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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: November 2012

Nov
28
2012

From the Field: Linking land and water in brook trout conservation

In rural West Virginia, a fisherman casts his bright green line into a mountain stream. The stream is clear, the fish are biting and it takes just minutes to make a catch.

Dustin Wichterman, Potomac Headwaters Project Coordinator with Trout Unlimited, dips his net into the water and reveals a 10-inch brook trout. Its olive green body is flecked with red and gold, and its mere presence here is a welcome sign of health for the Pendleton County waterway.

Native to the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, the eastern brook trout is a sensitive species that needs cold, clean water to survive. But as regional water quality has declined, so, too, have brook trout populations, leading to lost revenue and diminished fishing opportunities for headwater states.

Brook trout play a critical role in the watershed: they are an important part of the region’s natural heritage, a driver of economic growth and an indicator of environmental health. For these reasons, brook trout restoration was a listed outcome in the federal Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Bay Watershed. And for the past two years, brook trout conservation has been a top goal for the Chesapeake Bay Program.

From the Field: Linking land and water in brook trout conservation from Chesapeake Bay Program on Vimeo.

Through the Bay Program’s Habitat Goal Implementation Team, whose members work to protect and restore wetlands, woods and other habitats across the watershed, brook trout have benefited from stream restoration, fish passage renewal and tree plantings.

As odd as it might seem, the health of a fish depends not just on the health of the creek, stream or river that it calls home; it is also tied to the health of the surrounding land. And poor land management, increasing development and expanding urbanization have been cited as leading factors in brook trout decline.

“This fish is a living symbol of how actions on land affect the health of our local waterways,” said team coordinator Jennifer Greiner.

The removal of streamside trees, for instance, is a common consequence of agricultural or residential development, as seedlings are trampled by grazing cattle or trees are felled for suburban growth. But a missing forest buffer means bad news for brook trout when stream banks erode, excess sediment ruins spawning beds and an absence of shade pushes water temperatures into a range that brook trout cannot withstand.

When, on the other hand, trees and shrubs are allowed to grow along waterways, their runoff-trapping roots keep the water clean and their shade-producing leaves keep the water cold.

So Greiner and her fellow team members have worked to bring brook trout into the land-use discussion, pushing the latest brook trout distribution data out to doers and decision-makers in the watershed. Because when land managers know where brook trout are, they are more likely to take the fish into account in land-use decisions.

Land trusts in headwater states have also found that brook trout can push private landowners to conserve, and Goal Implementation Team partners—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture Partnership among them—are using the iconic fish to promote on-the-ground restoration of riparian forest buffers.

Whether a farmer installs a fence that keeps livestock out of local rivers or a landowner decides to plant a series of streamside trees, education and engagement are critical to conservation.

“By becoming educated and engaged, landowners are able to protect the streams on their land for future generations,” Greiner said. “By protecting and restoring stream habitat, the brook trout, along with other species, are also protected for future generations to enjoy.”

Catherine Krikstan's avatar
About Catherine Krikstan - Catherine Krikstan is a web writer and social media specialist at the Chesapeake Bay Program. She began writing about the watershed as a reporter in Annapolis, Md., where she covered algae blooms and climate change and interviewed hog farmers and watermen. She lives in Washington, D.C.



Nov
27
2012

Tributary Tuesday: Cowpasture River (Highland County, Va.)

In Virginia, there is a local legend that explains how the Cowpasture River and its surrounding streams were named: A group of Native Americans stole a herd of cattle from a settler and headed west. The calves tired first, and were left behind at the river now known as the Calfpasture. The cows were able to make it a bit farther, to Cowpasture. And the bulls, with greater strength and stamina, made it to Bullpasture.

Image courtesy Bruce Thomson/Flickr

The tale might not be true, but the names still fit. All three rivers are bordered by pastureland and meadows, a perfect habitat for indigo buntings, northern bobwhite and other open-country birds, as well as local livestock.

The nearby George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and state natural lands offer opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to experience this rustic, rural watershed.

If you would rather explore “underground,” be sure to check out the region’s caves and sinkholes. During periods of extended drought, the Cowpasture River dries up and flows only beneath the ground, through the limestone caves. 

Image courtesy Bruce Thomson/Flickr

More from the Cowpasture River:

Caitlin Finnerty's avatar
About Caitlin Finnerty - Caitlin Finnerty is the Communications Staffer at the Chesapeake Research Consortium and Chesapeake Bay Program. Caitlin grew up digging for dinosaur bones and making mud pies in Harrisburg, Pa. Her fine arts degree landed her environmental field work jobs everywhere from Oregon to Maryland. Now settled in Baltimore, she is eagerly expecting her first child while creating an urban garden oasis on her cement patio.



Nov
21
2012

Watershed Wednesday: Susquehanna Greenway Partnership (Lewisburg, Pa.)

Imagine a stretch of water that runs from dense forests to rolling farmland, a riverside town with a rich agricultural and industrial past or a park that was once home to a working mill, but now provides paddlers and picnickers with an outdoor space to relax.

These are just some of the natural, cultural and recreational resources located along the Susquehanna River. The full list is vast, but one Pennsylvania partnership is working to tie them together.

Image courtesy Susquehanna Greenway Partnership/Flickr

A leading champion of one of the largest rivers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership works with individuals, governments and nonprofit organizations to improve water quality in the Susquehanna while revitalizing the economies of riverside towns.

Curbing environmental problems while curing local economies seems like an ambitious goal, but the partnership has built its forward-thinking work on the solid foundation of local history.

Image courtesy Susquehanna Greenway Partnership/Flickr

In hopes of connecting the Susquehanna with the people on its shores, the partnership has established a River Towns program that provides assistance to communities that want to revitalize and celebrate their river connection. The program ensures that small towns along the Susquehanna retain their sense of community and convenience, which can attract both residents and visitors alike. Walkable neighborhoods and nearby natural areas keep towns connected to the Susquehanna and engaged with each other.

The partnership has also worked to boost the public’s investment in the Susquehanna, increasing public access points, installing informative signs and linking parks, businesses and residential areas with wildlife habitat corridors.

More from the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership:

  • Explore the natural and cultural history of the Susquehanna River with this collection of photos from the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership.
  • Watch this video of a mid-river paddle to learn just what draws boaters to the Susquehanna each summer. Then find a bike path, paddle trail or hunting area near you with the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership’s interactive map.
  • From “adopting” a section of the Susquehanna to collecting images of the towns and trails along the Greenway, volunteer opportunities abound!
Caitlin Finnerty's avatar
About Caitlin Finnerty - Caitlin Finnerty is the Communications Staffer at the Chesapeake Research Consortium and Chesapeake Bay Program. Caitlin grew up digging for dinosaur bones and making mud pies in Harrisburg, Pa. Her fine arts degree landed her environmental field work jobs everywhere from Oregon to Maryland. Now settled in Baltimore, she is eagerly expecting her first child while creating an urban garden oasis on her cement patio.



Nov
19
2012

Population growth, development named key players in Potomac River pollution

Plumes of sediment, floating trash and pathogens that make once-swimmable water unsafe: pollution of all kinds continues to plague the Potomac River, as populations grow, pavement expands and stormwater runoff pushes various hazards into the 405-mile long waterway.

But for the Potomac Conservancy, a boost in incentives, assistance and enforcement just might save the nation’s river.

Image courtesy kryn13/Flickr

According to the advocacy group’s sixth annual State of the Nation’s River report, “too many stretches of the Potomac River are still too polluted to allow you to safely swim, boat or fish, or to support healthy populations of fish and other aquatic life.”

The cause? A “pending storm” of population pressure and development, said Potomac Conservancy President Hedrick Belin.

For Belin, more people means more development. More development means more pavement. And more pavement means more stormwater runoff.

The fastest growing source of pollution into the Chesapeake Bay, stormwater runoff is rainfall that picks up pollutants—in the Potomac River’s case, nutrients, sediment, pathogens and chemicals—as it flows across roads, parking lots, lawns and golf courses. It carries these pollutants into storm drains and rivers and streams, posing a threat to marine life and human health.

But cities and towns throughout the Potomac River basin are curbing stormwater runoff by minimizing their disturbances to the land. And it is this local, land-based action—the installation of rain barrels and green roofs, the protection of forests and natural spaces, the passing of pollution permits in urban centers—that the Conservancy thinks will push the river in the right direction.

In the report, the Conservancy calls on state and local decision-makers to strengthen pollution regulations, increase clean water funding and improve pollution-reduction incentives and technical assistance.

“The Potomac Conservancy is advocating for river-friendly land-use policies and decisions, especially at the local level,” Belin said. “Because defending the river requires protecting the land that surrounds it.”

Learn more about Troubled Waters: State of the Nation’s River 2012.



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