The Upper Wood River

By Brian O’Connor

 If it has not become obvious in my writing on Facebook and this site, I would like to make clear that BT are but one part of the upper Wood River ecosystem in which all members have been seriously impacted by the ever growing spread of sediment. The watershed in question was grazing land at the turn of the last century. It was degraded to the point of 20140410_134627being uninhabitable by bt except in its extreme headwaters. Stocked fish died before 6 weeks elapsed. As second growth surged, the habitat improved to allow wild bt to reclaim their former place in the upper system. 1970 was most likely the high point in this reclamation as increased acidity took it’s tole on bt recruitment. Sometime in the early 80’s, it was decided to establish a river which would be stocked in a manner as to supply summer-long fishing opportunities for large stockers. The ecology of the system and it’s undervalued native fish were not considered. When I first visited in the early 70’s I was amazed that such a wonderful river could exist in RI. The entire system has become degraded by this management, Minnows, Darters, Mussels, and riparian and aquatic plants have been impacted. The river is shallower and full of sediment affecting all aspects of the community. A BT refuge would help not only BT , but every aspect of the community. This river, simply left to it’s own devices, has the power to restore itself to a fully functioning system. Removing the several dams in the upper watershed would allow populations of BT , now split by these dams, to once again merge. By including the upper mainstem, populations from 6 tribs would once again converge to trade genetic material and bolster the health of the system, increasing the potential of survivability in the face of warming. Removing those dams would also shift water temperatures downward. Re-wild the Wood! Remove the hatchery fish, and the hoards lured to them and leave the river alone long enough to heal itself.

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