2018 Conservation Project Plans Announced

OBTU’s 2018 conservation activities include financial and volunteer support for projects in both Wisconsin and Michigan in support of Trout Unlimited’s mission of conserving, protecting and restoring coldwater fisheries and their watersheds in the Midwest.

Our conservation financial commitments this year include Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort (TUDARE); Weister Creek restoration in Vernon County, WI; continued stream restoration work in Sparta, WI; and biological monitoring and survey work on the Coldwater and Dowagiac River watersheds in Michigan.

Volunteer support is needed for our May 19 and October macroinvertebrate studies on the Coldwater River Watershed in Alto, MI outside of Grand Rapids and a June 23 stream restoration work day in Sparta, WI.

“We plan to continue the important conservation work on our Chapter’s priority projects in support of the Wisconsin’s Driftless Area and Michigan’s Coldwater River watershed,” said Dave Carlson, Conservation Committee Chair.  “The Conservation Committee is also pursuing new opportunities ‘closer to home’, such as involvement with the Dowagiac River in Southwest Michigan which is only 90 miles from Chicago.”  Interested volunteers should contact Dave Carlson via email (dmcarlson@hotmail.com).

“Several work days are planned, which provide an opportunity for fun and friendship along with making a valuable contribution to stream conservation. As our projects are several hours from Chicago, we try to coordinate carpooling, lodging and fishing opportunities for interested members,” said Dave Carlson.

2018 Conservation Project Highlights

Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort (TUDARE) is a long-term initiative to protect, restore and enhance cold water rivers in the Driftless Area of southeast Minnesota, southwest Wisconsin, northeast Iowa, and northwest Illinois. TUDARE relies greatly on the work and passion of TU volunteers. OBTU’s support is in the form of money donated to directly support TUDARE general operations.

Weister Creek is a great example of a stream restoration in the Driftless Area supported by OBTU. For the past several years OBTU along with a wide range of other organizations, have provided financial support for this project within the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. It is a big project with a total length of 2.6 miles that in addition to stream improvement provides habitat for hunting and is a demonstration site for many nongame wildlife habitat practices. Work on the Phase 4 section is well under way; with in-stream work to be completed this summer. Fund raising has begun for the Phase 5 final section, which is expected to be completed next year.  Read the interview with project manager Paul Hayes for more information on the Weister Creek restoration plan which was originally published in the OBTU Flyer newsletter.

Other stream restoration projects in the Driftless Area encompass work to reduce soil erosion and phosphorus discharge near the city of Sparta, WI. Since 2014, OBTU has provided both volunteer manpower and financial support that has been leveraged with local government funds. This year, we will continue stream restoration heading north on Beaver Creek just outside of Sparta. A work day to build LUNKER structures will be scheduled for Saturday, June 23. This project will provide an opportunity to get together for some fishing in the heart of the Driftless Area before and after our work.

Conservation activities in Michigan will be focused on the Coldwater River watershed near Grand Rapids and the Dowagiac River near Niles. Two macroinvertebrate survey work days will be part of our ongoing cooperative effort with the Coldwater River Watershed Council (CRWC) that began 13 years ago. Members collect stream samples from designated sites, then count and classify the aquatic insects and various macroinvertebrates found. By classifying and trending the population data, the CRWC gets an idea of how stream health is evolving. Volunteers are encouraged to plan some fishing on the Coldwater River watershed or other rivers in the area such as the Rouge, Muskegon or Pere Marquette. OBTU is represented on the Coldwater River Watershed Council by Marvin Strauch.

For more background information on the Coldwater River Watershed macroinvertebrate surveys, read the interview with Aaron Snell, Restoration Biologist of Streamside Ecological Services, who developed the study’s structure on the OBTU website.

The Dowagiac River represents a relatively new stream restoration focus for OBTU. The Dowagiac is one of the closest rivers to our chapter with potential for a high-quality coldwater fishery. The planned removal of the Pucker Street Dam in Niles, Michigan this summer will open up the entire river system to upstream migrations of steelhead, salmon, and other fish species.  Conservation efforts on the Dowagiac River are driven by MEANDRS (Meeting Ecological and Agricultural Needs within the Dowagiac River System), of which OBTU is a Board member. Volunteers will be needed to help with numerous monitoring and habitat activities this year. More information will be provided once the date for a training session is set.  (Read the interview with project leader Marcy Hamilton—Senior Planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission—for more information on the Niles dam removal and Dowagiac River restoration plan which was originally published in the OBTU Flyer newsletter).

An exciting new initiative this year is to begin developing coldwater habitat and fishing access in the Illinois Driftless Area. TUDARE and its partners were recently awarded a large grant from the USDA’S Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that covers areas that have not been served in the past, including part of northwest Illinois. The grant will provide funding for restoration projects for the period from 2019-2023. This funding will cover a significant share of individual project costs, with matching dollars—usually around 20-35% of the costs—provided by state or county agencies, foundations, businesses, individuals, TU and other conservation nonprofits. Activities in 2018 will be focused on planning, bringing together local organization and agency partners and identifying landowners who are interested in accommodating a restoration project.

2018 Volunteers Needed
Volunteers are needed to make these 2018 commitments happen. The Conservation Committee is looking for members who are interested in leading or supporting an event. If you’d like to be on the Conservation Committee, email Dave Carlson at dmcarlson@hotmail.com. The Committee meets by phone conference calls each month, so location should not be an issue for ongoing participation. Identify landowners who would be interested.

The financial support of conservation efforts is made possible by the fundraising efforts of the chapter. Watch for additional information on fundraising activities in forthcoming newsletters.

The planned removal of the Pucker Street Dam in Niles, Michigan this summer will open up the entire river system to upstream migrations of steelhead, salmon, and other fish species.