By Pat Sirois, SFI Director
The Fisheries Improvement Network (FIN) held its second annual meeting at the MFPC office on April 3. The meeting was attended by representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine Department of Marine Resources, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Keeping Maine’s Forests, The Nature Conservancy, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Forest Service, and representatives of nearly 6 million acres of SFI certified forestlands.
“MSFI has worked hard to bring together forestry and fisheries interests to improve communication on the importance of fish-friendly crossings, to share information on stream habitats and priorities, and to exchange information on how best to improve passage issues,” said Jed Wright of USFWS. “Meetings, field visits and workshops are helping develop a collaborative environment where people are growing more comfortable sharing information and highlighting fish passage improvement projects that are happening across the landscape. Fish friendly crossings are the right thing to do for both infrastructure and ecological reasons – forums like FIN are helping us move forward with picking up the pace of restoring streams in Maine. Many landowners have participated in programs to inventory and assess their road crossings for fish passage barriers. There is great interest in knowing where the problems are, how to fix them, and to get them fixed.”
The event focused largely on stream connectivity and three specific areas.
- How can I identify fish passage issues on my land base?
- Where are the fish and where should I begin improving passage?
- How can I begin fixing barriers?
“I think the last FIN meeting was quite successful. It seemed obvious to me that there has been a considerable amount of trust built over the last couple of years between the fisheries agencies and the landowners,” said Keith Kanoti, water resource forester for the Maine Forest Service. “The regular forum for sharing of information that FIN provides is critical to maintaining this trust and networking to improve the fisheries resource in a way that makes sense.”
Presenters from the agencies offered ideas ranging from training programs for identifying fish passage barriers, to online tools identifying priority habitat areas where upgrading crossing efforts could be focused.
Landowners provided updates on progress made in upgrading crossings and shared several innovations developed and utilized in the last year for effective “Stream Smart” crossings that offered flexibility as well as lower unit costs. One such technique, piloted on Plum Creek land, using a concrete arch to cross a stream. The arch came from a form designed and produced by Dirigo Timberlands, a logging firm in North Anson. Dirigo Timberlands intends to produce these arches for distribution. For more information on the concrete arches call 207-807-6131.
The FIN forum is the latest development in a growing relationship between SFI Landowners, state and federal agencies and NGOs to improve Maine’s fisheries through stream crossing upgrades on forest management roads to Stream Smart standards.
Sarah Medina with Seven Islands characterized FIN as “highly relevant with a good transfer of technical information between landowners and fisheries agencies. It is a good environment.”
Another idea from the last weeks FIN meeting was to widely distribute new Stream Smart ideas, tools and practices to the broader forest community and even public road’s interest. Beginning later this spring, FIN will begin distributing this information through “FIN FACTS” a new periodic online publication.