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Exploring southern Appalachian backcountry streams in search of native brookies transports an angler back in time. The gorgeous and increasingly rare places where native trout thrive are some of the Southeast’s most sacred treasures—and are all too rare. Native southern Appalachian brook trout are found in only a small fraction of their native range and many of these native populations are fragmented by roads and bad stream crossings, or are only partially protected by conservation lands and intact forests. Over the years, the native-strain brookies have suffered from these compounding issues, and the populations that remain need every advantage in order to survive in a future of increased air temperatures and disease, floods and other disturbances that will assuredly become more common. TU’s efforts in the Southeast focus on increasing the resiliency of our remaining native brook trout populations so that the pursuit of these sacred treasures does not become a thing of the past.
TU’s Southeastern Conservation Project addresses these issues head on. We reconnect fragmented aquatic habitats on climate-resilient and native fisheries by eliminating fish passage barriers such as culverts and dams. We educate landowners, engineers and decision-makers, and we advocate for better practices at road-stream crossings. We help land trust and agency partners conserve watershed lands on the best of our mountain trout streams. We engage in advocacy and policy issues that protect clean, cold water and support our agency partners. As a result, Southern trout are stronger, more resilient and better able to survive into the future.
In 2014, TU initiated a major aquatic organism passage project that will reconnect brook trout streams in watersheds throughout the region. Culverts that block fish passage passage will be replaced with arched structures and native brookies will again be free to seek the best coldwater refuges and the best spawning habitat. Brook trout on Buck Creek on the Nantahala, Mill Station on Courthouse Creek, and Caney Fork on the Tuckasegee will be better able to survive long into the future.
Visit the the Southeast Conservation Project's Group page for project updates, photos and stories from the field.
Damon Hearne, Southeast Conservation Director, 394 Merrimon Avenue, Asheville, N.C. 28801, 828-398-0177
Damon Hearne, Southeast Conservation Director
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