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Warner River Watershed Conservation Project

Warner River ProjectThank you for your interest in the project. This webpage contains some background information about this project, for more project details about current information and volunteer opportunities, please visit the project blog.

 

2008 and 2009 Electrofishing Studies in the Andrew Brook and Upper Warner River Watersheds

 

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department studied fish communities in the Andrew Brook Watershed in 2008 and the Upper Warner River Watershed in 2009. These surveys were conducted before this collaborative partnership was formed. Since then, electrofishing index sites have been established in these two watersheds. These locations will be periodically sampled to detect any trends in changes to the fish aquatic macroinvertebrate community. Wild brook trout were documented in all 8 survey locations within the Andrew Brook Watershed and 14 of the 21 survey locations within the Upper Warner River Watershed.

 

2012 Lower and Upper Warner River & Andrew Brook Subwatershed Habitat AssessmentsWarner River Project

 

Over a two-week period in June 2012, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, with the aid of the local volunteers, Basil Woods TU members, and Warner Conservation Commission members, led the search for wild brookies in the many small tributaries of the Lower Warner River Watershed. Brook trout were inventoried and habitat assessments conducted. In addition to helping with the electroshocking used to identify resident fish, volunteers learned how to conduct water quality testing (pH, dissolved oxygen, and water temperature) and sample aquatic macroinvertebrates (including mayfly and dragonfly nymphs and caddis larvae) which are used as indicators of habitat conditions and water quality. Basil Woods TU further facilitated surveys by coordinating volunteers and leading the collection of water quality data. More than 20 volunteers put in long days of hard work. It was both fun and fascinating to see what such small streams hold.

 

Warner River Project

 

Without exception, the volunteers involved with this work not only added to the value of the project, but also got tremendous personal satisfaction from the work. We were all encouraged by the results which indicated high water quality and presence of wild trout in two-thirds of the survey locations. One of the most surprising findings occurred on the campus of Kearsarge Regional High School where 60 wild trout were found in a short stretch of stream between the two driveways. This provided a valuable opportunity to engage the school staff in using it as an educational tool (e.g. water quality monitoring, watershed mapping and land use assessment, and aquatic resource studies). The following year the school adopted the Trout in the Classroom program which engages students in raising brook trout and studying their watershed for the best habitat to release them. Additionally, the results of the first year’s surveys were also well received by the Warner Conservation Commission. The positive interest in the watershed led to the Commission to initiate the nomination process required for the Warner River to be approved as a Designated River within the NH Rivers Management and Protection Program (RMPP).

 

2013 Lane River Subwatershed Habitat Assessment

 

In subsequent years the partners have built upon the success of the first year. In 2013, a second Warner River subwatershed, the Lane River Watershed, was surveyed, completing the watershed-wide baseline fish distribution surveys for the entire Warner River Watershed. Basil Woods TU coordinated with the project partners to organize and lead the volunteers for the habitat surveys and collection of macroinvertebrates and water quality data.

 

2014-2015 Continued Watershed Habitat & Stream-Road (Culvert) Crossing Assessments

 

Warner River ProjectIn 2014 and 2015, with basic trout survey results in hand for all the Warner River Subwatersheds, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and Basil Woods TU focused on conducting stream-road crossing surveys in order to complete our understanding of the health of the watershed. Culverts placed at elevations higher than that of a stream bed are habitat barriers to brook trout and other aquatic species, preventing migration throughout the variety of habitats that exists in the watershed. Brook trout are then unable to retreat to cooler headwater streams during hot summer months or reach critical spawning grounds in fall months when low-flow stream conditions exist.

 

In early June 2014, two stream crossing assessment training sessions were held by New Hampshire Fish and Game for almost 20 volunteers. Basil Woods TU then took responsibility for leading the surveys and collecting the data within the Lower Warner River subwatershed. Collected stream-road crossing information was reported to NHF&G and incorporated into a state-wide database.

 

Interest and participation in this project continued to grow in 2015 where efforts were primarily focused on assessing stream crossings in the Lane River subwatershed. Basil Woods TU volunteers alone put in over three hundred hours in the field – and an additional one hundred hours for administration, planning, and sorting through data sheets. Overall, volunteers have now donated well over a thousand hours of their time to this project. Our outreach effort to increase community awareness and recruit volunteers has been an important component of this project. By distributing copies of TU’s 2nd Edition of My Healthy Stream – A Handbook for Streamside Owners, giving local project presentations, maintaining a presence at various community events and recruiting volunteers to assist with surveys, volunteers and local citizens are acquiring a more intimate understanding of the importance of wild brook trout and the issues that limit the species proliferation. In recognizing that our beautiful wild brookies are marker species for determining our watershed health, we are collectively becoming more educated, active stewards for protecting this watershed’s cold water habitat and high water quality.

 

2016 Stream Crossing Assessment & Outreach Campaign

 

Basil Woods TU, in partnership with New Hampshire Fish and Game, received a Trout Unlimited Embrace-a-Stream grant in 2016. This funding will be used to hire a seasonal employee to help direct stream crossing assessments in the remaining subwatersheds as well as assist with a landowner outreach campaign. During the first year of this campaign, landowners who own property along wild brook trout streams within the town of Warner will be contacted and invited to attend an informational meeting about the importance of good water quality and making land use decisions that consider aquatic ecosystems. These landowners will also be encouraged to sign up for site visits where they can learn about the fish and aquatic macroinvertebrates present while New Hampshire Fish and Game and Basil Woods TU can provide suggestions to protect, restore, and enhance stream habitats. This project is expected to expand to other communities in the watershed in future years.

 

Resources

 

 

Project Goals:

 

  • Protect - This project seeks to ensure the sustainability of wild brook trout by fostering local landowner and citizen stewardship and implementing sound conservation measures.  Potential brook trout protection opportunities will be identified and result in a list of parcels where landowners are supportive of various protection projects on their property.  Through landowner site visits, subsequent reports and local conservation education we will increase landowner awareness resulting in a higher level of appreciation of brook trout, cold-water stream habitat and water quality.  Landowners will be encouraged to designate riparian areas of streams into some form of protective easement.  The Warner Conservation Commission has complimented these efforts by initiating the process to nominate the Warner River into the state’s Rivers Management and Protection Program.
  • Reconnect - This project works to identify stream crossings that function as fish (and other aquatic species) barriers throughout the watershed.  The collected data will be coupled with fish data to prioritize stream crossing replacements.  This information will be promoted to relevant staff at the town level.
  • Restore - This project will identify potential restoration opportunities and will result in a list of parcels where landowners are supportive of various restoration and enhancement projects on their property.
  • Sustain -This project will result in enhanced wild brook trout habitat and as more sustainable Warner River Watershed. By exposing, educating and engaging landowners, community members and students in our activities, we will sustain the benefits of cold water fisheries conservation.