State: West Virginia
Water Bodies Affected: Blackwater River, Cheat River
Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) will use National Fish Habitat Action Plan (NFHAP) funds to help plant native trees along the Blackwater River and its tributaries. Over 3,000 acres have been identified as reforestation sites on the refuge. It is the goal of the refuge to reforest these areas to help cold water species including brook trout and redside dace.
The WV DEP and DNR have analyzed the Cheat River Watershed and have determined that there are many factors that are contributing to the low quality of water and habitats in the watershed. These include acid mine drainage, sedimentation, fecal coliform, and acid deposition. A recommendation was included to protect natural vegetation along stream corridors and revegetate these corridors where necessary to prevent erosion. In 2006 a WV Brook Trout Conservation Strategy was developed. It outlines priority conservation goals including habitat and population protection, habitat and population restoration and enhancement, and assessment, monitoring and research.
Canaan Valley’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) was approved in 2011. The CCP outlines the Refuge’s focus in the conservation of wetlands, protection of water quality and the preservation of cold water fisheries. Due to the degradation of habitat in the region and subsequent fragmentation of the brook trout populations, the Refuge is committed to protecting cold water habitats. There are eight tributaries on the Refuge that have current or historical records for brook trout. Increasing forest cover of riparian corridors on the Refuge will protect populations of brook trout and redside dace by shading streams, reducing sedimentation, and provide woody debris for habitat structure. The CCP calls for reforestation of the Blackwater River and its tributaries including headwater streams that have native brook trout and one in which redside dace was found. Roughly 3,400 acres need to be reforested. To date the Refuge has planted 350 acres of trees with volunteer assistance since 2005.
Specific goals of these plans that this project supports include: to restore habitat conditions needed to improve population productivity and expand brook trout range in reduced and greatly reduced watersheds and minimize and mitigate threats to prevent further habitat degradation of reduced, greatly reduced, and extirpated populations. In three years this project will restore 5 miles of stream and river habitat for cold water fish species. This will be accomplished by reforesting 70 acres of old field and shrub habitats with 10,000 native tree species thus ensuring riparian cover to benefit brook trout and redside dace. These actions will create a reforested buffer of 100 meters on both sides of Sand Run and the Blackwater River.