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Thursday, July 29, 2010

2010 "Waters to Watch" List Released

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - The National Fish Habitat Action Plan (www.fishhabitat.org) has unveiled the 2010 10 "Waters to Watch" list, a collection of rivers, streams, lakes and watershed systems that will benefit from strategic conservation efforts to protect, restore or enhance their current condition.

These waters represent a snapshot of current conservation efforts that the Action Plan is undertaking to provide cleaner and healthier habitats for the many fish and wildlife species and people who call these areas home.

Thanks to the combined actions of concerned community groups, non-profit organizations, local watershed groups, Native American tribes and state and federal agencies, these waters are being improved by planting stream-side vegetation, removing structures blocking fish from habitat and protecting bodies of water from the effects of industrial processes, agriculture and livestock.

The 10 "Waters to Watch" are representative of freshwater to marine waters across the country including lakes and reservoirs that are improving through the conservation efforts of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan-a bold initiative to reverse persistent declines in aquatic habitat.

The Action Plan's 10 "Waters to Watch" Initiative was first unveiled in 2007 through its Fish Habitat Partnerships. Since 2006, the Fish and Wildlife Service has provided $8.5 million to support 188 on-the-ground projects in 36 states, leveraging $20 million in partner match, to address the priorities of the Fish Habitat Partnerships, along with funding from several other State and Federal Agencies and NGO's.

"Our approach-teaming federal, state and local partners-is helping to bring these waters back to life in most cases...in a faster more strategic way," said Kelly Hepler, Chairman of the National Fish Habitat Board. "By watching these 10 models of our nation's aquatic conservation efforts, we can see real progress in treating the causes of fish habitat decline, not just the symptoms. Through sound science and on-the-ground partnerships, these select projects can be held high as a vision of what quality habitat should be, which affects all people throughout the United States."

The 10 Waters to Watch in 2010 include:

* Bobs Creek, Pennsylvania -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture)
This project will benefit brook trout populations in Wallack's Branch of Bobs Creek, Pennsylvania by removing fish barriers and creating in-stream habitat. Modifications to five small structures (including small dams) which currently reduce free movement of trout within the stream in Wallack's Branch will allow fish to move without impediment through the stream.

• Diamond Lake, Iowa -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership)
This project focuses on improving water quality by shifting the lake to a clear water state using water-level management to consolidate bottom sediments, re-establish aquatic plants, and control common carp populations. The restoration of Diamond Lake is Iowa's inaugural shallow lake restoration project providing resource management professionals with experience and expertise for managing shallow lakes. The project also provides stakeholders a demonstration of the restoration potential for other shallow lakes.

* Fairbanks and Soda Springs, Nevada -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Desert Fish Habitat Partnership)
Through historic development for agriculture, the surface hydrology and aquatic habitats in Ash Meadows have been highly modified by spring diversion, peat mining, irrigation ditches, and water storage impoundments. Anthropogenic landscape alteration has resulted in the loss of habitats vital for to Ash Meadows speckled dace and Ash Meadows pupfish and has resulted in the alteration of hydrologic processes that create and maintain those aquatic habitats. This project supports the restoration of Fairbanks and Soda Springs as a component of the larger Upper Carson Slough restoration across the northern extent of Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.

* Georgetown Creek, Idaho -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Western Native Trout Initiative)
The Georgetown Road Relocation Project is a multi-year project to remove approximately 2 miles of road from the bottom of Georgetown Creek (including 3 impassable culverts) to improve aquatic and riparian habitat, water quality, and fish passage in the canyon. In 2008, the new road was built in the uplands and in 2009 the Caribou-Targhee National Forest initiated the removal of the old road. The project will restore water quality and riparian and in-stream habitat through the removal of the old road and the building of a fish ladder.

* Green River Basin, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership(s) -
Desert Fish Habitat Partnership and Western Native Trout Initiative)
Both the Desert Fish Habitat Partnership and the Western Native Trout Initiative have recognized the outstanding aquatic resources of the Green River Basin. Both partnerships support projects, directly and indirectly, that benefit fish populations and habitat in ways that place local projects within a larger basin-wide perspective.

• Koktuli River, Alaska -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Southwest Alaska Salmon Habitat Partnership)
This fish habitat partnership conservation project was initiated through voluntary actions to ensure public protection of important and intact fisheries. The work on the Koktuli River project will be adequately balanced with considerations of other natural resource uses including uses of land and water resources associated with improved access and human population growth and other future actions that might be considered, for enhancing socioeconomic conditions for local residents and others.

• Lake Vermilion, Minnesota -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership)
The purpose of this project is to protect undeveloped shoreline and provide public access to the land and water via a state park, scheduled to open in 2010. The state of Minnesota will acquire 3,000 acres and 4.93 miles of undeveloped shoreline on Lake Vermilion, St. Louis County, MN. Minnesota state parks allow visitors to fish for free. It is expected that this park will quickly become one of the most visited parks in the state, with an estimated 500,000 visitors per year.

* Mackeys Creek, Mississippi -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership)
The focus of the Mackeys Creek project involves restoration of a Gulf Coast Strain (GCS) of walleye in a headwater stream of the Tombigbee River. Over time, the stream bank had washed out due to downstream modifications of the stream channel. An 80-ft long rock dike was constructed in 2009 with fill material backfilled behind it to restore the natural slope. The bank was seeded, and willow tree shoots were planted to restore riparian habitat. Washed gravel was placed in the adjacent shoal to create a potential GCS walleye spawning site. Plans for 2010 include creating or enhancing additional GCS walleye spawning habitat, and stocking hatchery-reared fish.

* Wasilla Creek, Alaska -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership)
Wasilla Creek is one of three main creeks draining the core area of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and is home to five species of Pacific salmon. Many partner organizations are working on projects to assure sufficient amounts of clean water, continuous fish passage and overall healthy fish habitats will be maintained within the Wasilla Creek drainage. Significant efforts have been completed and others are in progress to protect and restore salmon habitat in Wasilla Creek.

* West Branch, Machias River, Maine -
(National Fish Habitat Partnership - Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture)
With stream connectivity functionally restored to the main-stem of the Machias River, current restoration needs are focused predominately in its major headwater tributaries Including the West Branch. A range-wide Conservation Success Index indicates that the West Branch Machias River sub-watershed ranks very high in terms of both habitat quality for native Eastern brook trout and future security from anthropogenic threats such as urbanization.

"Whether you measure the effect of these 10 success stories in feet or miles of fish and wildlife habitat conserved, these kinds of concerted actions are what it is going to take to get our nation's waters back into shape," said Hepler. "We believe the Waters recognized today will be the impetus for thousands of projects accomplished in the future."

The National Fish Habitat Action Plan is built on a framework of National Fish Habitat Partnerships. These regional-scale efforts include, the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership, Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, the Western Native Trout Initiative, the Driftless Area Restoration Effort, the Matanuska-Susitna Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership, the Southwest Alaska Salmon Habitat Partnership, the Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership, the Desert Fish Habitat Partnership, the Hawaii Fish Habitat Partnership, the Kenai Peninsula Fish Habitat Partnership, the Fishers and Farmers Partnership, the Ohio River Basin Fish Habitat Partnership, the Great Plains Fish Habitat Partnership, the Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership, the California Fish Passage Forum, the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership and the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership. There are also four "Candidate" Fish Habitat Partnerships that have stated their intent to apply for full NFHAP Board recognition.

The Action Plan has met its objective of establishing at least 12 Fish Habitat Partnerships by 2010 to help identify the causes of habitat declines and implement corrective initiatives for aquatic conservation and restoration, with currently 17 Fish Habitat Partnership working on the ground in aquatic conservation.

National Fish Habitat Action Plan (Mission, Goals & Objectives)

The mission of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan is to protect, restore and enhance the nation's fish and aquatic communities through partnerships that foster fish habitat conservation and improve the quality of life for the American people.

This mission will be achieved by:
• Supporting existing fish habitat partnerships and fostering new efforts.
• Mobilizing and focusing national and local support for achieving fish habitat conservation goals.
• Setting national and regional fish habitat conservation goals.
• Measuring and communicating the status and needs of fish habitats.
• Providing national leadership and coordination to conserve fish habitats.

• Protect and maintain intact and healthy aquatic systems.
• Prevent further degradation of fish habitats that have been adversely affected.
• Reverse declines in the quality and quantity of aquatic habitats to improve the overall health of fish and other aquatic organisms.
• Increase the quality and quantity of fish habitats that support a broad natural diversity of fish and other aquatic species.

• Conduct a condition analysis of all fish habitats within the United States by 2010.
• Identify priority fish habitats and establish Fish Habitat Partnerships targeting these habitats by 2010.
• Establish 12 or more Fish Habitat Partnerships throughout United States by 2010.
• Prepare a "Status of Fish Habitats in the United States" report in 2010 and every five years thereafter.
• Protect all healthy and intact fish habitats by 2015.
• Improve the condition of 90 percent of priority habitats and species targeted by Fish Habitat Partnerships by 2020.

Since its launch five years ago, the Action Plan has received wide public support. To date nearly 1,200 partners have pledged their support including a range of organizations interested in the health of the nation's fisheries such as fishing clubs, international conservation organizations, federal agencies, angling industries and academia. Complete information on the scope of the plan is available at www.fishhabitat.org.

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About the National Fish Habitat Action Plan
The National Fish Habitat Action Plan is the most comprehensive effort ever attempted to voluntarily conserve freshwater, estuarine and marine waterways and habitat across the country. The Action Plan is a science-based investment strategy to conserve waterways and make conservation dollars stretch farther by combining federal and privately raised funds to build regional partnerships. For more information, visit www.fishhabitat.org.
Ryan Roberts, Communications Coordinator (202) 624-5851 or rroberts@fishwildlife.org