Rhode Island's Wood River: Signage

Upper Wood River, courtesy Protect Rhode Island Brook Trout

Upper Wood River, courtesy Protect Rhode Island Brook Trout

Few waters in the northeast have been written about as much as Rhode Island’s Wood River over the past few years. Finally there is some good news…

For years local trout conservationists have challenged Rhode Island Department Environmental Management (RIDEM) and Rhode Island Fish & Wildlife (RIF&W), as well as each other, as to how the Wood River should be managed.

At issue is the management of wild native brook trout, and the fact that they are being stocked over and subjected to a high level of angler exploitation.

Unfortunately been very little progress had been made to date, no one was winning, and everyone, especially the resource, was losing.

The Wood River’s position as Rhode Island’s finest and most popular trout river is at the root of the problem. It serves many masters and keeping everyone happy is likely impossible.

Protect Rhode Island’s Brook Trout (PRIBT) has led the charge to save the Wood River’s wild native brook trout for years. No one has done more to bring the issue to the forefront.

At one time, the Narragansett chapter of TU was helping to stock the river, and opposing proposed regulations to protect the wild native brook trout. But that has changed, and thanks to chapter President Glenn Place and others, they have stopped stocking and stepped up to try to protect these fish.

Narragansett TU recently approached NFC about posting some signs on the upper Wood River. While we do not have a presence in Rhode Island, we saw value in what they wanted to do and offered to help.

The result of this effort was three signs to be posted on the upper Wood River addressing wild native brook trout, habitat work and studies, and litter.

NFC provided artwork design support, contacts for the fish art, and access to our large-account sign pricing. We were not a logo partner due to a reluctance on the part of RIDEM, nor did we need to be to justify our time and involvement — it’s all about the fish...

To be clear, there is still a lot of work to be done if the Wood River is to reach its potential as a wild native brook trout river. This includes removing some old dams, planting trees, fixing damaged habitat, and addressing stocking and angler exploitation.

Folks will need to make concessions to make this happen and no one will get everything they want. And the conservation train moves painfully slow so patience will be key…

But again, NFC sees this as a great and important step forward, and something that should be embraced and supported by all.

Special thanks to PRIBT for pushing the envelope, Narragansett TU for moving beyond stocking and working with the powers that be to make these signs a reality; and National NFC Secretary and Maine Chair Emily Bastian, and National Board Member Ben Brunt for providing logistical support.

I think it’s fair to say that the group put a solid win on the board for our wild native fish…