Tag Archives: river restoration

Finding Refuge in Restored Rivers

 

Wildlife refuges are often invisible to those who don’t seek them out. They stand on the periphery of the modern world, separated from the traffic and noise that has come to define our lives. But these havens serve an important function: not only do they provide sanctuary for animals, but they also give conservationists a chance to research, test, and develop best practices without interference from the outside world.

One of these best practices is restoring rivers to their natural state, which the Service and Partners do by upgrading aging infrastructure and using nature-like solutions to create suitable habitat for fish and wildlife. This story maps some of this work as it has been completed in the Northeast.


Since 2009, the Service and partners have removed or replaced more than 507 barriers to fish passage from Maine to West Virginia, reconnecting more than 4,020 miles of rivers and streams and 19,300 acres of wetlands. While some of this work has been supported by federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery, partners across the Northeast have matched the Service’s contribution at nearly 5 to 1, contributing $56.1 million to the Service’s $12.5 million to restore aquatic connectivity for wildlife and protect communities.

Walking the River

Some of us merely enjoy nature as a place to visit – others take action to protect it. Gary Lang, a fly fishing guide in Elkins, West Virginia, has done some of both.

In his 40 years on Elkins’ crystal-clear rivers, Lang has not only made a living guiding his customers to some of the best trout fishing in the Northeast, but has also partnered with the Service and others to preserve those rivers for future generations. Having served as the president of his local Trout Unlimited chapter, Lang has worked to restore riverbanks, remove invasive species, and keep the rivers pristine for wildlife and people to enjoy. His efforts have helped improve conditions for native species like brook trout, and have also helped put the rivers of Elkins on the map for fly fishers across the region.

“There is nothing better than spending your day outside in beautiful surroundings, in a country you know and appreciate,” said Lang.

Click here to read the full story

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Gary Lang’s story is featured in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Nature’s Good Neighbors series, which highlights people across the U.S. who depend on the land as much as the land depends on them. These modern-day stewards of the land are working with nature to make a home for people and wildlife. 

Of Herring and Humans

(Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program)

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Update 4/19/18: For the first time in 200 years, a river herring has made it to Lake Sabbatia.

A river herring is captured by a remote camera at the Lake Sabbatia fish ladder in April 2018. Credit: MA Division of Marine Fisheries

If you’d been following the national news in October 2005, you might have heard about the Whittenton Dam crisis. After days of rain, the obsolete dam on the Mill River threatened to fail and flood homes and businesses in downtown Taunton, Mass.

Eventually, the rain stopped and the danger passed, but the crisis cost more than $1.5 million. The event highlighted the dangers of aging, unmaintained dams, and it spurred change.

“The near-failure of Whittenton Dam in 2005 really brought home the risk of aging dams for New Englanders,” notes Cathy Bozek, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s fish passage coordinator for the Northeast. “The event led to improved dam safety regulations in Massachusetts and, eventually, a funding source for removing or repairing dams in the state.”

In Taunton, the crisis energized a nascent effort to restore the Mill River by removing unsafe and obsolete dams, thus opening 30 miles of stream and 400 acres of lakes and ponds to migratory fish, including river herring.

Once so abundant their spring migrations turned rivers silver, herring populations had plummeted due to overfishing and dams that blocked the way to their spawning grounds. The decline affected myriad marine animals that prey on the species and prompted a statewide ban on harvesting river herring.

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Construction workers excavate the site at West Britannia. (Credit: Lauren Owens Lambert)

In January 2018, the Service and its partners, including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and The Nature Conservancy, removed the West Britannia Dam. The work was supported by funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery and resilience.

With the dam gone, river herring can now swim from Narragansett Bay all the way to their historical spawning grounds above Lake Sabbatia, and Taunton residents can breathe easy knowing that events like the Whittenton Dam crisis are in the past.

It’s a new day for humans and herring.

Read the whole story here.


Since 2009, the Service and partners have removed or replaced more than 507 barriers to fish passage from Maine to West Virginia, reconnecting more than 4,020 miles of rivers and streams and 19,300 acres of wetlands. While some of this work has been supported by federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery, partners across the Northeast have matched the Service’s contribution at nearly 5 to 1, contributing $56.1 million to the Service’s $12.5 million to restore aquatic connectivity for wildlife and protect communities.