As the only native trout in North Carolina, brook trout is a well-loved fish, but it’s fallen on some hard times. Competition from introduced rainbow, brown and genetically different northern brook trout has taken its toll, as have acid rain and habitat fragmentation from road construction and land development.
An effort by the U.S. Forest Service has sought to turn that trend around. Since 2007, the Forest Service has worked to enhance brook trout habitat at four specific sites in the Nantahala National Forest.
Seven miles of fragmented habitat have been restored, focusing on sections of creek that were encased in large pipes, known as culverts, when being routed under roads. Restoration work has replaced the fully-encased, pipe-style culverts with new bottomless arch culverts — allowing a continuation of the natural stream bottom when passing under roads.
The Forest Service is also experimenting with limestone to help moderate pH fluctuations. The effort has seen early success, but the Forest Service will continue monitoring for two years.
The project has been partially funded by the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is also helping with the continued monitoring, and key funding came from settlement agreements with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Duke Energy.