LOCK HAVEN - Trout Unlimited's Eastern Abandoned Mine Program received Pennsylvania's 2012 Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence on April 18.
The award is given to an individual or organization involved in efforts to promote environmental stewardship and economic development.
"We are honored to receive this distinguished award," said Amy Wolfe, director of Trout Unlimited's eastern abandoned mine program.
"Once thought to be lifeless and uninhabitable for fish and wildlife, the West Branch (of the) Susquehanna River has again illustrated its resilience and proves that abandoned mine drainage reclamation efforts are good for the resource and good for Pennsylvania," she said.
Trout Unlimited launched the West Branch Recovery Benchmark Project in 2009 to document and provide sound, science-based documentation that the West Branch and many of its tributaries have experienced significant water quality and fishery improvements over the past 25 years.
Millions of dollars has been spent to restore areas within the West Branch watershed from historical abandoned mine pollution but there never was a concerted effort to measure large-scale improvements. Trout Unlimited and more than a dozen organizations, including the state Department of Environmental Protection, state Fish and Boat Commission and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission participated in the project.
Trout Unlimited's eastern abandoned mine program is focused on the conservation, protection and restoration of coldwater fisheries and their watersheds throughout the Appalachian region that have been impacted by historic coal mining. A main focus of the program is the West Branch Susquehanna Restoration Initiative, which was launched in 2004 as a comprehensive and collaborative effort aimed at the restoration of coldwater streams and the ultimate recovery of the West Branch Susquehanna River.
Trout Unlimited is a nonprofit organization with more than 147,000 members.