Local community helps improve streamside habitat on the Willowemoc

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 place 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 Beaverkill and Willowemoc 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 (below) 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, please subscribe to our Catskill email list.

Tracy Brown is Trout Unlimited’s northeastern restoration coordinator. She is based in Connecticut.

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.