Conservation Community

Trout and Trees: restoring Michigan’s streambanks

By Matthias Bonzo

Last year TU began to implement a project we’re calling “Trout and Trees.”

Funded by a grant from the USDA State and Private Forestry – Landscape Scale Restoration Initiative, the project seeks to improve near stream (riparian) habitats coupled with instream habitat work to provide as complete restoration to a degraded site as possible.  

Work sites are carefully selected and must show a need for both areas of restoration. The riparian restoration is usually planting native trees, shrubs and grasses, often in areas when landowners mow up to the edge of the river or areas of erosion that need stabilization. 

Instream components of this grant can include positioning of trees to provide habitat and/or cover, installing bundles of brush in unnaturally widened areas of the stream.  

Before these improvements take place, a survey profile of the stream is completed in order to best understand the hydrology of the stream and to know where to best place the wood in the stream. 

This grant also allows for an incredible level of volunteer participation. 

Riparian plantings are a great way to get the community involved. They are easy for almost anyone to participate in due to the nature of the work.  

An excellent example of that came this past summer on a project site in Muskegon County. The site was a former high-fence deer operation where the deer had browsed the vegetation down to nothing along the stream. A large group of volunteers planted nearly 3,000 plants along the banks of a small creek. The project will continue in 2020 with instream restoration work.

Matthias Bonzo is a project coordinator for Trout Unlimited in the Great Lakes region. He can be reached at

By Mark Taylor. A native of rural southern Oregon, Mark Taylor has lived in Virginia since serving a stint as a ship-based naval officer in Norfolk. He joined the TU staff in 2014 after a 20-year run as a newspaper journalist, the final 16 as the outdoors editor of the Roanoke Times. A graduate of Northwestern University, he lives in Roanoke with his wife and, when they're home from college, his twin daughters.