Reconnecting Native and Wild Trout: 2014 – 2019

By Andy Brown

In the Southern Appalachian mountains, Trout Unlimited focuses much its work on replacing culverts and fords that block native and wild trout from accessing important habitat with stream crossings that maintain natural stream function and allow fish passage. This work is especially important for the long-term viability of native Eastern Brook Trout, who typically occupy isolated small patches of high elevation source waters and need every bit of coldwater stream that can be made available to them – particularly in the face of a warming climate.  

From 2014 – 2019, TU in the Southern Appalachians built seven Aquatic Organism Passage (AOP) stream crossings in western NC working in close collaboration with the US Forest Service and NC Wildlife Resources Commission. These projects opened up 15 ½ miles of additional coldwater habitat for native and wild trout. As we speak, TU has three other AOP projects in the works for which we are raising funds to hopefully construct in 2020. In addition, we are training TU chapter members and other community volunteers to perform surveys of stream crossings throughout the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forest to identify where additional fish passage barrier projects might exist. Volunteers in 2019 alone have already surveyed over 150 stream crossings. Thankfully most are being shown to be passable for fish but a few culverts are likely to be our next AOP projects in the coming years. 

TU cannot do this work alone. We are grateful for the financial and professional commitments provided by our partners with the US Forest Service and state wildlife agencies in the region whose contributions amount to over 60% of the total cost of our work together. TU is also grateful for the numerous other financial contributors that believe in our work – such as Rep Your Water – helping cover the remaining 40% of costs to put coldwater conservation on the ground.