Wood is Good For Vermont’s Rivers and Fish
With the Burnt Mountain project complete and conserved with a “forever wild” easement, it was unlikely that the buzz of chainsaws would ever be heard from again on this stretch of land. But in fact, the chainsaws were about to sound once more for a different reason—stream restoration.
The Burnt Mountain parcel hosts almost the entirety of the Calavale Brook watershed. To the casual observer, the mountain stream appears pristine—an unspoiled waterway with cascading pools and cold waters. But just like the vast majority of Vermont waterways that have been altered due to human activity, this stream is lacking in high-quality habitat and would not qualify as a “pristine” stream.
A pristine waterway would have large trees and limbs throughout the water, creating fish habitat and improving channel stability. Absent of large wood, Calavale Brook lacked the abundance of deep pools with cover from overhead predators and clean spawning gravels (free of fine sediments) which brook trout need to thrive. Since the Nature Conservancy now owned the seven square mile watershed, the conservation team was eager to elevate this brook to pristine condition by engaging in some people-powered restoration work. Cue the chainsaws and come-alongs.
Working with Jud Kratzer, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Fisheries Biologist, and sawyers from Cloud’s Path Farm and Northwoods Stewardship Center, the staff toiled through record-breaking heat this past July to add whole trees to approximately two miles of Calavale Brook. As chainsaws sung, trees crashed, and deer flies swarmed, the restoration team pushed through knowing that their hard-won human efforts were mimicking nature’s simple processes by recruiting trees into a brook barren of wood to restore the brook’s native characteristics.
Over time, the trees will create a diversity of flow depths and speeds, provide overhead cover for fish, reduce the smothering of downstream habitats, and create a more climate-resilient stream ecosystem by preserving water during periods of low flow in dry summer months. With the project now complete, quiet has returned to Burnt Mountain and nature will resume its own course after a little help from its stewards.