Thursday, May 19, 2011

Batten Kill Named A National ‘River to Watch’

The National Fish Habitat Action Plan has unveiled the 2011 list of 10 “Waters to Watch”, a collection of rivers, streams, estuaries, watershed systems and shores that will benefit from strategic conservation efforts to protect, restore or enhance their current condition. Included in the list is the Batten Kill in Washington County.

The 10 waters represent a snapshot of this year’s larger voluntary habitat conservation efforts in progress. These and other locally driven conservation projects are prioritized and implemented by regional Fish Habitat Partnerships that have formed throughout the country to implement the National Fish Habitat Action Plan. The objective of the Action Plan is to conserve freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats essential to the many fish and wildlife species that call these areas
home.

The 10 “Waters to Watch” are representative of freshwater to marine habitats across the country including rivers, lakes, reservoirs and estuaries that benefit through the conservation efforts of these Fish Habitat Partnerships formed under the Action Plan-a bold initiative implemented in 2006 to avoid and reverse persistent declines in our
nation’s aquatic habitats.

The initial Action Plan’s 10 “Waters to Watch” list was unveiled in 2007 and in 2011 will feature its 50th project. Since 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided $12 million to support 257 on-the-ground Action Plan projects in 43 states, leveraging $30 million in partner match, to address the priorities of Action Plan Fish Habitat Partnerships. Additional funds have been provided by several other State
and Federal agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and industry partners.

“Our approach-teaming local, state, tribal, and federal agencies with private partners and stakeholders-is helping to bring these waters back to life in most cases…in a faster more strategic way,” said Kelly Hepler, Chairman of the National Fish Habitat Board. “By watching these 10 models of our nation’s aquatic conservation efforts underway, we can see real progress, in both avoidance and treatment of causes of fish
habitat decline. Too often we have focused on treatment of symptoms with limited success. Through sound science and on-the-ground locally driven partnerships, these select Action Plan projects can be held high as a vision of what quality habitat should and can be, and how it benefits all people throughout the United States.”

BATTEN KILL RIVER – Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture

The Batten Kill project is a high profile fisheries and watershed restoration project that has galvanized local, regional and national groups and partners. Once a famous, world-class recreational trout fishery, the river experienced a steady decline in its wild fish population over the past two decades. Since 2000, there has been widespread grassroots support and effort to restore the fishery to its former status.

Purpose of the project: In-stream and riparian habitat restoration for Eastern brook trout in the Batten Kill watershed, have been based on scientific assessments and
monitoring that have led to strategic on-the-ground implementation of
restoration practices.

The goals are to deliver as much short term habitat restoration work as possible through the installation of in-stream cover and shelter along with replanting the riparian zone, while making long term investments in quality habitat by improving river dynamics, conserving existing buffers, and planting buffer zones where vegetation is deficient.

There is also the essential component of fostering good stewardship by educating landowners in river-friendly practices and supporting easements or other conservation protection of riparian areas where appropriate.

Project Timeline: Projects to install cover and shelter structures combined with in-stream structures to improve river dynamics (according to established Natural Channel Design Techniques) began in 2005 and continue in earnest today.

There are two teams implementing assessments and restoration: one in Vermont, one in New York. Each team restores about a half a mile of stream each year. So far, the partnership has accomplished:

26 miles of fish habitat inventory and assessment.
27 projects totaling 10.5 miles of riparian and stream habitat restoration.
21 miles of stream geomorphology and bank erosion surveys.
15 scientific/biological investigations & assessments and fishery studies.
Multiple river stewardship and public outreach and education projects.

The project is considered a good example of cooperation between Federal, State,
and local agencies, organizations, communities and streamside landowners, in both states, to develop and implement a scientific-approach and community-driven restoration effort. Monitoring shows a 400% increase in the number of yearling trout in the affected pools and 100% increase in affected riffles.

Partners include:
Batten Kill Watershed Alliance of New York and Vermont
US Fish & Wildlife Service
Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program
Fisheries Program
US Forest Service, Green Mountain National Forest
Natural Resources Conservation Service
New York Department of Environmental Conservation
Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department
Washington County (NY) Soil and Water Conservation District
Bennington County (VT) Natural Resource Conservation District
Windsor County (VT) Natural Resource Conservation District
Clearwater Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Adirondack Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Southwestern Vermont Chapter of Trout Unlimited
The Orvis Company
National Wildlife Federation
University of Vermont
University of Massachusetts
Dartmouth College

The rest of the 10 “Waters to Watch” for 2011 include:

Alewife Brook/Scoy Pond, NY (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership)

Au Sable River, Michigan – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership)

Barataria Bay, Louisiana – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Southeast Aquatics Resources Partnership)

Cottonwood Creek, Alaska – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership)

Duchesne River, Utah – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Desert Fish Habitat
Partnership)

Llano River, Texas – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Southeast Aquatic Resources
Partnership)

Manistee River, Michigan- (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership)

St. Charles Creek, Idaho – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Western Native Trout Initiative)

Waipa Stream, Hawaii – (National Fish Habitat Partnership – Hawaii Fish Habitat Partnership)

The Action Plan has met its objective of establishing at least 12 Fish Habitat Partnerships by 2010 to help identify the causes of habitat declines and implement corrective initiatives for aquatic conservation and restoration, with 17 Fish Habitat Partnership currently working on the ground in aquatic conservation.

Since its launch six years ago, the Action Plan has received wide public support. To date nearly 1,700 partners have pledged their support including a range of organizations and individuals interested in the health of the nation’s fisheries such as fishing clubs, international conservation organizations, federal agencies, angling industries and academia.

These ten habitat conservation efforts highlighted in 2011 are a small sample of the many habitat conservation projects implemented under the Action Plan. The 2011, as well as past 10 “Waters to Watch” lists can be viewed at www.fishabitat.org along with
complete information on the scope of the Action Plan.

Illustrations: The Batten Kill in Arlington, Vermont; below, the Batten Kill and its tributaries. Courtesy Wikipedia.

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