All posts by Eric Halloran

DRWTU Partner, Franklin Land Trust, Conserves Trout Habitat

Brookies like this one will benefit from the FLT purchase and preservation of the Gudell Property adjacent to Crowningshield.

The following press release from Franklin Land Trust was prepared by Melissa Patterson-Serrill, FLT Director of Community Outreach and Education:

Franklin Land Trust (FLT) recently acquired for conservation 154 acres in Heath abutting its 96-acre Crowningshield Conservation Area (CCA). The 154-acre parcel purchase – which took place on June 25th, 2020 from the Gudell Family – was supported by funding from the MA Dept of Fish and Game; local, state and national chapters of Trout Unlimited; the John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation; the William P. Wharton Trust; and Franklin Land Trust’s Heath Conservation Fund. Tom Curren, FLT Executive Director, is thrilled to see this project cross the finish line. “This is a fine example of FLT’s partnership with other organizations in pursuit of shared conservation goals.  We’re proud to expand here upon the work accomplished during decades of efforts by local volunteers, private groups, other non-profits, and governmental agencies.”   

FLT’s Crowningshield Conservation Area was originally purchased and protected in 2015 with the support of local and regional Trout Unlimited chapters. It is preserved permanently under a Conservation Restriction held by the MA Dept of Fish and Game. “This land protection project and the habitat restoration of the uplands and stream habitat in the North River West Branch is the result of an incredible long term partnership including Franklin Land Trust, Trout Unlimited, MassWildlife, private foundations and local residents,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Ron Amidon. “The conservation restriction we acquired ensures permanent protection of the land, access for hunting, fishing, hiking, and birding, and protection of one of the finest cold-water fisheries in the region.”  

CCA has over one mile of river frontage on West Branch Brook, a tributary of the North River and an important subwatershed of the Deerfield River for native brook trout. In their native range, wild brook trout are a valuable indicator species for the overall health of a river and its watershed. They require clean, cold water to thrive and have seen sharp population declines due to warming water temperatures, pollution, and loss of habitat. FLT’s partnership with Trout Unlimited offers a unique opportunity for those who care about fishing, climate change, and land conservation to take real and meaningful action. 

“Our partnership with the Franklin Land Trust goes beyond our local chapter,” said Michael Vito, president of the Deerfield River Watershed Trout Unlimited Chapter #349. Paul Beaulieu, president of the Mass-Rhode Island Trout Unlimited Council, notes “The Council, a number of Massachusetts TU chapters, and individual TU members from around the Commonwealth reached into their own pockets and generously contributed to this purchase. We even got a grant from TU National’s Cold-Water Land Conservation Fund.” Bill Pastuszek, Mass Representative to TU’s National Leadership Council, noted: “The West Branch of the North River is an important native brook trout stream in Massachusetts. We all want to see it protected. The diversity and breadth of support for this acquisition shows the importance associated with this effort to preserve and enhance this resource.”

The Deerfield TU chapter will now start planning conservation projects to help protect and enhance the West Branch’s cold-water fishery. “We’ll start doing an assessment of this new stretch of river and see what it needs,” Vito said. Fish assemblage, bank erosion prevention, fish habitat restoration and a macro invertebrate study have already been completed by Trout Unlimited, FLT and Cole Ecological, Inc. in the Crowningshield portion of the West Branch. 

The newly acquired 154-acre parcel abuts the original 96-acre CCA to the south of West Branch Brook, ensuring that both sides of this cold-water stream and the drainages that feed it are permanently protected. “FLT is thinking about land conservation on a watershed scale,” said FLT Head Land Steward Will Anderson. “Tributaries and headwaters like those found at Crowningshield Conservation Area and the new Gudell acquisition are fed by groundwater and travel through shaded forests, supplying important cold water to the mainstems within the watershed. This cold water is critical to many aquatic species facing warming temperatures due to climate change.”

“The Gudell acquisition was the last piece of a very large puzzle,” said Alain Peteroy, FLT’s Director of Land Conservation. The Gudell parcel connects CCA to a 60-acre Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary along its eastern border, and FLT recently conserved a small farm field, now owned by Heath Farmer Mike Freeman, that abuts the northern boundary of the CCA. The Freeman Farm produces organic beef, honey, and maple syrup and abuts 130 acres of privately conserved land on its northeastern boundary. Continuing north, the HO Cook State Forest offers an additional 918 acres of conserved land in the region. “This has been a continued process of building a significant conservation block, incorporating Sanders Brook and the West Branch of the North River,” said Peteroy. “We are looking at almost 500 acres of conserved land sitting next to over 900 acres of state forest land, all with tributaries that drain into the Deerfield River.” 

But as our rivers and streams face the impacts of climate change, land conservation is just one part of the solution. FLT, the Massachusetts Woodlands Institute (MWI), and Trout Unlimited are working to restore fish habitat by developing a new program called Forests for the Fish. This project is designed to enhance habitat for cold water fish by offering tools to forest landowners interested in improving fish habitat in their forest streams. “Private landowners – farms, families, organizations, and individuals – own over 2 million acres of forest in Massachusetts. This places the future of threatened species like native brook trout squarely in all of our hands,” said Emily Boss, MWI Executive Director. “Forests for the Fish will connect landowners who love and cherish their woodland streams with management resources and expertise.” To learn more about the Forests for the Fish program email info@masswoodlands.org

The Gudell parcel will be open to the public for hiking, fishing, birding, and hunting. Access to this newly acquired land will be through the trails at Crowningshield Conservation Area off West Branch Road. To learn more about the Crowningshield Conservation Area, and the Forests for the Fishprogram, visit www.franklinlandtrust.org

Telemetry Study Update

Despite Covid 19, our Trout Telemetry study continues through the efforts of one of our newest board members, Kevin Kaminsky. Kevin has been making 2-4 trips up and down the river every week to ensure that our data is uninterrupted. If you’d like to check on up-to-date information about the movements of our 29 tagged brown trout, click here. We are hoping to get our cadre of volunteers back on task soon. Watch this space for more info.

Data plotted on a map of the upper C&R section based upon a trial run of the mobile telemetry receiver, reveals the location of 30 brown trout with newly implanted transmitters.

DEP Denies Water Quality Certification to Brookfield

Adam Kautza from MA Fish and Wildlife joined us for the final day of the survey on March 19, 2018.

Citing documentation of the DRWTU Trout Spawning Studies, MA Department of Environmental Protection has denied the Water Quality Certification to Brookfield Power in the final phase of the relicensing of Fife Brook Dam and Bear Swamp Pumped Storage Facility. DEP will consider a new application that addresses MA Fish and Wildlife concerns regarding the impact of dam releases on wild fish and aquatic invertebrates such as threatened dragonflies.

You can read about it here: https://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20200323-5136

Telemetry Study Suspended

The following is an email message to telemetry study volunteers from Mike Vito, Chapter President:
All, 
As Governor Charlie Baker is  now advising for people to “shelter in place” we will postpone our telemetry study starting today (March 23rd)  until April 7th, following the governor’s timeline. I also spoke with a USGS biologist we are working with on this project and they are also suspending all of their own field activities in light of COVID-19. While our own study, being done one volunteer at a time, poses little threat;  I would rather be safe than sorry. The biologist also told me that the most recent data he looked at (last week) shows that the fish are still holding in place, likely due to the cold water temperatures. We have plenty of data already collected and with little fish movement expected over the next two weeks, we probably won’t miss any sudden mobility from the fish. . 
I’m sorry for any inconvenience but health and safety have to come first. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me. I will be working on a new schedule that will resume (hopefully) on April 7th. I will send it out the first week in April. Stay safe and healthy everyone, and I will be in touch soon. And again, any questions please send them my way. 
Sincerely, 
Mike Vito

DRWTU Chapter Meetings Suspended

Take a break!

Our joint meeting with the VT Connecticut River Valley Chapter scheduled for March 19 has been cancelled due to coronavirus concerns – we’ll try to reschedule for the fall. Trout Unlimited National is asking all chapters to refrain from holding meetings, and meetings of more than 25 people are banned in MA. We’ll resume our third Thursday of the month meetings when possible. Watch for emailed announcements on upcoming meetings.

In the meantime we encourage a cautious approach to all of our members. Social distancing can be observed (and usually is) on the river. If you are isolating yourself out of concern for the health of your family and friends, as many of us are, you might want to take a break from your screens and tie some flies and/or read some fly fishing literature.

Flies, Pies, and Lies

Flies, Pies and Lies a big success, no lie!

Save the date: Tie flies, eat pizza, quaff your favorite beverage and share fish stories Saturday, February 15, 2020 from 10AM to 4PM at the Deerfield Fly Shop annex 8 Elm Street, South Deerfield. The $20 entrance fee covers pizza and drinks, a spot at the tying table, access to some brilliant fly tyers, and gets you in a drawing for the door prize.

2020 Annual Dinner Sold Out!

Ted Castro Santos will discuss the ongoing Trout Telemetry Study at DRWTU’s Annual Dinner at the Deerfield Inn on February 22, 2020.

Thanks everybody for your support – sold out with half a week to go!
This year the Deerfield River Watershed Trout Unlimited Annual Dinner will be held at the Deerfield Inn in historic Deerfield on February 22. Tickets can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets by clicking here. Tickets @ $40.00 per person include hors d’oeuvres, three course meal and an after dinner presentation on the ongoing Trout Telemetry Study by Ted Castro Santos and Matt O’Donnell – our partners from the USGS Silvio Conte Anadramous Fish Laboratory. There will be a raffle as well as an auction, and a cash bar will be available. This is a great opportunity to support the Chapter, learn about this exciting study, catch up with fishing buddies, win some valuable fishing and non-fishing related items, and acknowledge the conservation efforts of a remarkable individual.

We’ll be presenting the DRWTU Conservation Award to Polly Bartlett, who has worked tirelessly on conservation in the area. Polly has been active in conservation for over 50 years. She founded the Deerfield River Watershed Association in the 90’s.

Seating is limited to 60 people and we are pleased to announce – we sold them all and then some!

Fly Tying for Beginners/Novices

Learn to tie flies like this soft hackle.

Free to DRWTU members! Beginning/Novice Fly Tying Course to be held 6:30-8:30 Wednesday nights at the Floodwaters Brewery at 40 State Street; Shelburne Falls MA. Classes will be held from January 22 – February 12, 2020. Floodwaters is on the Buckland side, just upstream from the Bridge of Flowers and West End Pub and downstream from the Eagles (where we meet every third Thursday for our chapter meeting). If you have a vise bring it, but if you don’t we’ll provide one for you to use. All materials And tools will be provided but please bring your own tools if you’ve got ‘em. Note: At the final class one lucky participant will take home a Regal Vise donated by Don Barnes!

The course will be taught by DRWTU member Steve LaValley, who has taught fly tying to hundreds of individuals over the course of his 30 year career as a commercial fly tier. He has been a featured tier at several regional fly fishing shows. He will be assisted by other DRWTU chapter members including Mike Didonna, Chris Jackson, Jack Shea, Eric Halloran, Kevin Parsons and Randy Prostak.

The chapter is grateful for the use of the Floodwaters Brewery space as the venue for this course. Thanks to Floodwaters owner and DRWTU member, Zack Livingston, who brews some great beer and has been very generous to the DRWTU chapter.

If you are not a member of DRWTU you can still participate in the course. The course fee of $35.00 will cover the cost of materials for the four week course. Alternatively, you can join DRWTU at the special rate of $17.50 for new members and get the course for free.

Register by sending an email to DeerfieldRiverTU@gmail.com. You can sign up for membership at the new member rate ($17.50) here. Or just show up at Floodwaters Brewery on January 22 at 6:30 with cash or check.

Embrace a Stream Challenge

DRWTU thanks 142 ‘unique donors’ for making the fundraising effort a huge success!

Click here to donate to the fund drive!

Thank you, thank you, thank you! The Deerfield River Watershed Chapter of Trout Unlimited (DRWTU) has been awarded thousands of dollars in prizes from Orvis and Trout Unlimited National because of members efforts to raise funds and because of our generous patrons, through the Embrace A Stream Challenge. The “Challenge” pitted our Chapter against 28 other local chapters nationwide that received Embrace a Stream grants, to raise even more money. Trout Unlimited has more than 400 regional chapters throughout the United States. Last year, DRWTU won the Challenge raising nearly $24,000. This year (2019) the chapter raised just under $11.5K through direct contributions to place second in both number of unique donors and amount of money raised. As a result DRWTU will get several thousand more in matching funds and prizes.

Ted Castro Santos (pictured here with a telemetry receiver) talked about the telemetry study with members and friends of DRWTU at the Floodwaters Brewery for the Embrace A Stream Challenge kick-off event.

DRWTU started the “Challenge” week with a kick-off party on Monday, November 4th at 6 pm at Floodwater Brewery, 40 State Street, Shelburne FallsFree hot dogs and bratwurst were served up by DRWTU volunteers.  People attending were encouraged to urge their friends to contribute to the online fundraising via text messaging and email. Matching funds are awarded daily in a host of categories, ranging from having the greatest number of small donations on a given day, to the largest.

“It’s really a lot of fun and a great time,” said Michael Vito, president of the DRWTU Chapter, recalling last year’s event.  “Even a $10 donation can stretch a lot further under the rules of this Challenge.” The Challenge starts November 4th and ends on November 11th.

The $2,500 grant and money raised through the challenge will be used to purchase additional radio transmitter “receiver” equipment as part of its Brown Trout Radio Telemetry study which started in early September. Partnering with biologists from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Silvio O. Conte Anadromous Fish Laboratory, in Turners Falls, and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife DRWTU volunteers have already begun tracking the daily movements of 30 brown trout all previously equipped with transmitters. You can view a map that displays up-to-date data on the trout we are tracking here https://ecosheds.org/dev/tame/ Special attention will now be given to the upcoming spawning season. The data collected will help determine the impacts of daily hydro-peaking – up and down – flows from Brookfield Power’s Fife Brook Dam and Bear Swamp hydroelectric operations on spawning trout. This year-long study is believed to be the first radio telemetry study of its kind in the nation. Check our Facebook and Instagram pages for more information about this important study.