Community | TU Costa 5 Rivers | Youth

College group and TU team up for brook trout in Maryland

Members of Frostburg State University's ECHOSTARS group joined Trout Unlimited staffers for a riparian planting effort in Garrett County, Md., in early October 2020.
Dan Zazworsky photos

By Morgan Stum 

Trout Unlimited is working with Frostburg State University’s AmeriCorps program to restore brook trout habitat in headwater streams in western Maryland.

On Oct. 3, 2020, nine members of Frostburg State’s ECHOSTARS program joined conservation staff from TU’s Western Maryland Initiative to plant 100 potted trees alongside a small Savage River headwater.  

ECHOSTARS is an acronym for Empowering Communities, Helping Others, Service Through Action, Resources and Sustainability. The group is a university division of AmeriCorps where, through volunteerism in local communities, students receive housing scholarships.   

A group of people standing on top of a grass covered field

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Members of the ECHOSTARS plant a red spruce sapling.

While most members confessed to having never seen a brook trout, they were eager to learn about the species’ need for cold, clean water and to make a connection between their volunteer efforts and the landscape-scale benefits associated with intact riparian forests.   

Despite a long day of digging in rocky, unforgiving soil, several of the students described the experience as a unique service opportunity and requested that TU reach out again for help in the future. Without a doubt, TU will take them up on the offer.   

The Saturday tree planting event was a final component in TU’s successful efforts to assist a Maryland farmer in restoring about 1,000 feet of headwater stream on his property.  

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TU staff Seth Moessinger (right) and AmeriCorps member Morgan Stum (left) demonstrate proper tree-planting techniques.

In June, TU’s Mid-Atlantic conservation crew installed roughly 2,000 feet of livestock exclusion fence and constructed three armored cattle crossings.  

With fencing installed, the newly planted trees will grow without disturbance from cattle and, once established, will stabilize the stream’s banks and reduce water temperatures through increased canopy cover.  

Farmers in training with newly installed livestock exclusion fence and armored crossing visible in the background. 

In Maryland’s largest stronghold for Eastern brook trout, restoration efforts such as these are key to maintaining population resiliency in the face of both climate and land-use changes. 

A group of people standing on top of a grass covered field

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The crews planted 100 trees along the stream.

TU’s Western Maryland Initiative is headed by TU staffer Seth Moessinger and aided by AmeriCorps member Morgan Stum, who are both Frostburg State University alumni. TU’s ongoing partnership with the university and its students is a prime example of grassroots efforts taking place across the country, where volunteers continue to play an integral role in TU’s mission of cold water conservation. 

Morgan Stum is a past TU 5 Rivers club president and is currently serving Trout Unlimited’s Western Maryland Conservation Initiative through the Frostburg State University A STAR! in Western Maryland AmeriCorps program.