Contributing to Department of Agriculture Initiative
BY HENRY QUINLAN, ASHLAND FWCO
basin. Credit: Jason Ross, USFWS
Wisconsin’s Lake Superior region was selected as a key area of the country to invest millions of dollars in water quality protection and wildlife habitat enhancement efforts. The Department of Agriculture’s initiative, known as the Chief’s Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership selected areas across the country to build on existing projects that benefited from strong partnerships and cooperative efforts among multiple federal, state, tribal and local natural resources agencies, private and public land owners, academia, and non-governmental organizations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a leader in many of the region's existing partnerships through the Ashland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (Ashland FWCO) and Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge.
substrate. Credit: Chuck Basset, U.S. Forest Service
This project, known as the Wisconsin Lake Superior Landscape Restoration Partnership (Partnership) with an outreach campaign at: http://www.mylakesuperiornorthwoods.org/, will improve water quality and restore critical spawning habitat for brook trout by reducing sedimentation and stabilizing flow regimes, remove in-stream barriers to fish movement, increase water infiltration by reconnecting floodplains and restoring wetlands, and reduce phosphorus in surface water runoff. Other species to benefit from the Partnership are golden-winged warblers, Kirtland warblers and sharp-tailed grouse. Forest conservation practices will improve habitat for these species and also result in reduced wildfire risk on tribal and other lands in the project area.
The brook trout team, comprised of federal, state, county, tribal and fishery biologists and watershed association members, has been charged to select areas for brook trout habitat enhancement, identify habitat restoration practices, conduct landowner site visits to identify habitat issues and restoration options, and develop metrics to measure progress and success.
The team used a Strategic Habitat Conservation approach to identify key areas to focus habitat protection and restoration activities within the region. Our strategy incorporated models of brook trout status and distribution and future climate change water temperature projections; agency actions such as management plans and fishing regulations; watershed association involvement, and fish community ecological interactions in cold water streams. Through this process each of the 105 watersheds in the region was scored and ranked. Landowners located in watersheds with high priority for brook trout protection and restoration have been contacted to inform them of agency funding available to support private land habitat restoration projects and applications for funding are being received by participating agencies.
Henry Quinlan, Assistant Project Leader at Ashland FWCO, leads the Partnership’s brook trout team efforts to identify and prioritize areas for brook trout habitat enhancement. Ashland FWCO Fishery Biologist, Jason Ross, utilizes his data management and Geographic Information Science skills to analyze and map priority brook trout areas for evaluation. Both individuals conduct landowner site visits to contribute to the Partnership. Check out the effort at: http://www.mylakesuperiornorthwoods.org/