Black Earth Creek Habitat Snapshot Day

Jun 9, 2016 | Aquatic Invasive Species, Citizen Advocacy

Dave Rowe from DNR is explaining how to evaluate stream characteristics to the group of over 50 volunteers.

You can’t take in the state or local news these days without inevitably hearing mention of a “public-private partnership” at some point. It’s a hot phrase, to be sure, made all the more prominent by the systematic de-funding of government agencies (the “public”), who are now forced to rely more heavily on support from citizens and businesses (the “private”). But this past Saturday, on a much more localized grassroots scale, a model public-private partnership took root—maybe for a day, possibly for much more.

On Saturday, June 4, River Alliance co-organized the Black Earth Creek Habitat Snapshot Day, in partnership with Black Earth Creek Watershed Assn (BECWA), Dane County, Southern Wisconsin Trout Unlimited (SWTU), and Wisconsin DNR. The event came about as a result of a series of community meetings in 2015, spearheaded by BECWA, that focused on the reduced trout numbers in Black Earth Creek—which, at one time, had been listed as one of the top trout streams in the country. Out of those meetings came, among other things, an identified need for a watershed-wide assessment of the stream’s condition. (Featuring questions like “Where are banks eroding badly? Where is a downed tree or fence stopping up flow?”)

River Alliance and event partners for months planned a “snapshot day”—a look at the stream in a particular moment in time—and it came off wonderfully on Saturday, despite the threat of severe weather. A hearty (and large—over 50 strong!) group of volunteers showed up at Garfoot Library in Cross Plains and were briefly trained on how to measure and index stream and stream corridor characteristics, and then performed their assessments in pairs on an assigned stretch of stream.

At the single-day event alone, nearly all stream segments in the watershed that flowed through public lands were assessed. DNR fisheries department representatives hope to continue to engage volunteers over the coming month to perform the remaining stream assessment segments, to complete the entire Black Earth watershed. Once tabulated, results of the event will provide a picture of which areas of the stream are in the greatest need of restoration work, and will help prioritize that work among partnering groups and volunteers. Results from the stream assessment work are planned on being shared at a future BECWA meeting.

Importantly, the Snapshot Day on Black Earth Creek could serve as a model for incorporating “citizen science” into trout stream restoration work, and could be replicable all over the state, where stream advocates and partnering organizations have an overlapping and strong presence.

Picture of BEC Snapshot Volunteers

Volunteer Lauren Brown taking in-stream recordings while her monitoring partner, John Delaney is logging the data. Photo credit Jim Beecher.