Rob Burbank's Outdoors with the AMC: Brook trout the beneficiaries of AMC's river habitat restoration project

By ROB BURBANK October 05. 2018 6:59PM
The AMC is involved in a multi-year effort to restore and enhance brook trout habitat on its lands in Maine. (Dennis Welsh/Courtesy AMC)

My work-related travels took me to Maine last weekend, where I met up with Steve Tatko, the Appalachian Mountain Club's Maine Woods Initiative land manager, who hosted a tour of AMC's conservation and recreation lands for visiting members of the New England Outdoor Writers Association.

AMC owns some 75,000 acres of woodlands-about 115 square miles-in Maine's 100-Mile Wilderness region, and the organization's lands are managed for many uses, including conservation, recreation, forestry, and watershed protection. AMC has placed easements on its land to guarantee it will forever be open to the public for recreation.

In addition to managing three wilderness lodges, maintaining an extensive hiking and cross-country ski trail network, and leading guided hiking, skiing, and fly-fishing programs for outdoor enthusiasts, AMC is also involved in a multi-year effort to restore and enhance brook trout habitat on its property.

Since 2011, the organization has been removing old road culverts installed in the 1970s and 1980s that had been blocking fish passage in local streams. By pulling culverts and restoring more natural stream flow, fish can move about more freely.

AMC's lands contain the headwaters of two major watersheds-the West Branch of the Pleasant River in the Penobscot watershed and the Roach River in the Kennebec watershed-and Tatko says the recent stream work is helping to restore the "aquatic connectivity" of those watersheds.

This habitat restoration also benefits the genetic integrity of fish populations, he notes.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service has been a strong partner in those efforts, contributing to 27 of the 44 fish passage projects completed to date on AMC's land.

A combination of NRCS funds and grant funding has been invested in these projects, Tatko says, and 46 miles of stream have been restored.

In addition to many miles of streams, AMC's Maine lands contain some two dozen ponds, most of which hold brook trout. Among those fish are wild brook trout, and the rarer native brook trout.

Other partners supporting these fish passage efforts include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Patagonia, Orvis, William W. London & Son contractors, and the Trout and Salmon Foundation.

In addition to stabilizing brook trout populations, AMC's conservation work has the potential to benefit Atlantic salmon as well. "In conjunction with an ongoing regional Penobscot River restoration effort, the Silver Lake parcel, recently acquired with assistance from the Forest Society of Maine, provides a critical link in connecting sea-run Atlantic salmon with brook trout habitat in their historic range," Tatko says.

These aquatic habitat enhancement projects are part of AMC's Maine Woods Initiative (outdoors.org/mwi), an effort that combines landscape-scale conservation, sustainable forestry, habitat protection, and community partnerships in Maine's 100-Mile Wilderness region.

Rob Burbank is director of external relations for the Appalachian Mountain Club (outdoors.org) in Pinkham Notch. His column appears monthly in the New Hampshire Sunday News.


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