Local Community Helps Improve Stream-side Habitat on the Willowemoc 

Volunteers help plant trees along Willowemoc Creek at the Catskill Fly Fishing Museum and Center.

By Tracy Brown 

In celebration of the stunning Catskill fall, volunteers from the communities of Livingston Manor, Roscoe and Walton, N.Y., along with members of Trout Unlimited, recently gathered on the banks of the Willowemoc River to plant trees.  

“Fall is the perfect time of year for planting,” explained Jeff Foster, president of the local TU Chapter.  “The plants that we plant along the banks of the Willowemoc will grow to form the canopy that will shade and cool the creek, which is ideal for the native and wild trout that live in these waters.” 

The Beaverkill and Willowemoc are iconic trout fisheries that draw anglers from across the Northeast.  TU is working to improve trout habitat and boost populations of wild fish in the watershed.  

The rivers and their tributaries provide important spawning and rearing habitat for native and wild trout in the Upper Delaware River watershed.   

Several years ago TU and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, completed a bank stabilization project at the center designed to enhance instream habitat as well as to protect the Center’s fishing pond that was being inundated by the river during high flows.  

“Restoration projects are great opportunities to engage the local community in conservation,” explained John Kovach, managing director of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center.  

To date, TU’s work in the Willowemoc and Beaverkill watershed has focused on habitat improvements as well as the assessment and replacement of road stream crossings that are a barrier to fish, and a flood or maintenance issue for the local Town.  We have replaced undersized culverts in the Beaverkill watershed, reconnecting over 5 miles of high-quality spawning habitat. More projects are planned on the Beaverkill in 2019.   

TU’s attention has continued into the Willowemoc watershed, thanks to the generous support from the Goyanes Family Foundation. In the Upper Willowemoc we have surveyed hundreds of road stream crossings and identified habitat reconnection and restoration projects to boost spawning productivity in tributary streams. 

Local and out of town support, including volunteer efforts like the recent tree planting project, is critical to the success of TUs work.  

“Many New York City TU Chapter members regularly fish the Beaverkill and Willowemoc. That’s why we came up here to help today, and why we planted another hundred trees at the Horse Brook site back in May,” explained David Kearford, NYC TU Chapter member. “We’re looking forward to participating in more conservation projects in the Catskills.” 

TU’s restoration work in the Upper Willowemoc will provide many additional opportunities for the community to engage in local conservation work. 

If you are interested in hearing more about our work in the Catskills and learning about upcoming volunteer opportunities, Click HERE to be added to our Catskill email list. 

Tracy Brown is the restoration manager for Trout Unlimited’s Northeast Coldwater Habitat Program in Connecticut and New York. 

By Mark Taylor.