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About the Partnership: Rather than focus on improvements in one specific stream, the Upper Gunpowder Watershed Brook Trout Conservation Partnership takes a watershed-wide approach to habitat conservation. Led by MDTU board member Scott Scarfone, the project encompasses some 60 miles of stream across 48 square miles. Adam Nabors spearheads the field logistics of temperature logger deployment, retrieval, and data collection. Conservation Chair Brian Bernstein and many other MDTU board members and volunteers also work closely with the project.
Background: In the fall of 2014, the Maryland Chapter of Trout Unlimited (MDTU) convened a meeting at the National Aquarium, inviting interested parties to explore the possibility of establishing a brook trout conservation effort in the eastern part of Maryland. Organizations represented included MDTU, DNR’s Inland Fisheries Management Division, and the National Aquarium. At the initial meeting, DNR biologists led the group in an analysis of multiple sub-watersheds in the Gunpowder basin, highlighting each area’s future potential to support thriving, interconnected brook trout habitat. Forest cover, land use practices, and the amount of impervious surface area are all key factors that impact a watershed’s ability to sustain healthy populations of brook trout. The Upper Gunpowder watershed, partially within the Prettyboy Reservoir watershed, was identified as the sub-watershed with the most potential for a successful conservation and possibly restoration effort.
The Upper Watershed is, by Maryland Department of Natural Resources estimates home to about 25% of the extant brook trout population in Maryland. This is second only to the Savage River Watershed in Western Maryland. Data on the extent of brook trout and reliable information on stream ecology is scant. Only a few of the streams have been surveyed to determine the existence of brook trout. Alan Heft, Maryland DNR, identified this area as a prime location for preservation and restoration. He points out that the Upper Gunpowder Watershed has the least amount of developed land, most heavy existing tree cover, most known and intact brook trout populations, and the least amount of streams dominated by brown trout or in a location that has the potential to be taken over by brown trout.
Scott Scarfone, board member of MDTU and an avid small stream fisher for brookies, began exploring small tributaries above Pettyboy Reservoir in 2013. He first approached Maryland DNR inland fisheries seeking data only to learn that DNR focused most of its brook trout efforts on Western Maryland’s larger and better documented populations of brook trout. Next he contacted the environmental departments of Baltimore and Carroll County governments. All were making an effort, yet action was uncoordinated. As the circle of contacts grew, Scott began assembling a team of concerned citizen groups and agencies interested in brook trout conservation. The team has grown to include the following organizations, among others:
- Maryland Chapter of Trout Unlimited
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Inland Fisheries Management Division
- Baltimore County
- Carroll County
- Prettyboy Watershed Association
- Gunpowder Valley Conservancy
- National Aquarium
- Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture
- National Fish and Wildlife Service – Chesapeake Bay Workgroup
In addition to connecting with allied partner organizations or agencies who have overlapping interests such as DNR’s Maryland Biological Stream Survey, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Baltimore and Carroll Counties, the group has:
- Developed a preliminary 20 Year work plan outline.
- Secured commitment of the Director of MD Fisheries for the project.
- Compiled existing data sets from various agencies in one location.
- Obtained a TU Embrace-a-Stream grant for acquisition of temperature loggers and development and distribution of an informational brochure.
- Designed informational brochure and distributed to each landowner in the watershed.
- Deployed/retrieved 35+ temperature loggers each spring/fall to collect stream temperature data.
- Electroshocked several tributaries for brook trout population counts and tagged trout for movement monitoring.
Working with the North Atlantic Aquatic Community Collaborative, 50 culverts in the watershed were assessed under a USFWS Culvert Assessment grant. Team members were certified to follow USFWS assessment protocols. Scott Scarfone has shared presentations about the project at the TU Southeast Regional Meeting and has also presented to several local TU chapters.