The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) proudly announce their pioneering efforts at complete watershed restoration of the West Branch of the Pleasant River in Piscataquis County, Maine. The joint initiative restores the region’s natural watershed landscape, reconnecting Atlantic salmon to their freshwater habitat and providing a vital lifeline to the engaged species.

AMC, the nation's oldest conservation and recreation organization, is committed to fostering the protection, enjoyment, and understanding of the outdoors. ASF was founded in 1948 to conserve, protect, and restore wild Atlantic salmon and wild rivers. Their Maine, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada teams specialize in complex river restoration projects and applied research.

“Ending 180 years of habitat fragmentation, AMC is giving salmon in the region access to their headwater streams since the installation of mainstream dams in 1835,” said Nicole Zussman, president and CEO of the Appalachian Mountain Club. “This project, in collaboration with our partner’s projects and dam removals downstream, represents a significant step towards restoring salmon passage from the Appalachian mountains to the ocean.”

Key components of the initiative include the conservation of the watershed through AMC's ownership, removing all barriers to fish passage by 2030, improving forest management practices to safeguard water quality, and adding large wood to reverse the historical impacts of river driving. This total ecosystem approach underscores AMC's and ASF’s dedication to comprehensive restoration. The Maine Woods Initiative property owned by AMC plays a pivotal role in conserving the critical 100-mile Wilderness region where sea-run Atlantic salmon intersects with the Appalachian Trail, contributing to the broader ecological connectivity of the area.

Since 2003, AMC has worked diligently to conserve 114,000 acres in the Moosehead Lake region of Maine, protecting nearly the entire West Branch of the Pleasant River—a crucial habitat for eastern brook trout and endangered Atlantic salmon. Completing 132 fish passage projects since 2011, reopening 128 miles of stream, demonstrates AMC's commitment to habitat restoration. By the end of 2024, more than 10 miles of headwater habitat will be reopened, putting AMC over halfway towards the goal of removing all culverts and opening up all stream miles by 2030.

Jeff Reardon, habitat restoration project manager at the Atlantic Salmon Federation, remarks, “the Pleasant River’s large amount of high-quality, climate-resilient habitat makes it one of the most significant watersheds for salmon recovery in the US. It is the only tributary to the Penobscot, which is just one dam and fishway from the ocean. This unique combination underscores the extraordinary value of the Pleasant River watershed for salmon recovery, biodiversity, and climate resilience.”

This groundbreaking restoration work has been undertaken in collaboration with Maine manufacturers and contractors, closely consulting with community stakeholders. The effort has resulted in the creation and sustenance of eighteen local installation and manufacturing jobs, contributing to the region's economic well-being.  AMC is pleased to partner with William London and Son of Milo, Maine, and Sargent Corporation of Old Town, Maine, to complete the installation work. Structure fabrication for the projects provided by Dirigo Bridge Company of Madison, Maine, and Sargent Corporation of Old Town, Maine.

AMC's climate-smart forest management activities not only preserve local jobs but also enhance the forest's carbon sequestration, ensuring its sustainability and providing cold water crucial for Atlantic salmon and brook trout habitats.

AMC and ASF, in partnership with federal agencies, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and private philanthropy, have secured funding for this critical initiative. These federal funds underscore the collaborative nature of the project, emphasizing the shared commitment to restoring and preserving the ecological integrity of the region.

This watershed restoration initiative is an environmental triumph and a testament to the power of collaboration, community engagement, and sustained commitment to ecological stewardship. AMC is proud to lead the way along with ASF in revitalizing historic salmon habitats, ensuring a conservation legacy for generations to come.

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