Community | Conservation

Great Lakes Newsletter, Winter 2019

Trout Unlimited’s efforts in the Great Lakes region continue to expand and 2018 was a big year for accomplishments in both the field and in advocacy efforts. TU staff and volunteers worked on dozens of major stream restoration, protection and reconnection projects in the region. TU’s active involvement in important issues helped move the needle on issues ranging from risks of invasives and expanding aquaculture, to critical funding sources such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Here’s a look at a few of the highlights from the past year. 

Northern Michigan 

It was another active year for Trout Unlimited Great Lakes Stream Restoration staff working in Northern Michigan trout streams.  

In 2018, five road culvert improvement projects were completed reconnecting approximately 19 miles of high-quality coldwater stream habitat. TU worked in partnership with USDA Forest Service staff in the Huron-Manistee National Forest, local conservation organizations, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, local road commissions and many others to complete the projects.  

TU and partners are working towards improving connectivity and habitat in the upper stretches of the Manistee River, a candidate area for the Grayling reintroduction initiative, as well as in tributaries of the main branch Manistee River and the Muskegon River.   

Among the road culvert improvement projects completed this past year, a severe road-stream crossing was improved on Big Cannon Creek, a tributary to the Upper Manistee River that is a potential area for the state’s Grayling reintroduction initiative.  

Working with USDA Forest Service staff in the Huron-Manistee National Forest, TU field technicians have been inventorying and managing wood accumulations — such as channel-spanning trees and log jams — in trout streams to maximize habitat benefits and provide safe passage for recreationists.  

The work is done by utilizing a mechanical grip hoist to reposition trees and woody material in the stream channel. Work sites in 2018 were in the Little Manistee River, Pine River and Pere Marquette River.  

TU staff also worked with the Forest Service on clean-up efforts after severe storms in August blew down so many trees that some popular stretches of the Pere-Marquette River were impassable.  

Volunteers continue to play a big role in TU’s efforts in the region. The USDA-funded Trout and Trees project aims to educate the public about the importance of the connection between streams and their adjacent (riparian) forests. It will include native riparian plantings and in-stream habitat restoration.  

TU volunteers lent a big hand with native plantings and conducted habitat surveys and temperature monitoring in the Little Manistee, Big Manistee, Pine and Pere-Marquette River watersheds.  

Additionally, TU volunteers assisted in invasive species monitoring across the state helping to track and monitor populations of the relatively new invasive species, the New Zealand Mud Snail. 

TU staff is looking forward to a busy 2019, including implementation of a bank restoration project on the Manistee River downstream of Tippy Dam, five additional road culvert projects, and “Trout and Trees” engagement work. 

For more information on Trout Unlimited’s efforts in Northern Michigan, contact Jeremy Geist at jeremy.geist@tu.org. 

Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative 

2018 marked another influential year for TU’s Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative in Michigan. 

Stream Girls, a watershed education and recreation program for Girl Scouts, launched this year exposing middle school aged girls to STEM and fly fishing. During weekend camps, Girl Scouts assessed a community stream, studied its flow, sampled macroinvertebrates, journaled about their experiences, tied a fishing fly, and even learned to cast and fish with a fly rod.  Stream Girls will include four camps in 2019, with a goal of reaching an additional 150 Girl Scouts. 

Thanks to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Trout Unlimited staff had the opportunity to partner with students at Parkside Elementary School to help them care for their local trout stream, Rum Creek. In the spring, 150 students planted a 3,000-square-foot rain garden to capture runoff and protect Rum Creek. This rain garden will be an outdoor learning opportunity for students, faculty, and parents for years to come.  

Trout Unlimited also helped students connect to the agricultural community, launching Seasons on the Farm, an agricultural and environmental education program for middle school students. During the 2018-19 school year, 230 students are making seasonal visits to Plainsong Farm to learn about how water conservation plays a role in farming and the important impact that can have on water quality.  

Through a collaborative effort with local and state partners, Trout Unlimited formed the Rogue Forest Cooperative to engage, educate, and empower Rogue Forest landowners to actively manage their forests to ensure it is providing the utmost benefit to local water resources and wildlife as well as meeting their personal goals.  

In 2019, with U.S. Forest Service funding, project staff will host a series of three workshops for forest landowners to learn about resources, programs, and funding available to help them achieve their goals for their forest as well as understand its importance to water quality. Staff will also begin a watershed-scale streamside tree planting project that will result in 17,000 trees planted along coldwater streams over the next two years.  

For more information on TU’s Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative, contact program director Nichol DeMol at nichol.demol@tu.org or program coordinator Jamie Vaughan at jamie.vaughan@tu.org or visit our Facebook Page at facebook.com/RogueTU and Instagram account @troutunlimitedrogueriver 

Northern Wisconsin  

In Northern Wisconsin, TU had a busy year on public lands of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, as well as on other waters in the region.   

TU was a partner in a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources project in Wabeno to improve trout fishing adjacent to the town park and elementary school. The goal is to make the trout fishing better, especially adjacent to the town park’s barrier free fishing platforms built by the Friends of Wabeno.    

project on the Popple River replaced a culvert, reconnecting habitat and eliminating the need for paddlers to portage around the obstacle. The new, large box culvert reconnected more than 8 miles of coldwater habitat.   

Volunteers played a key role in TU’s efforts in the region. Among the projects, Wisconsin River Valley TU used a $2,000 grant from the Trout and Salmon Federation to improve brook trout habitat and angling opportunities on Newman Creek, within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.   

Laura MacFarland, who managed TU’s restoration efforts in the Northern Wisconsin region, left TU in November 2018 to join the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. MacFarland joined the TU team in 2016 and excelled in building the partnerships that are so critical to completing restoration, protection and reconnection work.  

Chris Collier joined the TU staff in January as the new Great Lakes stream restoration manager in Wisconsin. Collier, a native of the Great Lakes region, has been working as a conservation manager for the Black Swamp Conservancy in Ohio. 

For more information on TU’s stream restoration efforts in Northern Wisconsin, contact Chris Collier at chris.collier@tu.org. 

Great Lakes Advocacy 

In 2018, TU staff and volunteers continued to advocate on an array of issues that affect the Great Lakes Region, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and for barrier improvements at Brandon Rd. Lock and Dam in Illinois to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. 

In the FY 2019 Presidential Budget, the administration proposed nearly eliminating the GLRI for the second year in a row. TU members and staffers, along with our partner organizations, were quick to react and began outreach to the Great Lakes congressional delegation about the important role that GLRI plays in restoration efforts of our coldwater resources. With outstanding support from Great Lakes legislators, the GLRI was fully funded at $300 million in the FY19 Budget. 

Throughout 2018, the Land and Water Conservation Fund — a program that takes a portion of off-shore oil drilling revenues and reinvests those dollars into conservation and public spaces — faced expiration, leaving its 55-year legacy hanging in the balance. Unfortunately, the House and Senate were unable to pass bills before the expiration deadline and it has yet to be resurrected. TU will continue to work in this new Congressional session to get the program authorized and funded once again, so it can get back to protecting and restoring the places we care about most

The Brandon Road Lock and Dam plan continues to move through the Army Corps of Engineer’s process and is reaching its final stages before it is officially reported to Congress. The latest iteration of the plan includes complex noise, bubble curtains, an engineered channel, an electric barrier and a flushing lock with a price tag of $777.8 million. Once reported to Congress, the plan will need to be authorized and can then begin to receive funding to start the pre-construction engineering and design.