Pat Sirois, Maine SFI Implementation Committee
Maine is renowned for its abundant fish and forest resources. The state has 90 percent of the remaining brook trout habitat in the lower 48 states, and has more privately-owned certified forestland than any other state, including seven million acres certified to the SFI standard.
With forests and fisheries so closely intertwined, Maine’s SFI Implementation Committee saw the need to create a network to bring together all of the organizations working on fish passage issues in the state for collaboration, idea-sharing, and as an important resource for forest landowners. Thus, the Fisheries Improvement Network, appropriately nicknamed FIN, was born March 2012. Since then, FIN has provided valuable information about topics including innovations in stream crossing design, stream barrier inventories, and financial and technical assistance available to forest landowners.
It’s truly a voluntary, outcome-based approach that allows for a great deal of flexibility.
FIN’s latest achievement is a new 10-minute video about improved fish passage and upgraded stream crossings. The project was supported by a multitude of organizations committed to improving Maine’s fisheries. In the video, Henning Stabins, a wildlife biologist with Plum Creek Timber, notes, “The Fisheries Improvement Network is a very exciting entity. It is bringing together some great stakeholders that have been working together for a while already. The state and federal agencies, the non-governmental, environmental organizations, the forest landowners – everybody wants to get to the same endpoint: connected streams allowing passage for fish.”
The video also discusses SFI’s fish passage training and key principles, provides examples of both good and poor stream crossings, and discusses impacts of stream impediment on fisheries management. It also highlights the “Stream Smart” education program, which has been attended by 400-500 people around the state.
“What’s nice [about FIN] is we have a room full of people who know the tools of the trade and how to get things done and they have a passion for the resource which we all share,” says Josh Royte, Senior Conservation Planner from the Nature Conservancy in the video clip.
By creating FIN and fostering the continued commitment of FIN members, we now have an important forum for landowners, managers, fisheries biologists and the forest industry. And, they’re working together to ensure a bright future for Maine’s forests and fisheries.