Planting riparian buffers along native trout streams is a priority for the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) and Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR). Many of the headwater streams of the Upper Rappahannock watershed support Eastern brook trout, the only trout species native to Virginia. Most of the brook trout streams in the Headwater Stream Initiative region are in Rappahannock and Madison Counties.
While once more widespread, brook trout have declined significantly throughout much of their range due to habitat loss that has resulted from water contamination, warm water temperatures as a consequence of shade loss from the clearing of trees and shrubs along waterways, manmade barriers such as road-stream crossings that don’t support fish passage, and other factors. Brook trout are what are called an indicator species. Because they require cool, clean water, they indicate the health of the stream ecosystem in terms of aquatic habitat and water quality.
PEC and several partners including FOR are working on a Brook Trout Stream Restoration Initiative through which they are coupling fish barrier removal projects with efforts to conserve land along streams, promote best management practices, and plant riparian buffers to help create and restore brook trout habitat.