On December 16, 2014, Region 4 Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) Aquatics staff organized the first annual Shenandoah Summit at Shenandoah University in Winchester. This stakeholders meeting was called to discuss ongoing water quality and fish health issues in the Shenandoah River watershed.
Presentations included DGIF fish population studies, observations from fishing guides, intersex research on smallmouth bass from the United States Geological Survey, nutrient input updates, mental modelling, and blue-green algae research.
The Summit attracted 35 participants from federal and state agencies, academia, Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, Friends of the Shenandoah River, Friends of Middle River, Riverfest, Friends of the North Fork Shenandoah River, Virginia Master Naturalists, the Smithsonian, biologists from West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, two smallmouth bass fishing clubs, fishing guides, and interested citizens. The Summit fostered frank and open conversation regarding the decade-old issues revolving around the eutrophication of this river system. Plans to organize resources to address future research needs will take place beginning in 2015.
– Paul Bugas, DGIF, December 2014
Headwaters Master Naturalists Bob and Betty Forrest attended the Summit and provided their insights:
Betty and I hustled across the drizzle-wetted parking lot of Shenandoah University campus en route to the Shenandoah River Summit Conference. The large meeting room was brim full of energized people. As we squeezed into the last two seats, the participants settled down, and Paul Bugas kicked off the agenda.
It was great that Paul chose as opening speakers two representatives from the commercial recreational fishing sector. Their decades of experience as river guides and fishermen gave them a rich fund of empirical observations indicative of river ecosystem and fisheries health to share. It was clear the river is troubled. Everyone listened, questioned, and discussed intently. A great opening to the remainder of the agenda!
The interesting and articulate speakers during the remainder of the day represented diverse groups of university and governmental scientists and volunteer-based citizen scientists. Their topics all were very relevant to Summit goals. The many discussions yielded a consensus that the river ecosystem is in serious distress from complex and little understood events and that future Summits ought to be scheduled, beginning at six-month intervals if feasible.
During introductions, we and Chip Brown appeared to be the only VMN participants; one of the speakers was a member of the West Virginia Master Naturalists. Attending the Summit provided us with an invaluable overview of the riverine system, its need for proactive conservation, its societal and ecosystem values, the historical and present misuses leading to existing eutrophication and other maladies, and the multiple caring interests within State and private entities.
– Bob & Betty Forrest, December 2014