You hear a lot of talk about the Allegheny National Forest, like what the Forest Service should do or not do to balance the pressures of conservation, preservation and resource production.
And, as long as most of the subsurface of the ANF is privately owned by oil and gas companies, that balancing act will continue to provide stimulus for debate.
But outside of that seeming conundrum are volunteer efforts to preserve and protect an incredible collection of natural resources, from the flora and fauna that make up the canopy and the wildlife it nurtures, to the dozens of pristine streams that contain native populations of trout in their clean, frigid, spring-fed waters.
We have talked before about the trail-blazing initiatives of the Pennsylvania Kinzua Pathways group, but there is another conservation group that deserves recognition for its work to maintain and improve trout streams in the ANF. The Allegheny Watershed Improvement Needs Coalition (WINs) was formed in 2007 with a mission "to promote protection, restoration and habitat improvement activities in watersheds that lie entirely or partially in the Allegheny National Forest to achieve Forest Service and community needs through collaboration and partnerships."
These are people, many of them trout fishermen, who roll up their sleeves, pull on their boots and get down in the mud to make improvements to steams that enhance their ability to support wild populations of trout and provide opportunities for both fishermen and hikers to enjoy these little waterways.
They do it with partneships. Some of the partners you might expect, like the Forest Service, the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Trout Unlimited and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. But oil and gas companies have also pitched in to help locate and remove old production equipment and supplies.
It is difficult and dirty work, but the results are worth the effort.
Everyone who lives, works and plays in the Allegheny National Forest wins through the work of WINs.