About Fisheries Management

Project Overview

Forests for the Fish is an innovative fisheries management pilot project, modeled after the success of the Vermont and Massachusetts Foresters for the Birds program, which has been implemented across the north east region. This project is designed to enhance stream connectivity in the Deerfield River Watershed to provide habitat for cold water fish such as native brook trout which are experiencing habitat loss at an alarming rate.

Franklin Land Trust (FLT), MWI, and Trout Unlimited (TU), supported by a variety of grants and contributions, is developing a tool kit for managing forested lands near cold water streams. This tool kit will help forest land owners, working with trained foresters and fisheries consultants, assess their forested streams during the writing of Forest Stewardship Plans.

These assessments will help determine applicable practices that will enhance cold water habitats. Examples of these practices include: invasive species control, management of forest cover in the riparian zone and catchment, identifying and managing cover around groundwater seeps and upwellings within the catchment, native planting of species for bank stabilization and the placement of in-channel structures such as large woody material such as downed trees (LW). Such practices will maintain and improve conditions for fish in a time of changing climate conditions and increased stress on the landscape.

 Project Goals

  • Enhance in-stream habitat conditions and stream connectivity for native cold water fish in the Deerfield River Watershed
  • Provide high-quality education and riparian forest management tools for landowners and land management professionals
  • Provide climate change adaptive stream management techniques to community members which increase resilience of built infrastructure
  • Support economic viability of forest and stream related businesses in our region


Fish and Forests

In the Deerfield River watershed of western Massachusetts, wild brook trout populations depend on small headwater streams and the forested landscape which provide these streams with shade, nutrients, and hydrological stability. Since the Deerfield Rivershed is dominated by private land ownerships, to effectively manage the small headwaters and forested catchments that support the region’s wild brook trout these private landowners must be engaged. By identifying areas where stream health and silvicultural goals align and equipping foresters and landowners with the tools needed to work at these intersections. MA Woodlands Institute and Franklin Land Trust hope to draw the attention of private landowners to a novel wildlife habitat interest, stimulate the local forest products economy, and enhance the resilience of wild trout population.

Threats to Habitat

Development of land along cold water streams threatens healthy fish habitat with polluted run-off from roads and buildings, increased invasive plant species and warming water temperatures due to decreased shade along stream banks. Undeveloped forested lands near streams offer clean, cold and shaded water necessary for fish and other aquatic animals to survive and thrive.

Our changing climate has caused large weather events in recent years, resulting in major and devastating flooding. In response to major flooding events, some streams have been channelized  and straightened to prevent damaging floods. In channelized streams, rocks and woody material from the stream are removed in order to move floodwater quickly downstream. Straightening, often done to preserve roads or property boundaries, also increases the speed of the water.

Unfortunately, these straight, cleared rivers and streams with greatly eroded stream banks provide little to no habitat for fish and other aquatic species. Large trees and snags that fall naturally into rivers provide critical cover and habitat for fish, as well as the animals they feed on. Clean-up after storms removes this important habitat material.  The Forests for the Fish program will encourage in-stream restoration and the installation of large woody material that will slow down water and improve fish habitat in cold water streams.

 Climate Change

New England has been subject to the initial effects of climate change with more projected to come. In western Massachusetts, aside from the obvious results of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and an increasing series of microbursts and flash floods in 2014, regional climate models by the Northeast Regional Climate Center and the PRECIS System highlight several key climatic changes predicted to occur over the next 20-80 years. Analysis by the US Global Change Research Program determined that there is likely to be a substantial increase in extreme events in the northeast, including extended high summer temperatures and more frequent and intense storms. Extreme events are expected to compromise infrastructure and stress native ecosystems through the coming century.

Climate change projections affecting cold water streams and their inhabitants have important implications for this ecosystem. Temperature-sensitive fish like brook trout, mottled sculpin, several species of dace and darters will be forced to migrate to thermal refugia (deep stretches of stream that retain cooler temperatures) in warmer summer months, or die. Increased frequency and intensity of large storm events homogenize in-stream habitat and remove large woody material that is key habitat for fish, turtles, and several semi-aquatic mammals. Warmer winters facilitate the spread of invasive flora and fauna that threaten riparian forest buffers that shade much of the North River watershed. We plan to manage these ecologically and economically important stream and riparian areas to transition with the changing climate to protect threatened habitat. 


Potential economic effects of landowners implementing Forests for the Fish include:

  1. Providing high quality drinking water to towns and communities which rely on reservoirs
  2. Reducing the severity of damage to infrastructure caused by extreme weather events such as Hurricane Irene, which are increasing in frequency
  3. Supporting the wood product industry by engaging landowners in active harvesting and management through education about the positive benefits on wildlife
  4. Increasing tourism enhanced recreational opportunities provided by supporting robust native fish populations in streams, and greater awareness on the part of local populace and recreational associations such as Trout Unlimited local chapters
  5. Job creation through supporting the growth of new businesses such as fishing guides and tackle supply stores in the region

Demonstration Forest

Crowningshield Conservation Area, Heath, MA

In 2015 FLT acquired a 96 acre farm which is bisected by the upper reach of the West Branch of the North River, a subwatershed of the Deerfield River, in the town of Heath. The 82 acre parcel, previously owned by the Crowningshield family, consists of roughly 15-20 acres of abandoned pasture, with the remainder in forest.  The West Branch and its tributaries are state-listed coldwater fishery resources. An additional 14 acres adjacent to the original land were acquired in 2016 with proceeds from ongoing sale of farm house to local farmer. With this addition, the property contains over 1 mile of frontage along the West Branch of the North River.

Crowningshield Property in Heath (map)

With the help of funding from the MA-RI Interstate Council of TU and a conservation restriction to be held by the Department of Fish and Game this property will be open to the public. This property’s topography, past land use and frontage along a valuable wild Brook Trout fishery, is typical of many properties within the headwaters of the Deerfield River. It will lend itself well for demonstrations of assessment and practices developed within the Forests for the Fish toolkit.

An important component of this project is to complete demonstrations of placement of large wood in the West Branch and do outreach to the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation to do similar work in Sanders Brooks of the North River sub-watershed in Heath, Massachusetts. Due to past land use, these streams are lacking large woody material, such as downed trees and branches. Placing large wood in the streams will create pools and riffles for fish and smaller aquatic animals, as well as slow the speed of water moving downstream.

Completed Work and Followup Fall 2017

In September 2017, FLT, MWI and TU partnered to place wood in the West Branch of the North River on Crowningshield Conservation Area in Heath, MA and in a tributary of Sanders Brook on H.O. Cook State Forest owned by the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation in Charlemont, MA.  Planning and permit work were done during Spring and Summer of 2017. Observations of the stream channel and surrounding area were done by Cole Ecological working with TU and FLT and fish population surveys were done in the West Branch  of the North River to capture baseline conditions at the sites.  Trees were felled, or moved with root balls intact and placed in the stream channels to create cover, scour pools to act as refugia for fish in the summer, protect eroding banks and to encourage the re-connection of incised streams with their flood plains. Reports, data and reflections from this work will be posted here in the coming months. 


Crowningshield Conservation Area - West Branch of the North River (3rd order stream)

In-stream wood: tree stems and stems with root-balls, bank stabilization, habitat and cover, flood plain connection

West Branch of North River

 West Branch of the North River


Baseline observations

Baseline observations of the river 

Site 1 pre installation

 Site 1 - before work is done


site 1 in progress

Site 1 - in progress

Site 1 - after work was complete

Site 1 - after work was complete

site 2 - complete

Site 2 - work completed

our team

Our work team

H.O. Cook State Forest - unnamed tributary stream of Sanders Brook (1st or 2nd order stream)

In-stream wood: felled trees, habitat and cover, flood plain connection


 tributary of Sanders Brook

Un-named Tributary of Sanders Brook, Charlemont, MA

work crew

Trout Unlimited and MWI/FLT work crew

site 2 before

Site 2 (of 9) before

site 2 planning

Site 2 planning

site 2 after

Site 2 after

site 2 after from upstream

Site 2 - after work, from upstream

site 3 before

Site 3 - before

site 3 after - 1

Site 3 - after

site 3 after - 2

Site 3 - complete from downstream



Future Goals



  • Spring Purchase of 82 acre Crowningshield Wildlife Conservation Area in Heath, MA by Franklin Land Trust with support from Massachusetts-Rhode Island Council of Trout Unlimited
  • Summer Franklin Land Trust conveys conservation restriction on Crowningshield property to MA Department of Fish and Game
  • Fall Habitat Restoration grant from Dept of Fish & Game awarded to FLT
  • Fall Purchase by FLT of 14 acre Desmond property (abutting Crowningshield property) using proceeds from in-process sale of farm house and conservation restriction
  • Winter Wildlife Conservation Society Climate Adaptation Grant awarded to TU for fisheries management pilot project and connectivity enhancement work, MWI and FLT partners in grant


  • January-June Project planning and additional grant proposals submitted
  • Feb-June Upland habitat management, invasive removal & access road construction at Crowningshield property
  • May-July Inventory and mapping of Crowningshield and HO Cook river reaches by National TU
  • June Site visit to Crowningshield with John Field of Field Geology Services, advise on project design
  • June Stewardship Plan for Crowningshield property forests completed
  • October Fisheries Management website added to MWI site
  • November Compile resources and literature review
  • Oct-December Site selection, work plan drafting, design for in-stream work, equipment specifications
  • Dec-March Permit applications and meetings (319 Non-Point Pollution grant)


  • Spring - Summer  Hire contractors for in-stream work 
  • Summer - Fall Design of in-stream wood plan by engineer for West Branch, Permitting with local Conservation Commission, MA Department of Environmental Protection, MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species, Army Corps of Engineers
  • September Upland access work/stream crossing (319 Non-Point Pollution grant)
  • September-October Baseline assessment of West Branch of North River and Sanders Brook tributary stream reaches by Michael Cole (PhD UPenn Fisheries Biology) of Cole Ecological Services and Lindsay St Pierre of  (North River Restoration Grant)
  • September Volunteer work days: invertebrate surveys, site stabilization; Site visits with regulators, FLT Board, TU chapter members
  • June 1 through September 30 In-stream work on Crowningshield and HO Cook State Forest
  • October Post-work assessment of stream
  • December Reporting and grant wrap up (Wildlife Conservation Society grant)

 2018 and Beyond

  • 1 year follow-up and assessment of stream
  • Outreach walks 
  • More wood in river and streams to help native fish and reduce waterway erosion
  • Partnerships to conserve land along this and other cold water resource streams



Forests for the Fish Toolkit


  • Spring-Fall Literature review/resource compilation
  • Summer Stream inventory and documentation by Erin Rodgers (PhD Antioch University New England, Stream Ecology) of Trout Unlimited National Chapter
  • June Large Wood workshop – training and confer with experts in the field
  • June Site visit to Crowningshield with John Field (PhD University of Arizona, Fluvial Geomorphology and Geology) of Field Geology Services – advice for in-stream work, case study of site and project selection
  • Fall Create prescription palette – in advance of in-stream work to be completed 2017
  • Fall-Winter Outline of publications materials: Assessment, Prescriptions, Wildlife/Outreach, additional potential products: educational curriculum, one-sheet summaries for various stakeholders: foresters, landowners, educators, municipal officials/volunteers, land trusts, state regulators


  • Winter Drafting language/content of publications, collect photos/illustrations
  • Winter Hands-on research about Permitting required in MA
  • Winter-Spring Consider and collate projects for Case Studies
  • Spring Prepare drafts, utilize as proofs for use with fall in-stream work
  • Spring Pre-work demonstration walks for public
  • Fall Observe demonstration field work, incorporate input & new information into drafts
  • Fall Incorporate information from post-work assessment into materials
  • Fall Finalize drafts, circulate for review by USFA, TU, DCR, VT DEC, MA DEP etc.
  • Fall/Winter Post toolkits on website
  • Winter Submit as deliverable for grant (Wildlife Conservation Society)

 2018 and Beyond

  • Create layout for FFTF toolkits
  • Post toolkits on website, disseminate, outreach walks (319 grant, WCS grant, NFWF grant)

Grants and Funding

  • 2015: MA-RI Council of Trout Unlimited. Contribution toward the purchase of the Crowningshield property in Heath, MA by Franklin Land Trust for conservation, recreation and to serve as a demonstration property for cold water fish habitat restoration and management. Acquisition completed 2015. $45,000 awarded
  • 2015: Department of Fish and Game, Wildlife Habitat Management Grant Program. Awarded to Franklin Land Trust. Provided funds to remove invasive Multiflora rose from abandoned pastures and build road to access property for management and demonstration work. Work completed Summer 2016. $19,848 awarded (picture above shows field and road)
  • 2015: Wildlife Conservation Society, Climate Adaptation Grant. Awarded to Trout Unlimited National Chapter to use aquatic, forestry, and riparian science to create a suite of complementary restoration and adaptation projects to buffer the effects of increased precipitation and air temperatures on cold water streams, their floodplains, and surrounding forest stands. Two year grant, work ongoing. $217,200 awarded for Forests for the Fish (of $679,527 total)
  • 2016: MA Department of Environmental Protection, 319 Nonpoint Source Pollution Grant. Using the Science of Fluvial Geomorphology to Develop River Corridor Management Tools to Protect the Health and Improve the Resiliency of the Deerfield River Watershed. Awarded to Franklin County Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG).  $35,950 awarded for Forests for the Fish. 
  • 2017: MA Department of Environmental Protection, Natural Resource Damages Restoration Funding Opportunities North River Restoration Grant. North River Baseline Assessment project consists of a cold water fisheries assessment with a geomorphic component, documenting state of river prior to in-stream work. Awarded to Franklin Land Trust. Complement to ongoing Forests for the Fish toolkit project work.  Also requested funding for permitting and to help develop road access for equipment that will do the in-stream wood placement in 2017. $29,485 awarded. 
  • 2018: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Knowledge Sharing for Coldwater Conservation. Through a series of targeted workshops and outreach, Trout Unlimited will help municipalities and private landowners in western Massachusetts and southern Vermont understand the available data, prioritize and plan for works that benefit both the natural and human communities, and take the first steps towards implementation. $66,433.36 awarded to Trout Unlimited. 


More Information

Crowningshield Conservation Area, Heath, MA

Franklin Land Trust, "Fly Fishing on Franklin Land Trust's recently conserved property" 


A Hat Trick for Conservation


Trout Unlimited Hosts Talk on Crowningshield Preserve


Small Stream Reflections blog: Franklin Land Trust's "wild brook trout forest"


"Forests for the Fish" Restores Cold Water to Restore Brook Trout in Massachusetts


Trout Unlimited: Adapting the Riparian Areas and Water of the North River. Climate Change Response Framework, Demonstrations. 


Generous Bequest Boosts TUs Land Conservancy Fund



Forest Fisheries Management

Trout Unlimited blog “PBS Show Highlights TU’s Stream Work in Vermont” (Outdoor Journal – Chop and Drop)



Dirt Roads & Blue Lines blog “Wood is Good”


Brook Trout Habitat in New Hampshire "Water in the Woods", Presentation by John Magee, NH Fish and Game Department


Restoring Brook Trout Habitat in Headwater Streams Using Large Woody Debris, Dan McKinley, Fisheries Biologist, Green Mountain National Forest Roger Monthey and Dave Welsch, U.S. Forest Service, Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry 


Maine Forest Service, "Opportunities for Cold Water Fisheries Enhancement Associated with Forestry Operations in Maine"


Maine Forest Service Rule Chapter 25, "Standards for Placing Wood into Stream Channels to Enhance Cold Water Stream Fisheries Habitat"


Washington State Aquatic Habitat Guidelines Program, Stream Habitat Restoration guidelines 2012


White Branch White River Restoration, Green Mountains and Fingerlakes National Forests, US Forest Service, Vermont


Forests and Fish, Washington Forest Protection Association




Trout Unlimited's Land Conservancy Fund



Massachusetts Fish Conservation Program


Massachusetts Stream Continuity Program


New Hampshire’s Fish Habitat Program


White River Partnership Trees for Streams Program


White River Partnership River Corridor Protection


Saxton River Watershed Collaborative



Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture Report: Conservation Strategy


Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture: Riparian Restoration Decision Support Tool



Demonstration Projects: 

Large Wood Improves Habitat on West Branch, White River, Vermont


Nash Stream, New Hampshire


Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture Report: East Fork Greenbrier River/Poca Run Large Woody Material Project, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia, Monitoring Report - 2015


 Slowing the Flow, Article by New England Forestry Foundation on work by Trout Unlimited and  New on Griffon Brook in Deerfield, New Hampshire. 


Maps and Resources

Trout Unlimited, "My Healthy Stream"


USGS SHEDS: Interactive Cachement Explorer (ICE) | Deerfield River Watershed


MA Department of Fish and Game, Coldwater Fish Resources


MA Department of Fish and Game, "Brook Trout in Massachusetts"


MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affaris, "Drought Management"


NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, "State of the Climate Reports"


USFS Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, Climate Change Response Framework: New England


National Wildlife Federation, "Wildlife in Hot Water: America's Waterways and Climate Change." 



Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department “Impacts to Stream Habitat and Wild Trout Populations in Vermont Following Tropical Storm Irene”


 “Flood Impacts to Wild Trout Populations in Vermont"


North American Journal of Fisheries Management, Jud F. Kratzer and Dana R. Warren, 2013. “Factors Limiting Brook Trout Biomass in Northeastern Vermont Streams.”


Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, Kenneth M. Cox, 2010. "Assessment of Trout Cover and Its Relationship to Trout Abundance in the Batten Kill Main Stem and Four Rivers in Reference Watersheds.”


 "Fluvial Geomorphology and Culvert Assessment of the Meduxnekeag River Aroostook County, Maine" John Field, Field Geology Services. Prepared for Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Littleton, Maine.


Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, Ellen Wohl* and Daniel N. Scott, 2016. “Wood and sediment storage and dynamics in river corridors.” doi: 10.1002/esp.3909.