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Wild Trout Management Plan

There are more than 3,500 miles of coldwater streams that contain wild trout populations in Virginia. Wild trout are an indicator of healthy watersheds and contribute to our quality of life. The agency’s most recent statewide angler survey (DWR 2016) revealed that 16.5% of Virginia anglers (⁓60,000) fished for wild trout. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Wild Trout Management Plan is intended to inform staff, partners and citizens about the Department’s management of wild trout resources within the Commonwealth.

DWR, under the direction of a Governor-appointed Board of Directors, is charged specifically by the General Assembly with management of the state’s freshwater fisheries resources. The Code of Virginia expresses many legal mandates for the Board and DWR, including management of wildlife species (§29.1-103), public education (§29.1-109), law enforcement (§29.1-109), and regulations (§29.1-501). To help clarify and interpret the role of DWR in managing wildlife in Virginia, the Board of Directors has adopted the following agency mission statement: Conserve and manage wildlife populations and habitat for the benefit of present and future generations. Connect people to Virginia’s outdoors through boating, education, fishing, hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing and other wildlife-related activities. Protect people and property by promoting safe outdoor experiences and managing human-wildlife conflicts.

DWR has the management responsibility for wild trout resources located on national forest lands, state-owned lands, and private property within the Commonwealth. Wild Trout populations located within the Shenandoah National Park are managed by the National Park Service through consultation with DWR.

What is the DWR Wild Trout Management Plan?

The DWR Wild Trout Management Plan is the first comprehensive plan developed for wild trout in Virginia. It summarizes the history of wild trout management by DWR and provides a blueprint for future management directions. The plan establishes a framework of what needs to be done for wild trout, how it should be done, and when it should be done through 2028. By clarifying management goals and objectives, the plan will help DWR effectively address wild trout management issues. As the basis for guiding wild trout management activities, decisions, and projects, the plan will also serve to inform stakeholders of what DWR hopes to accomplish. The plan is a strategic plan that is intended to provide overall direction, goals, and objectives for wild trout management (e.g., to increase public awareness of wild trout).

However, it is not an operational plan and, as such, does not describe the details necessary to realize specific objectives (e.g., detailed descriptions of programs designed to increase public awareness of wild trout).

Plan Development

DWR Aquatics Staff from Regions II, III, and IV met multiple times to develop the Issues, Goals, Objectives and Strategies outlined in the plan.

A Key Stakeholder Committee with representatives from the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, Shenandoah National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited collaborated with DWR fisheries biologists to refine the Wild Trout Management Plan. A draft of the plan was made available to the public for review and comment on the Department’s webpage, and all comments were addressed in Appendix II of this document.

Plan Format

The plan includes sections relating to the current status of wild trout resources in Virginia, major threats facing wild trout populations, and current initiatives undertaken by the Department. Lastly, there are eleven issues concerning wild trout management identified in the plan. There are goals listed for each issue, specific objectives designed to attain the goals, and suggested strategies clarifying how each objective might be achieved.

Interim Changes to the Plan

The Plan is designed to provide guidance and priorities to help DWR manage Virginia’s wild trout resources through 2028. The plan should be a dynamic and flexible tool that remains responsive to changing social, environmental, technical, and administrative conditions. DWR can make amendments to the Plan as new science becomes available or as circumstances demand.

Read the Virginia Wild Trout Management Plan