Old timers say fishing on the Batten Kill, one of the most famous brown trout streams in North America, isn't what it used to be. Creel surveys conducted by the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife from 1994 to 1999 confirmed this observation, documenting a decline in the number of catchable size brown trout of 54%. But why?
Beginning in 2000, the interagency Batten Kill Study Team looked for answers. Research into several possible stressors concluded in 2005, with the finding: "Of all the possible causes for the brown trout population decline investigated by the Batten Kill Study Team, the most compelling finding is that of there being inadequate fish cover in the river." (Batten Kill Trout Management Plan, 2007-12, by Kenneth Cox, Fisheries Biologist, dated January 8, 2006.)
Habitat Restoration on the Batten Kill
Photo: USFS GMNF
Beginning in 1994, BCCD served as project coordinator for several habitat restoration projects on the Batten Kill, and beginning in 2008, as permit coordinator for projects led by the Batten Kill Watershed Alliance. Early work focused on stabilizing stream banks using natural channel design techniques, and on restoring riparian buffers. In recent years, providing in-stream cover and shelter has become primary.
The habitat restoration project team has included the Batten Kill Watershed Alliance, Central Vermont Public Service, landowners, Southwestern Vermont Trout Unlimited, The Orvis Company, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service Partners for Fish & Wildlife, USFS Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife, and many volunteers. As of 2015, the team had implemented in-stream restoration projects at fourteen locations, from Manchester to Kelly Stand to near the New York state line.
In the autumn of 2014, BCCD and the Batten Kill Watershed Alliance, with help from the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center’s Forestry program and young people from the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, undertook our most ambitious riparian buffer planting project to date. The team planted 360 containerized native trees and shrubs in five locations on one property, for a total of 0.9 acres of new streamside buffer. The plantings are protected from a herd of dairy cattle, summer residents of the property, by an electric fence.