Tag Archives: Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture

Hands On, Dam’s Gone

Today we’re hearing from Kirstin Underwood, biologist with the Gulf of Maine Coastal Program, as she teams up with partners to remove a dam in a remote section of the Sunday River in Western Maine. 

For me, the most rewarding thing about being a biologist is the chance to get outside, work hard and get my hands dirty. So when I heard about a dam that would be removed entirely by hand and human power in a remote region of western Maine, of course I wanted to be a part of it!


A derelict log dam on the Sunday River in Maine, blocking access to important cold water habitat for brook trout and other fish species. Its original purpose was to flush logs downstream from the mountains for the lumber trade

The most interesting thing about this dam in the west branch of the Sunday River was that for a long time, no one really knew it was there. During historic logging runs of the 1930’s, several log dams were built in rivers throughout Maine’s Mahoosuc Mountain Range to flush lumber downstream from the mountains. Many disintegrated or washed away overtime, but the ones that remained were built to last. Jeff Stern of the Androscoggin River Watershed Council (ARWC), key partner spearheading this project, has a special talent for locating remnant dams in remote streams of the Androscoggin watershed. He discovered this fully intact 8-foot-high dam, built with massive white pine logs and foot-long metal spikes, sometime last spring. It spanned the river fully, blocking brook trout and other fish species from accessing important coldwater habitat upstream (great places to feed, spawn and escape the summer heat). Property owner Sunday River ski resort granted permission to remove the dam, and Stern got to work with other key partners (including Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (MEIFW), Project SHARE, the Maine Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office (USFWS), Trout Unlimited (TU), and the Androscoggin Valley Soil & Water Conservation District (AVSWC)) to make the removal happen.

Getting to the west branch of the Sunday River was an adventure in itself. We followed a caravan of eager workers and volunteers along several miles of dusty old logging roads. When the road ended in an overgrown logging trail, we loaded grip hoists, pry bars, and all of our other gear onto an ATV and walked a half mile to the site. Our crew was a conglomeration of people and interests: 14 scientists, fishing enthusiasts and habitat restoration specialists from MEIFW, ARWC, USFWS, Project SHARE, TU, and AVSWC all showed up to provide labor and technical expertise. Everyone sprang to action, hooking grip hoist cables to the grid of 30-foot logs that were tightly wedged in the stream bed by years of sediment deposit. When three separate grip hoists were attached to the heaviest logs, it took all of our strength to crank the handles hard enough to shake the logs from side to side, even with help from a chainsaw to weaken them! Cheers resounded whenever painstaking effort on the grip hoist finally led to a satisfying crunch as another log was wrenched free.


Two days, four grip hoists, a few crowbars, and one exhausted crew later, water flowed freely through the dam and fish passage was significantly improved. Though a large chunk of the structure remained in the river, enough had been removed to allow erosion to restore natural stream processes. Days after we left the site, natural restoration had already begun; high water from a storm surge washed out a huge block of dirt and gravel that had been held back by the logs for decades.

The best part of this project was actually getting out to do the work to restore fish passage, rather than sitting idly by to watch someone else do it. There is still work to do before the structure is completely removed, and I can’t wait to return to the site in fall or spring to finish.

This project was funded through a grant with the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, federal funds managed by USFWS.

Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture turns 10!

The Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture recently held its 10-year anniversary recognition meeting in West Virginia. Today, fisheries biologist Catherine Gatenby shares her story about the partnership’s conservation journey, and highlights many of the natural resource accomplishments achieved during the past decade.


The Eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) are an American symbol of pristine wilderness. Photo credit: Robert S. Michelson of Photography By Michelson, Inc.Brook trout

The Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture (EBTJV) is celebrating its 10th year this fall.  This National Fish Habitat partnership is going strong – protecting water quality and restoring healthy populations of wild native brook trout in the Eastern United States.EBTJV_10TH_anniv_photo_at_NCTC[1]

The partnership is made up of more than 370 agencies, organizations and citizens from Maine to Georgia. During the past decade, EBTJV projects have opened and restored more than 400 miles of river to wild brook trout. That distance equates to 7,392 football fields lined up end zone to end zone! The work has also restored nearly 500 acres of brook trout habitat (imagine 245 soccer fields).  That’s a lot of space to fish, play or swim.


Lynn Camp Prong is now home to the greatest brook trout population in the Great Smoky National Park. Photo credit: National Park Service


Anglers benefit from the work of the Joint Venture when brook trout habitat is restored to its natural state. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

Why all the attention on brook trout? In past centuries, brook trout reigned in eastern rivers and streams. Today, less than 9 percent of their historic habitat is intact. Most brook trout can be found only in headwater streams, where forest cover helps maintain the cool temperatures they need, river water is clean and well-oxygenated, and there is plenty of food.

“The eastern brook trout really is an American symbol of pristine wilderness and our national fishing heritage,” says Callie McMunigal, who leads brook trout projects for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “They also are excellent indicators of clean water and a healthy environment, and their disappearance indicates environmental decline. Through the EBJTV and the Service, we are improving water quality in streams and rivers by reducing sedimentation caused from erosion, reducing runoff of contaminants and increasing natural filtration around rivers.”


Before photo: This culvert in Long Mountain Brook, Coos County, NH impeded access to eastern brook trout’s native habitat. Photo credit: EBTJV


After photo: This culvert replacement project in Long Mountain Brook, Coos County, NH (part of the Nash Stream watershed) has greatly improved habitat for the eastern brook trout. Read more on the Nash Stream Restoration Effort in the 2014 list of Ten Waters to Watch; Photo Credit: EBTJV












Steve Perry is Coordinator for the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture  and retired Inland Fisheries Division Chief for New Hampshire Fish and Game (he’s also a master angler!). Steve says he got hooked on the idea of forming the partnership in 2004, when he was part of a group of people with phenomenal passion and commitment for conserving brook trout.

“The enthusiasm generated during that initial meeting has propelled us to making this partnership into reality,” he says, adding that the common vision of the group and a “big picture” assessment of the brook trout’s rangewide status provided the scientific foundation for the partnership’s success.

“The assessment really showed us how things looked and what needed to be done,” Steve says. “It paved the way for the adoption of a series of conservation priorities that could be addressed at regional, state, and local levels, giving everyone a seat at our partnership’s table.”

Since the partnership formed a decade ago, it has grown from 50 to more than 300 partners today.

Steve predicts “the best is yet to come.”

Next steps? The EBTJV will continue to play an active role in landscape-scale conservation efforts, coordinating with other partnerships, such as the Appalachian and North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperatives. These science-based cooperatives are producing models and other tools to help resource managers do the right work in the right places to achieve the best results.

EBTJVInfographicFinal_8.5x11 (2)

Our restoration success stories have created $232 million in economic benefits and other impressive milestones as illustrated in the colorful infographic. Credit: USFWS

Learn more about National Fish Habitat Partnerships
Learn more about Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture.

Read more about the Joint Venture’s ten year success story.

Read other blogs on celebrating the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture

Wabanaki Days in Maine

Boulders are placed in the Meduxnekeag River to create more natural aquatic habit for fish. Photo credit: USFWS

Boulders are placed in the Meduxnekeag River to create a more natural aquatic habit for fish. Photo credit: USFWS

Jen with fish
Today we hear from Jennifer Lapis, a public affairs specialist in the Northeast Region. This summer she visited three Native American tribes in Maine, getting a firsthand look at the restoration and wildlife conservation work being completed in partnership with the Service and other organizations. 

Laughs and smiles of excitement flooded the air as we pulled up to the project site on the serene Meduxnekeag River. On this sunny summer day in northern Maine, I had the pleasure of joining the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and several partnering agencies at a traditional blessing ceremony, honoring the start of an in-stream habitat restoration project that will benefit eastern brook trout and other aquatic species found in the river.

Others attending the Maliseet ceremony were part of a dedicated team of professionals who worked for more than a year to develop, coordinate and finally witness the anticipated habitat enhancement project come to fruition.

Representatives from the Maliseet Tribe and partnering organizations pose for a group photo. Partnering agencies involved are: Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Houlton Band of Maliseets, Southern Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Town of Littleton.

Representatives from the Maliseet Tribe and partnering organizations pose for a group photo. Partnering agencies involved are: Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Houlton Band of Maliseets, Southern Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Town of Littleton, Maine.

The Maliseets, members of the Wabanaki Nation, are river people who have traditionally been hunters and gatherers in the St. John River basin, of which the Meduxnekeag River is a tributary. The Meduxnekeag, which in the Wabanaki language means, “where it is rocky at its mouth,” runs through Maliseet Tribal lands and is prized for its brook and brown trout populations.

Standing on the bridge looking out, I watched in awe as large trucks and heavy equipment operators brought large boulders and entire tree trunks into the river, strategically placing them to create more natural habitats for fish. This particular restoration project is significant not only for restoring the area to its historical natural ecology, but also for the spiritual and cultural meaning the river and all its resources have provided for life and survival of the Maliseet people.

D.J. Monette, the Service's regional Native American Liaison, participates in the smudging performed by a Tribal elder. Photo Credit: USFWS

D.J. Monette, the Service’s regional Native American Liaison, participates in the smudging performed by a Tribal elder. Photo Credit: USFWS

The trip to Houlton was part of a whirlwind tour of several natural resource project sites in northeast Maine, all conducted by tribes, in partnership with federal, state and non-profit organizations. These projects are made possible, in part, with funding through the Service’s Tribal Wildlife Grants Program, National Fish Habitat Action Plan and Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture.

Other tribes we visited on this engaging trip were the Aroostook Band of Micmacs and the Penobscot Indian Nation, who also belong to the larger Wabanaki Nation. As with the Maliseets, these tribes are heavily involved with natural resource projects throughout their lands and in the community. Our tour of project sites brought us to a newly constructed farm store and fish hatchery, a natural rock weir (made for fish passage), and road culverts that will help restore streams to their natural flow for better fish passage, wildlife habitat and are designed to withstand 100 year catastrophic rain events.

A natural rock weir created on Penobscot Indian Nation land to help fish pass up and down stream. Photo credit: USFWS

“This natural rock weir helps direct fish and  allows them to move freely and naturally up and down stream, giving them access to important spawning habitat.” Photo credit: USFWS

As a public affairs specialist for the Service, my day to day job duties tend to keep me in the office a majority of the time. Having an opportunity to get outdoors and see first hand the conservation work I so often read and write about, was a refreshing and heart- warming experience. Along those same lines, I had the honor and pleasure of meeting two respected Tribal Leaders, Houlton Band of Maliseet Chief Brenda Commander and Aroostook Band of Micmac Chief Charlie Peter Paul. It was an enlightening, educational, and certainly, a most memorable trip.

Learn more about our work with Native American Tribes

Learn more about the National Fish Habitat Partnership

Learn more about Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture