Maryland DNR to Present Award to Fly Shop Owner

#The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will present Theaux Le Gardeur, owner and operator of Backwater Angler, a fly shop and guide service in Monkton, Md., with an award for his outstanding service in the conservation of Maryland?s outdoors. The presentation will be made at 1:00 p.m. February 18 at the Backwater Angler shop, 16928 York Rd., Monkton.?DNR?s Invasive Species Matrix Team is pleased to formally express our appreciation to Theaux for his help in educating anglers about the invasion of the Gunpowder Falls by Didymosphenia geminata?, said Ron Klauda, DNR biologist and Co-Chair of the Matrix Team. ?Theaux?s unwavering support of our efforts to confine ?Didymo? (also known as ?rock snot?) in the Gunpowder?one of Maryland?s premiere trout streams----and prevent its spread to other MD waters, is truly inspiring.?Didymo is an invasive diatom (a microscopic algae) that is native to far northern regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. For reasons not yet understood, Didymo is spreading south and gaining footholds in cold, often pristine trout waters. Streams in several eastern U.S. states have been invaded in the past 5-6 years.Suspected Didymo colonies were first seen in the Gunpowder by Theaux and other alert anglers in early 2008. They informed DNR staff, samples were collected in April and sent to DNR biologist and algal expert, Walt Butler, who confirmed Theaux?s suspicions. At certain times of the year, typically in January through mid-May in the Gunpowder, Didymo blooms and grows dense colonies of grayish-brownish mats that can cover most of the stream bottom and extend long cotton-like strands into the current. Dense Didymo growth can smother aquatic insect larvae and reduce food supplies for trout and other aquatic creatures. So far, there are no effective and proven methods for eradicating Didymo in a stream like the Gunpowder once it?s become established. Containing it in the Gunpowder and trying to prevent its spread is the most that can be done at this time. Theaux has been helping DNR do just that.?We don?t know for sure how Didymo was introduced into the Gunpowder, but all evidence points to anglers wearing felt-soled wading boots who had recently fished a Didymo-infected trout stream in another state, ? said Jonathan McKnight, DNR biologist and the other Co-Chair of DNR?s Invasive Species Matrix Team. ?Studies have shown that felt soles are a nearly perfect environment for moving Didymo around with the unknowing angler. Felt soles are difficult to thoroughly disinfect and can stay damp enough to keep Didymo cells alive for weeks.?Beginning in May 2008, Le Gardeur stepped up and volunteered to regularly clean and maintain six wader wash stations that DNR staff designed, built, and set up along the Gunpowder. A pan of salt water and a stout brush were provided at each wash station so anglers could disinfect their boots before leaving the river. Le Gardeur?s twice weekly on-line fishing report ( regularly reminds Gunpowder anglers to wash, scrub, and rinse their boots and wading shoes. He also encourages anglers to replace their felt-soled boots. In early December 2010, Le Gardeur helped DNR staff deploy six more wash stations along the Gunpowder and added them to his voluntary maintenance services.DNR is following actions already taken by New Zealand, Alaska, and Vermont to prohibit the use of felt soles. This new regulation, which includes all waters of the State, will become effective next month, March 2011. To help DNR answer questions and address the concerns of anglers who will be affected by this new regulation, Le Gardeur designed a survey last fall for his customers. He sent the survey results from 64 anglers to DNR.?Theaux?s survey yielded valuable data on anglers? knowledge of the Didymo threat to Maryland waters and their opinions on the proposed ban,? said Klauda. ?We were encouraged to learn that 91 percent of surveyed anglers think that using rubber-soled rather than felt-soled boots and shoes will help stop the spread of invasives. To win the battle against invasive species in Maryland, a knowledgeable and cooperative public is a must,? adds Klauda.Theaux Le Gardeur?s efforts to help DNR keep Didymo contained in the Gunpowder and prevent its spread to other State waters is only one example of his commitment to protecting Maryland?s natural resources. He was recently accredited as the 18th waterkeeper in the Chesapeake Bay region and is serving as riverkeeper and Executive Director of Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER. In this new role, Le Gardeur will be the voice of the Gunpowder. He will work to uphold the Clean Water Act regulations related to potential river pollution impacts. Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER is a grass roots, advocacy-based, non-profit, tax exempt organization charged to protect, conserve, and restore the Gunpowder and its watershed. In addition to its national recognition as an excellent tail-water trout fishery within a few miles from downtown Baltimore, the Gunpowder Falls is also a primary source of drinking water and an important tributary to Chesapeake Bay.

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