Protecting fish, particularly brook trout native to New York state, is a key priority for supporters of the species as plans progress for opening a 248-acre nature preserve on the Dwaas Kill Creek.
Open-space planners and members of fishing groups, including the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, are also investigating ways to protect the cold-water fish as banks along area streams are modified for walkways or other public recreational use.
Jennifer Viggianni, the town’s open space coordinator, said before work begins at the Dwaas Kill Nature Preserve, a fisheries biologist will be brought in to gather data about existing fish colonies and whether conditions of the creek and its tributaries provide the right environment.
“The findings will lead us to consider appropriate land use along the streams and what we can do to protect fish in the future,” Viggianni said.
The Dwaas Kill is fed by tributaries snaking in from Jonesville, and then flows beneath the Northway toward Halfmoon in an easterly direction into the Anthony Kill, which connects down to the Hudson River. The Dwaas Kill Nature Preserve, on land acquired by the town in 2006, is bordered by Kinns, Pierce and Carlton roads.
There are active studies under way on how changes in climate and development along bodies of water are affecting native fish species. Cornell University scientists at the Adirondack Fishery Research program, funded in part by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, are studying conditions in lakes and streams throughout the Adirondacks that influence cold water fish like trout colonies.
“It’s vital to maintain natural conditions along stream sides such as stable banks for shade and vegetative cover,” Dan Josephson, research associate, said. “Even thermally efficient brook trout require cold water during hot summer months. When their habitat is compromised, they’ll head to larger watersheds in the Adirondacks, and there are now areas in New York state where the population has been totally relocated.”
Researchers are continuously monitoring temperatures of bodies of water across the state. Josephson said the ideal temperature for cold water fish is between 50 and 52-degrees, but many far exceed those limits.
“We’re concerned about all habitat alterations,” Josephson said. “Trout are very sensitive to changes in habitat, no matter how minor.”
Lori O’Connell, spokeswoman for the DEC, said even development built away from the shorelines is affecting fish populations.
“Development in general warms the streams,” O’Connell said. “There are also more hard surfaces like roads that change the way water is absorbed into both land and water.”
Before walking paths are put in place along the Dwaas Kill, organizers also hope to find out whether heritage trout, an original genetic species usually found in the Adirondacks, exists in area waters. Heritage trout are those not linked to fish physically stocked in waterways before fishing seasons.
“The heritage trout has been identified in seven lakes, and could be in some streams,” Josephson said. “It would be an interesting discovery to find them.”
Frank Berlin, of Jonesville, is involved in the plans for the nature preserve and has been keeping an eye on the streams behind homes in his town.
“I don’t see the fish that used to be here when I came with my kids,” Berlin said. “I see the streams rising up with run-off and then going down to the dams, and there aren’t the cool waters with a consistent flow anymore. Most people don’t notice this or think about the impact of development on local waters.”
O’Connell said while the DEC lacks staff and funds to individually monitor water conditions and fish populations, anyone noticing changes in local streams is encouraged to contact the regional offices via the Web site, www.dec.ny.gov
“If people notice a reduction in fish, they can call us,” O’Connell said. “We do keep track of calls and inquiries, and if we get enough we could add a particular stream into a survey project.”
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