Leadership needed for brook trout, says retired biologist Roger Auclair

“The last stronghold for the Eastern brook trout and the habitat of our remarkable watershed will require leadership.”

Those are the words of Roger Auclair, a first generation fisheries biologist for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife whose career spanned 60 years at Moosehead Lake and the North Woods. Auclair was recently honored by the Forest Society of Maine and offered comments at the FSM reception that are enlightening, sobering, and important for all who value Maine’s native brook trout.

Roger’s comments on leadership were directed at FSM’s leaders. “The Forest Society of Maine has an important role,” he said. “It works with many people to form strong, cooperative arrangements, to keep the best of what we have.”

To keep the best of what we have. Think about that for a minute. I noted Roger’s words about his beloved Moosehead Lake. “The most meaningful opportunity was being able to survey and manage Moosehead Lake and its watershed because of its remote vastness, its wild brook trout populations, and its wonderful coldwater species, still intact.”

Sobering words, given that Moosehead now has a thriving population of smallmouth bass, introduced illegally since Roger retired.

Most of us recognize that we made many mistakes in stocking fish on top of our native and wild brook trout. So I found Roger’s words on this particularly interesting. “Prior to my time, anyone who had influence could request waters to be stocked – and they were. No one knew the effects. So learning about native fish and their habitat, which was all pioneering at the time, coupled with learning about the relationship between native and stocked fish, was a significant trend.”

It seems tragic to me that we are still battling to keep competing fish out of our native and wild trout waters. That issue comes, once again, to the legislature in 2014. Perhaps we better post Roger’s comments all around the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee’s hearing room!

I also liked this comment from Roger: “One of the biggest challenges during my time was realizing the importance of streams to our fisheries and the importance of habitat and temperature for native species.”

I’m excited about the work being done to improve culverts and stream crossings by Pat Sirois at the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. His Fishing Improvement Network is really making a difference for brook trout.

You can read more of Roger Auclair’s comments in an article on the Forest Society of Maine’s website.

FSM is a statewide land trust focused on conserving and maintaining the state’s forests, led by Alan Hutchinson, himself a former DIF&W staffer. I remember well when Alan stepped up to lead this new  organization, which filled a void many of us recognized – the need for a land trust that would focus its effort on preserving Maine’s working forests – to keep them working while protecting critical wildlife habitat and maintaining public recreational access.

FSM has a particularly close relationship with forest landowners and the forest industry. Hutchinson and his team have done an fantastic job, helping conserve over one million acres of forestland including 135 native and wild brook trout waters.

Which brings us to this question posed by Roger Auclair: “Fifty years from now, will there still be a strong forest landscape? Will there be a place for our wild trout?”

Something to think about.

PHOTO: painting by my Dad Ezra Smith and brook trout carved by game warden Alan Dudley.

 

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.