother Earth that we’re still in the Spring thaw and we can’t get comfortable in our shorts and T-shirts just yet. 

Despite what weather we have had the last two days, though, April 1 is the first day of Earth Month: part celebration of the wonderful accomplishments we’ve made since 1970’s inaugural Earth Day, and part reminder that we still have much work to do. 

Much of the success of protecting our planet by enhancing wildlife habitat, advancing in our waste practices, and keeping public lands and waters clean can be attributed to nonprofit groups. Around West Virginia, we have a few special ones, but Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is the most recent to join the fray. 

The state BHA chapter – not to get this mixed up with the West Virginia Bowhunters Association – was granted a charter in early 2020 when members in the Mountain State broke the century mark, along with other factors. Since then, it’s established itself as a voice for the state’s hunters and anglers on many topics and has expanded its Board of Directors. Yours truly is one of the new board members. 

Matt Kearns and Bill Lehrter pick up trash along the Lower Glady Fork of the Cheat River Saturday, March 27, as part of the first Trash and Trout litter cleanup hosted by the West Virginia Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. (Andrew Spellman/WVBHA photo)

With a great deal of happiness, I can report that our first-ever Trash and Trout initiative has come to a close and was successful for a fledgling program. Different chapter members pitched in over the entire month of March to pick up trash along their local streams, and last Saturday we filled up the bed of a U.S. Forest Service truck at the Lower Glady dispersed campground along the Glady Fork of the Cheat River near Elkins. A small band of us – eight in total – covered more than 2 miles and packed out that much trash. It might not seem like a lot, but it was a major contribution. It was saddening to see how much litter had found its way into the water, but that was replaced with gratitude that I was a part of a group that cherished community service and a clean environment.

The night prior was spent in the company of three other board members – Logan Bockrath, Bill Lehrter and Matt Kearns – getting to know each other better and taking part in both deep discussions about current issues and smaller talks about our favorite hunting memories, best and worst firearms in our lineup, and more. Naturally, we hit the water with our rods and reels, too.

Although our month-long event is over, I challenge anyone reading this to commit to cleaning up our public lands and waters. It’s been something I’ve done anytime I can, and, unfortunately, there’s no shortage of litter out there. Even if you pack out a Kroger bag’s worth of garbage, you’re making a big contribution to our wildlife and their habitat. 

If you like this type of content, be on the lookout for more Earth Day-themed stories from The Dominion Post throughout the month. I hope that the renewed love for the outdoors we’ve seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has brought folks into the fold who care about a healthy environment, as much as I and my colleagues do. 

Commit to yourself and our planet to help in some way. Hopefully, I’ll see you out there. 

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