this day of advanced technology and rapid communication, we can reach
out and touch someone on the other side of the world within moments.
Between email, our cell phones, pagers, and other gadgets, were
all connected to one another in more ways than we ever thought possible.
well, however, are we connected to the natural world? That river you
cross every day on your way to work or school do you know its
name? That small stream that runs by your house do you know
where it goes? What watershed do you live in? Where does your drinking
water come from? Have you watched a heron flying over your house every
evening in the summer and ever wondered where its coming from,
where its going, and why? And does the incessant peeping of
frogs in the spring drive you crazy or make you smile?
complex than a computer and driven by needs more urgent than a cell
phone call, Vermonts fish and wildlife are connected to their
must be, because unlike humans they cant order oranges from
Florida or wool shirts from L.L. Bean. They rely on the land and water
to provide for them, and over time have learned where they must travel
on the landscape to meet their needs.
probably seen the migrations of many birds, and perhaps youre
familiar with the seasonal movements of moose and bear. But did you
know that in and around Vermonts streams, rivers, lakes, and
ponds there are daily, seasonal, and annual migrations taking place:
steelhead running up the Willoughby River each spring, headed for
spawning habitat in the upper river; herons leaving their feeding
ponds each evening to return to their rookeries; juvenile lake trout
moving from the lake shoals and reefs where they hatched to the deeper
colder water where they will grow into adults; wood turtles leaving
their winter hibernation in the stream bottom each spring to nest
in the nearby woods; and red-spotted newts, after spending years on
land as red efts, moving to ponds and lakes to reproduce and remain
for the rest of their adult lives.
waters are frothing with activity. Fish move from lakes to rivers,
and from rivers to streams. Salamanders move from streams to woodlands.
Wood frogs move from woodlands to ponds and back woodlands. Such animal
migrations can only continue, however, if Vermonts aquatic habitats
remain connected to one another and to nearby land habitats.
again about the river you drive across every day on your way to work
or school is there a dam across it? That stream that runs by
your house, is there a culvert in it? If so, can fish swim upstream
through the culvert? Can the wood turtles that hibernate in the stream
migrate to woodlands nearby so they can nest and forage in spring?
How many roads must the turtles cross to reach the woods?
habitat connectivity is high priority for the Vermont Department of
Fish & Wildlife, as it seeks to meet its mission of conserving
all species of fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the
benefit of Vermonters. In order to maintain and improve habitat connectivity
in Vermonts waters and between the waters and adjacent lands,
the Department conducts the following activities:
Fisheries staff participate in the regulatory process for hydroelectric
dam re-licensing to ensure adequate fish passage
Department staff work with a statewide team of government, nonprofit,
and private partners to encourage and guide dam removal efforts throughout
Biologists testify and comment in Act 250 and other permit review
processes to ensure the protection of riparian and shoreline buffers,
which help maintain connectivity between water and upland habitats
Department officials work in partnership with the Vermont Agency of
Transportation to ensure fish passage at culverts
Staff provide technical guidance and outreach to towns on how to plan
for and protect habitat connectivity in their communities
The Department grants approximately $50,000 annually through the Vermont
Watershed Grants program to local groups and towns for watershed improvement
projects, many of which include the protection and restoration of
fish and wildlife habitat connectivity
are many ways all Vermonters can help make sure fish and wildlife
are able to move freely and safely between the different habitats
they need, including:
Getting involved in local planning and zoning efforts. Most development
decisions that affect the connectivity of our water resources are
under local control. Encourage your town to adopt culvert and bridge
guidelines that enable fish passage and to enact stream and lake buffer
protection measures to protect the travel corridors of animals that
move between water bodies and surrounding uplands.
Working with state and local groups to identify dams that should be
Working with local groups to identify habitat connectivity issues
in your watershed.
Learning which fish and wildlife species live around your home, what
their habitat needs are, and taking steps to make sure they can access
the habitats they need. For example, if you own a meadow with a wet
section, consider leaving an unmowed swath between it and the adjacent
forest so wood frogs can move safely from the forest to the water
connected is one of the best things we can do to protect Vermonts
fish and wildlife.