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The White Mountain National Forest, a popular New England vacation destination, is home to hundreds of miles of hiking trails spanning over 4,000 foot mountaintops, 1,250 square miles of wilderness and 600 miles of rivers and streams.
The relatively steep topography makes these streams great candidates for strong atlantic salmon and brook trout populations. When Tropical Storm Irene tore through New England in August of 2011, it flooded and damaged trail and road infrastructure. This caused not only ruined trails and roads, but also created fish passage barriers and produced heavy sedimentation throughout watersheds such as those of the Pemigewasset, Israel, Saco, Swift, Wildcat, Ellis and Ammonoosuc rivers.
Trout Unlimited will be assisting the National Forest Foundation and its partners over the next three years not only to rebuild infrastructure from the ground up, but also to better prepare for large storms while improving trout and salmon habitat. This effort will involve multiple federal, state, and non-profit organizations, along with many local volunteers who will be helping to preserve the natural beauty of the White Mountains for generations to come.
Trout Unlimited has begun to focus on decommissioning poorly placed trails, stabilizing eroding riverbanks and restoring floodplains that had been impacted by those roads. Another focus is restoring trout habitat connectivity and reducing future flood vulnerability by replacing culverts and bridges. In most cases, decommissioned trails will be replaced by trails that will minimize environmental impacts on streams.
TU and its partners have begun to assess the impacts of Tripcal Storm Irene at a particularly devastated site between the Lincoln Woods and the Franconia Brook tent site. The affected area is a trail that ran alongside the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River and provided motor vehicle access to maintain the tent site. Heavy trail erosion coupled with the failed stream crossing created heavy sedimentation issues. Trout Unlimited and its partners have teamed up to develop a new trail location that reuses a decommissioned road and began restoring trail erosion impacts.
Colin Lawson, New England Culvert Project Coordinator
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