Trout at the Summerville Fish Hatchery

Fisheries technician Matt McDaris cleans out of the indoor raceways containing thousands of the smallest trout at the Summerville Hatchery in this May 2020 file photo. The hatchery raises hundreds of thousands of trout annually, most are transferred to other hatcheries for full grow-out of the fish before they are stocked in streams across north Georgia.

Georgia ForestWatch, a Dahlonega-based, non-profit organization whose mission it is to protect and enhance the health of Georgia’s 867,000 acres of National Forest, has announced the Clean Streams Campaign.

Through the Clean Streams Campaign, Georgia ForestWatch said members and partner organizations will work to protect aquatic species that live in the mountain headwater streams of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest from chronic habitat damage. Mountain streams that originate in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest feed the rivers that supply Georgia’s drinking water while also providing recreational and economic value to the surrounding communities.

“The streams of the southern Appalachians are a major recreation resource that host some of the greatest diversity of aquatic species found anywhere in the United States," Jess Riddle, executive director of Georgia ForestWatch said. "Key to these amazing natural resources, as well as the water we drink, is protecting these mountain streams from sediment leaking from unkept Forest Service roads and illegal trails.

"The many aquatic species that populate these mountain stream in our national forests also are threatened and harmed by herbicides used during timber projects," Riddle said. "Solving these issues will make a positive impact on not only on our National Forests but the economics of the surrounding areas.”

Georgia ForestWatch identified three key initiatives that will improve and protect the health of these vital headwater streams:

  • Identification and rehabilitation of roads leak sediment into streams within the Blue Ridge and Chattooga River Ranger Districts. Offending roads impact native species such as native brook trout and species that brook trout thrive including aquatic insects, crayfish and hellbenders.
  • Working in partnership with the Forest Service to identify and close ATV illegal trails within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest from which sediment flows into Georgia mountain streams.
  • Identification of roads adjacent to rare aquatic species’ habitats within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.

For more information about Georgia ForestWatch, visit https://gafw.org/.

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