Vermont's fisheries biologists participate in environmental impact review of projects that could negatively impact fish habitat and fish populations, as well as implement management actions to improve and enhance aquatic communities.
Fisheries biologists actively protect aquatic habitat by participating in:
- Regulatory proceedings, providing direct input to protect aquatic habitats on individual development projects through Act 250, Section 248, Stream Alteration, Dam Safety, hydroelectric relicensing, water withdrawals, etc.
- Developing or influencing policies, procedures and practices affecting aquatic habitats such as:
- Stream Alteration General Permit – this permit regulates instream practices on perennial streams.
- Vermont River Management Standard Practices – incorporating aquatic habitat protection measures within standard practiced for common instream activities.
- Riparian Protection Guidance – establishes riparian protection recommendations for state lands and Act 250/Section 248 projects.
- AOP Guidelines – developing engineering design guidelines for Aquatic Organism Passage at road stream crossings which have been incorporated into state regulations and implemented as standard practice for private, municipal and state projects.
- Hydropower Violations Enforcement – establishes protocols for timely response to reports of environmentally damaging and illegal incidents and activities at hydro power facilities.
Aquatic Habitat Enhancement
Fisheries staff work with a variety of state, federal and private natural resource agencies as well as angler and watershed organizations to identify projects to improve aquatic habitat.
An effective tool to enhance wild trout populations when physical habitat is a significant factor limiting wild trout abundance. However, if water temperatures or other factors are limiting population abundance, instream habitat improvements alone will not be effective. Batten Kill and Nulhegan River are good examples of habitat improvement projects.
Aquatic Organism Passage
Man-made barriers, such as dams and poorly designed stream crossings, have blocked streams and threatened populations of stream-dependent species. Vermont's fisheries biologists have taken the lead in developing and implementing guidelines for well-designed stream crossings and stream continuity.
Fisheries staff often work with partners to identify and implement projects that improve the vegetated areas next to rivers and streams. Guidelines are available to provide basic information on revegetating these areas, also known as riparian areas, including planting densities, techniques and what species to use. Riparian areas are important components of healthy waters as they moderate water temperatures through shading, stabilize streambanks and shorelines, filter pollutants and provide aquatic habitat.