It’s all about culverts

We’ll be taping a Wildfire TV show next Wednesday with Pat Sirois, Director of Maine’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative, to discuss his exciting Fisheries Improvement Network. Among his many projects, Pat is leading the way to better culvert installations that allow fish passage. That is one of the biggest things that can be done to improve fisheries in our state. Tens of thousands of culverts now block fish from getting to their spawning grounds.

While you wait for this Wildfire show to air, you can check out a ten minute video that delivers FIN’s message about the need for improved fish passage and upgraded stream crossings. Please bring the video to the attention of anyone in your area who is involved in road work that involves culverts and stream crossings. You will find it here: www.sfimaine.org.

undersized and elevated culverts

Pat has hit the road, training lots of people to do this right, and his contributions to improved fisheries are second to none. I especially like this project because the process is voluntary, allowing landowners to move at their own pace, provide them with the information and training they need to do it right, and assisting state agency staff who are too busy to do this important work.

A few years ago, as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, I worked with then-Senator David Trahan and several statewide environmental groups to enact laws and rules requiring the correct installation of culverts. In the end, we failed, primarily because it costs more money to do this right. The Maine Municipal Association was particularly strong and effective in making this argument against our efforts.

I was especially frustrated with our inability to get state agencies to come up with a process that prioritized culvert replacement projects. I argued that if a costly new culvert only opened up a couple of hundred yards of spawning habitat, it wasn’t worth it. But if it opened up 20 miles of spawning habitat, it ought to be done in a way that allowed fish to access that habitat.

A lot of effort has gone into the video, including help from Maine’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative Implementation Committee, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maine Forest Service, Plum Creek Timber, the Nature Conservancy, Wagner Forest Management and others.

Good job all!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.