What is the DER and what does it do?

 

 

The Massachusetts Division of Environmental Restoration (DER) was created in 2009 with the merger of the Riverways and Wetlands Restoration Programs. DER coordinates ecological restoration to improve habitat for fish and wildlife and restores important ecosystem services that improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts citizens.  DER works with many partners across a variety of aquatic systems, from freshwater to saltwater, to restore the ecological integrity of degraded habitats for the benefit of people and the environment.

 

In 2016 alone, the Division removed 2 dams and completed 2 wetland restoration projects, restoring 285 acres and opening 13 river miles statewide.  It advanced work on multiple river and wetland restoration projects that have recently initiated construction or will begin construction next year.  Once complete, those projects will remove 8 dams, reconnect more than 78 river miles and restore nearly 280 acres of degraded wetlands.

 

Using Commonwealth funds, DER leveraged $10 million in newly awarded external funds.  Volunteers worked in 72 communities devoting more than $100,000 worth of labor towards protecting and restoring our rivers and wetlands.  The DER provided technical support and guidance in more than 170 communities and across all 27 major watersheds.

 

DER, together with its partners, has restored in total over 1,800 acres of coastal wetlands and reconnected over 250 miles.

 

In Western MA, the DER was recently awarded a $179,620 grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation.  The grant will build municipal capacity to upgrade culverts and increase the pace of culvert replacement in the Deerfield River Watershed.  The Deerfield River has an abundance of coldwater streams, which provide essential habitat for fish species. In 2011 many towns were hard hit in the region after Tropical Storm Irene.  This grant, in conjunction with other DER funds will immediately advance the design and/or construction of up to 6 culverts in the Deerfield River Watershed and, in time, will lead to many more replacements.

 

DER’s Streamflow Restoration program continues to work with municipal partners in Pittsfield to improve streamflow below recreational dams.  This past winter, DER installed a telemetry station at the Onota Lake dam that measures water level and assists with lake management and downstream releases to Peck’s Brook, a tributary to the West Branch of the Housatonic River.  Last fall DER also funded a survey of macro-invertebrates in Peck’s Brook, along with several other streams in the area, to better quantify changes in the aquatic community after modifications were made to upstream dam management.  Recent monitoring shows significant improvements in both streamflow and macro-invertebrate populations in the brook, despite 2016 drought conditions.

 

In 2017, DER will be working on 11 new priority projects adding to its total roster of 62 projects.  Here in the Berkshires, the Kitchen Brook Dam in Cheshire, has a provisional status of Significant Hazard.  It has an impassable obstruction on the brook, which drains part of Mount Greylock’s eastern slope and is tributary to the coldwater trout stream Thunder Brook.  That brook is where DER previously worked with the town to removal another aging dam and to replace an undersized culvert with a fish-friendly crossing.  Removal of Kitchen Brook Dam will open up 4 miles of high quality cold water habitat for Eastern Brook Trout.

 

The Kinne Brook Dam in Chester was removed in 2014, and now two undersized culverts will be replaced in 2017-2018.  The goal is to restore river functions to the high-quality cold-water stream which is a tributary to the Westfield River.  It is abundant with eastern brook trout.  The barrier removals were done in partnership with Trout Unlimited and others.

Several years ago, the DER removed a dam on the North Branch of the Hoosic River in Clarksburg.  Now, there is an Urban River Restoration Priority Project planned for the Hoosic River in North Adams.  The goal is to modernized North Adams’ aging concrete flood chutes with habitat, river and community friendly modifications while maintaining existing flood risk management levels.   So far a concept design for the South Branch Hoosic River restoration is in place including preliminary designs for a Phase I restoration in the Noel Field area. Soil, sediment and groundwater sampling was just completed in the Phase I restoration area. Concept design work for the North Branch of the Hoosic River is just beginning and will take about a year to complete.

 

The DER is a division which reports directly to the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game.  Tim Purington is its Director.  It is one of my favorite state agencies because we can see tangible results which affects our lives and benefits the critters. I hope it continues to receive sufficient funding to accomplish it very important work.

 

Trout Stockings

The following local waters were scheduled to be stocked last week.  Due to the rain and high waters, this schedule was subject to change: Ashfield Pond, Housatonic River (East Branch) in Dalton and Hinsdale, Housatonic River SW Branch in Pittsfield, Pontoosuc Lake, Lake Garfield, Lake Buel, Windsor Lake in North Adams, Onota Lake, Goose Pond, and Windsor Pond in Windsor.

 

Water Safety

According to the Massachusetts Environmental Police, most boating fatalities in the Commonwealth result when boaters fail to wear life jackets while in small craft in cold water or weather. Paddlers in canoes and kayaks are required to wear life jackets from September 15 – May 15.  They also advise us to:  Make sure everyone wears a life jacket, follows navigation rules, such as safe speed and spotters, never boat under the influence and keep in touch by using cell phones, etc.  Don’t panic if you fall into the water.  Stay afloat with the help of your life jacket, regain control of your breathing, keep your head above water in vision of rescuers, and stay with the boat if possible

Pittsfield teenager will compete in National Junior Olympic Shooting Championships

 

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association (LSA) recently announced that one of its junior athletes, Lena DuPont, of Pittsfield, has earned and accepted a first round invitation to compete in the 2017 National Junior Olympic Shooting Championships for Air Pistols.   They will take place at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO on April 20 – 24.  Lena is 14 years old and an 8th grade High Honors student at TEC Connections Academy.

To compete is quite an honor, as only the finest junior athletes in the nation are invited. The event provides an opportunity for obtaining possible future shooting scholarships and a National Junior Team appointment, which allows them to compete internationally.  Standing shoulder to shoulder with the best shooters in the country makes this match one of the most competitive events in which Lena will participate.

She is a member of LSA’s Air2Spare youth air pistol team, and earned a Silver medal with two teammates (Riley Laurent and Cooper Maloney) at the 2016 Baystate Games.  They were taught by Air2Spare founders and coaches Cliff and Vicki White.  Berkshire Eagle reporter Jacob Mendel, covered these winners in his August 1, 2016 article entitled, “Air2Spare air pistol shooting club continuing growth after Baystate Games showing”. Lena was also featured last summer on WNYT (Albany TV) during the Olympic games

Lena then went on and won a Silver medal at the 2016 Progressive Position Pistol (PPP) Nationals in Ft. Benning, GA in her category for the Eastern Region, and placed 7th overall in the nation.

She is excited for this opportunity and says, “I was really surprised and happy to get this invitation. It’s the equivalent of a shooting Christmas for me and the other junior shooters who were invited!”

Incidentally, Lena is fundraising to help offset the travel costs associated with attending the championships in Colorado.  Her GoFundMe link is: https://www.gofundme.com/lenadupont2017.  For offline donations, contact her mom Stephanie DuPont at (215) 668-7808 or email dupontfam5@gmail.com.

Good luck, Lena!

International Defensive Pistol Association

The outdoor matches of the IDPA and Sheet Matches seasons at Lee Sportsmen Club are starting soon.   Refer to the LSA web site calendar for a list of all match dates.    You do not have to be a member of the Lee club to participate and new shooters are always welcome.  The IDPA is a shooting sport that simulates self-defense scenarios and real life encounters.  Each stage is purposely different to force you to practice different skills.   You will need a 9mm or larger and 3 mags minimum.   The rules of IDPA are followed for safety and scoring. The matches are typically $15 to participate.  There are many IDPA videos on You Tube and they recommend this starter one:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ke-20oCBTOM

 

Steel matches are typically strings of 5 targets repeated 5 times/strings. It’s best if you have 5 magazines.  These matches are rim and center fire pistol and 22 rifle friendly.  Shawn Sullivan ssullee@icloud.com is the best point of contact for IDPA and steel.    New shooters must attend a safety orientation prior to their first shoot.  Each match begins with a safety briefing.  Sign in time is 12:15-12:30 for afternoon matches.

 

Trout Stocking

The following local Western District waters were scheduled to be stocked last week:  Deerfield River (Buckland, Charlemont, Florida), East Branch Westfield River (Chesterfield, Cummington, Windsor), Housatonic River C&R (Lee), Farmington River (Otis, Sandisfield),  Pontoosuc Lake, Laurel Lake, Richmond Pond, and Stockbridge Bowl.  The schedules were subject to change.

Monitoring our water quality

While the Clean Water Act of 1972 was established to help make our rivers swimmable and fishable, most of our rivers still don’t meet that goal, especially after a rainstorm, due to the pollutants carried down the storm drains to the river. That’s according to the Housatonic Valley Association (HVA), who informs us that each of us has the opportunity to make choices that improve the water quality of our rivers and lakes.

Yesterday the HVA conducted a Water Quality Monitoring Training at the Bill Laston Memorial Park in Lanesborough.  Once a month, the trained volunteers will collect water samples at designated locations on Wahconah Falls Brook in Dalton and the Southwest Branch of the Housatonic River in Pittsfield. They volunteered for one morning, once a month, from April through October. The goal of this sampling is to determine current bacteria levels in the above mentioned waters. Segments of these tributaries are currently listed as impaired due to high bacteria levels. If the sampling shows that bacteria levels have dropped, these tributaries may be taken off the state’s impaired waters list. If you missed yesterday’s meeting, check with Alison Dixon, HVA Berkshire Outreach Manager at (413)298-7024 to see if you can still get involved.  The time commitment is 30-40 minutes per month.

Also, the HVA will be conducting Stream Team training on Tuesday, April 4 from5:30 to 7pm at the Mason Library, in Great Barrington, and Saturday, April 8 from  2:30 to 4:30pm at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield.  This spring volunteers will help complete river assessments on the Southwest Branch of the Housatonic River (Pittsfield) and the Green River (Austerlitz, NY to Great Barrington) Volunteers will walk or paddle a 1 – 2 mile segment of the river and record observations.

Our streams and rivers are also affected by acid rain.  Today, volunteers are gathering water samples from hundreds of streams and rivers across the state and delivering them to designated laboratories for analysis. This acid rain monitoring program has been ongoing for more than 30 years and good baseline data has been accumulated.  It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, President Trump’s new executive order addressing coal production will have.

Wildlife Habitat Improvement Grants announced

 

In a recent news release, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that $317,243 in grants were awarded for wildlife habitat improvement projects totaling 534 acres in 13 Massachusetts communities.  These municipal and private conservation efforts will work to improve habitats for native wildlife and increase opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation.

Western Massachusetts will be receiving approximately 59% of those funds. The following landowners will receive these grants:

  • Berkshire Natural Resources Council (Dalton and Hinsdale) – $18,000 – The BNRC will work to control invasive plants and improve floodplain forest along the Old Mill Trail.
  • Massachusetts Forest Alliance (Ashfield and Hawley) – $47,950 – The Massachusetts Forest Alliance will create young forest habitat.
  • Town of Lenox – 33,500 – The Town will work to combat the hardy kiwi invasive plant infestation.
  • Nature Conservancy (Sheffield) – $23,640 – TNC will improve wetland and grassland habitats through the removal of woody plants on the Schenob Brook Preserve.
  • The Trustees of Reservations (Sheffield) – $35,701 – The TTOR will restore grassland habitat through woody species removal and invasive species control on the West Grumpelt Parcel of Bartholemew’s Cobble Preserve.
  • MassAudubon (Otis) – $29,213 – Mass Audubon will create new, and expand existing, shrubland habitat on the Cold Brook Wildlife Sanctuary.

“We are proud to provide municipalities, conservation organizations and private landowners the resources necessary to improve habitats for wildlife in need of conservation assistance, while enhancing recreational opportunities for people who enjoy hunting, bird watching and other outdoor activities” said Governor Baker.

In its second year, the MassWildlife Habitat Management Grant Program provides financial assistance to private and municipal landowners of conserved lands to improve and manage habitat for wildlife deemed in greatest conservation need and for game species. The projects will also expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, and other outdoor recreation, and complement the ongoing habitat management efforts on state lands.

“Wildlife in special need of conservation as well as game species will benefit directly from these habitat management activities,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner George N. Peterson, Jr.  “In addition, the sporting community, birders, naturalists, and other wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy improved recreational opportunities.”

“The reality is that 80 percent of Massachusetts’ lands where wildlife is found are owned privately,” said Jack Buckley, MassWildlife Director. “It makes sense as an agency to promote and apply science-based habitat management activities with committed municipal and private landowners, thereby protecting their investment in wildlife and habitat.”

“Protecting and preserving our natural resources is a vital part of Massachusetts’ environmental programming and services,” said State Senator Adam G. Hinds (D-Pittsfield).  “I appreciate the Administration’s support of these habitat improvement projects in Sheffield, Hinsdale, Ashfield, Otis and Lenox.”

“Improving and protecting wildlife management habitats is an important investment in maintaining the Commonwealth’s quality of life, and preserving a more sustainable environment which supports a diverse range of species and landscapes,” said State Representative Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington).

Report Winter Fish Kills

MassWildlife reminds us that the majority of the fish kills reported to them turn out to be natural events not caused by pollution. During the winter, ice and snow cover can cause low dissolved oxygen levels in ponds. Ice and snow can limit the amount of light that reaches the water column and interfere with photosynthesis and decomposition of organic matter, which in turn can decrease the amount of oxygen available to fish. That may result in winter fish kills. Weedy ponds that are less than 15 feet deep are particularly vulnerable.

Ice anglers may encounter signs of a low oxygen environment when they drill through the ice and notice the smell of rotten eggs or observe sluggish or dying shiners. The odor is hydrogen sulfide gas which is a natural byproduct of low dissolved oxygen environments, and is not likely the result of pollution. Oxygen levels should return to normal shortly after the ice melts in the spring.

If you observe dead fish, contact the Environmental Law Enforcement’s 24-hour radio room at (800) 632-8075. A MassWildlife biologist will review each situation to determine whether the kill is natural or requires a site investigation.

Corrections

In last week’s column about the gold pin freshwater fishermen, I erred twice.   The first error showed Angler of the Year Joshua Christman holding a large carp, whereas the picture caption said that it was a bowfin.  The second was where I listed Shaun Klammer of Adams as receiving two gold pins.  One for having caught a 24 lb 14 oz Northern Pike out of Onota Lake in the Youth Catch and Keep category and another for catching a 43 inch Northern Pike also out of Onota Lake in the Catch & Release category.   Shaun did catch the  24lb 14 oz pike but Jeff Klammer, Shaun’s father, caught the a 43″ pike.  My apologies for both errors.

 

Regarding fishing families, I recommend you read this month’ s Massachusetts Wildlife magazine article entitled, A line that Binds; Fishing, Family and the Lure of the Rez, by editor Troy Gipps.  The article was written about Val Percuoco’s fishing family.  Val, you may recall, caught the 3 lb 8 oz state’s record white perch recently while fishing with her dad Vinny on Wachusett Reservoir.  Val has fished with her dad and Uncle Paul and two sisters, Lynn and Nicole, since childhood.  They have earned countless Sportfishing Award Program pins.  Heck, Val’s younger sister Lynn has 20 pins of her own for 7 different species!

 

Ice Fishing Derby

The Ashfield Rod & Gun Club will be having a kid’s ice fishing derby on Ashfield Lake on Sunday, February 18.  The free derby will run from 8:00 am to noon.  All kids will receive a prize.  Call Joe Miraglia (413) 628-4400 for more info.

 

Questions/comments:  Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com.   Phone:  (413) 637-1818

 

 

2016 was a busy year for MassWildlife

The following information was taken in part from DFW Director Jack Buckley’s annual message:  On June 4, MassWildlife celebrated its 150th anniversary. Over 1,000 people visited the new Field Headquarters on that day to celebrate. The event was an opportunity for staff to highlight its diverse programs from archery for kids to black bear research to butterflies. The day was so successful it is planning a similar event for next year.

 

During the year, it began construction of a water pipeline that will provide gravity-fed, consistently cold water from the Quabbin Reservoir to the McLaughlin Hatchery in Belchertown. Although a significant investment of angler’s dollars, when completed in 2017, this project will produce long-term benefits through reduction of energy costs, establishment of a long-term stable water source for the hatchery, and result in an improvement in the quality of stocked trout.

 

During the 2016 trout stocking season MassWildlife launched a new web-based tool for trout anglers that provides daily online trout stocking reports.  Anglers are encouraged to check out the new tool during the spring trout stocking season at mass.gov/trout.  (For those who aren’t into these new fangled computers, I hope to continue providing timely stocking information in this column.)

 

Making improvements to the Hunter Education program continued to be a focus of the agency. Its goal is to make hunter education easily accessible and convenient without a wait to sign up for a course. Over the past year new Hunter Education staff members were hired to provide enhancements to the program. The primary objectives of these staff are to schedule, plan and conduct Basic Hunter Education courses across the state, particularly in low service areas, as well as to conduct other courses that are developed and administered by the program.

 

In 2016, the Hunter Education Program staff concentrated solely on: 1) increasing the number of Basic Hunter Education Courses being offered in underserved areas of the state such as Boston and Springfield, and 2) increasing the number of participating students. This past year, 94 Basic Hunter Education courses were held across the State, a 14.6% increase over the previous year. A total of 3,952 students participated in the basic course representing a nearly 6% increase in attendance.

 

MassWildlife is implementing the Learn-to-Hunt Program assisting new Hunter Education

graduates in the transition from the classroom to the field. Designed for adult Basic Hunter Education graduates with little or no hunting experience, participants can sign up for a one-day clinic or a 3-day in-depth workshop. Classroom and outdoor exercises help new hunters learn more about the skills and techniques used to hunt different game animals. Taught by Division staff and volunteers from sporting clubs and related organizations, this program utilizes the experience and knowledge of seasoned sportsmen and women. In the first year of this new program, 321 hunters participated.

 

During the year, it expanded programs in archery and recreational shooting resulting in the development of the Explore Archery Program.  This program was created to promote a lifelong interest and participation in the sport of archery to participants of all ages.  MassWildlife continued to train and certify instructors from recreation departments, nature centers, Scouting organizations, and schools. Successful completion of this program allows any certified instructor the ability to offer an archery program in their area and to borrow equipment from MassWildlife free of charge.

 

It has continued its very successful Youth Deer Hunt Day. Beyond the intrinsic benefits, this hunt serves as a great recruiting tool for developing hunting mentors.

 

In 2017, to complement the above programs, MassWildlife plans to partner with the UMASS Extension 4-H Youth Development Program to launch a 4-H© Shooting Sports Program in Massachusetts.  It will focus on youth development and will be designed to empower young people with skills they can use for a lifetime. Young people will develop an understanding of natural resources and conservation ethics while learning marksmanship, the safe and responsible use of firearms, the principles of hunting and archery, and other valuable life skills including self-confidence, personal discipline, responsibility, and sportsmanship.

 

MassWildlife has updated its logo and has begun re-designing agency publications, signs and web pages for a consistent look and easily recognizable agency identity.

 

Director Buckley and his staff have got to be proud of the above accomplishments.  However; Buckley acknowledges that what the Division does would not be possible without the strong support of hunters, anglers, and trappers. “Although we manage wildlife for the benefit and enjoyment of all citizens of the Commonwealth, the sportsmen and women are the financial backbone of MassWildlife. Your willingness to step up in supporting everything from land acquisition to the conservation of rare and endangered species demonstrates the broad view of the interconnectedness and importance of all wildlife … Thank you!”

 

Hoosic River Ranger

The mission of the Hoosic River Revival is to reconnect the community to a healthy, scenic, accessible, flood-controlled river, which will enhance North Adams’ recreational, cultural, and economic vitality.

 

The Hoosic River Revival has collaborated with the North Adams Public School System in the creation of an outdoor education curriculum which focuses on the historical and environmental learning opportunities along the Hoosic River levees at Noel Field in North Adams.  This new offering, called “the Hoosic River Ranger” program, is an inter-active, interpretive walking tour for elementary school children.

 

Supplementing the River Ranger outdoor education curriculum is a new self-guided brochure from the Hoosic River Revival: the “Hoosic River Family Wildlife Walk” brochure. Created by Johanna Wasserman and the River Revival’s Social Media advisor, Bert Lamb, the brochure highlights a half-mile walk from Joe Wolfe Field to Hunter Foundry Road, and is now available in the North Adams Public Library, and at the Colegrove and Brayton schools.  The brochure may also be downloaded from the Revival website: http://bit.ly/HRRwildlifewalk

Young pheasant hunters take to the woods

 

 

Recently, members of the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club conducted a youth pheasant hunt on club property.  Some 10 youths mostly from 13 years to 15 years age were mentored by club members Stan Tracy, Rick Gale and others.  The club purchases and stocks its own birds on club property and on this day, members gave up their hunting day to allow the youths a chance to experience a pheasant hunt.  The birds were stocked between 5 and 6 AM and no hunting was allowed until after 9 AM.

 

Prior to going out on the hunt, the youths were provided a free pancake breakfast and then they attended a safety meeting.  Most were kids or grandkids of club members but some of them were from other areas.  For example, one youth was from Lee.  A couple of others were kids of parents who did not hunt and they had no other opportunity to learn to hunt pheasants.

 

Tracy mentored three teenage girls, Mia Gale, Isabella LaCasse and Suki Liang and didn’t know what to expect.  “I didn’t know if they would be dressed properly and was afraid that they would show up wearing sneakers” he said.  But when they showed up, the girls were properly dressed in camo or hunter orange clothing and knee high boots.  They were serious and ready to go in spite of the cold, raw weather.  Two parents showed up to help with the mentoring.

 

Out to the woods and fields they went, accompanied by Tracy’s bird dog Brady.  The girls did great, each having bagged a pheasant.   The only complaint that Tracy received was that after an hour or so, the guns became heavy.  He was glad that the parents came along to help carry the extra gun for them.   They were anxious to call it a day, not because of boredom or the cold weather or anything like that.  They wanted to get back to the clubhouse to clean their game.  They weren’t fazed at all with the plucking and removal of the birds’innards.

 

In all, 10 youths participated in the hunt and they bagged 15 or 16 birds.

 

Incidentally, MassWildlife will be stocking 40,000 pheasants statewide this fall.  They started stocking for opening day which was October 15 and will continue until November 25.  Plenty of time left to bag a couple for your next pheasant under glass meal.

Division of Ecological Restoration

The MA Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration works with community-based partners to restore aquatic ecosystems. The Division’s ecological restoration work brings clean water, recreation opportunities, healthy commercial fisheries, and other ecosystem services to the citizens of Massachusetts.  Tim Purinton is its Director. Here is what they had to say about our recent drought in its November 2016 newsletter Ebb and Flow:

“Our aquatic ecosystems are under an incredible amount of stress from the ongoing and persistent drought. This long period of drought will be remembered, like the blizzard of 1978 or the hurricanes of the late 1950s.  Periods of low streamflow and drought are a natural occurrence and many aquatic organisms have evolved traits that enable them to survive. However, this summer’s drought has highlighted how human activity and a changing environment have greatly impacted the ability of many aquatic organisms to survive under drought conditions.

DER’s Streamflow Restoration program documents flow stress conditions around the state, due to water withdrawals near headwater streams and impervious surfaces that reduce the potential for rain to recharge aquifers. These data are used to inform and support policy and actions that restore and maintain healthy streamflows.

This summer and fall we observed many streams that were completely dry for months at a time and others that were just a series of disconnected pools. In these impacted streams, the baseflow (groundwater that feeds streams during periods when there is no precipitation) had disappeared as groundwater levels dropped below the streambed due to the impacts of water withdrawals, lack of precipitation and impervious surfaces. In other streams, water levels behind dams dropped below spillways, resulting in no flow below the dam. The lack of water and flow in these streams directly impacts habitat quantity and quality which may have lasting impacts on aquatic organisms.

While many streams that we monitor were severely impacted by drought conditions, the reference streams that we monitor as part of a regional climate change monitoring network fared much better. These streams are located in relatively undeveloped and forested watersheds with healthy riparian corridors and proved more resilient to drought conditions. These streams were able to maintain baseflow and cool temperatures throughout the drought, illustrating how important these forests and riparian vegetation are to maintaining healthy streamflow. This natural infrastructure allowed the precipitation to slowly infiltrate and recharge groundwater aquifers, providing lasting benefits for instream habitat and water temperature. These streams flowed throughout the summer and fall while many other streams were dry.

Impacts of the drought are not limited to streams, as drinking water suppliers, fishing and recreational enthusiast as well as the agricultural industry all faced serious drought related impacts. One bright spot of the drought is the increased emphasis and interest in the importance of water conservation, especially during the summer. Many communities were able to greatly reduce water use through conservation practices, including increased education, watering restrictions and bans. These conservation efforts not only benefit water supplies but also streamflow.”

 

New State record white perch caught

New State record white perch caught

Back in July, 2016 MassWildlife reported that a new state record lake trout was caught out of Quabbin Reservoir.  Caught by Eric Kozlowski, of Cheshire, it weighed 22 lbs 4 oz.  Well, MassWildlife recently reported that another state record freshwater fish was caught.  This one, a white perch, was caught by Val Percuoco, of Leominster, MA out of  Wachusett Reservoir.  It weighed 3 lbs 8 oz, was 18 inches long and had a girth of 13.5 inches.  It broke the previous record of 3 lbs 5 oz, which was caught in 1994 by Tray Richford.  That fish also came out of Wachusett Reservoir.

 

Val is an avid angler and she was fishing with her father Vinny Percuoco, on Sunday, October 16.  They were fishing from the shore as there is no boating allowed on Wachusett Reservoir. While fishing with a night crawler a big fish hit.  “It was a great fight from the second I set the hook- nice bend in the rod, running drag like crazy.” she said.   Her dad didn’t net it because he didn’t want to damage the fins. He just carefully pulled it in by the line once it was close enough to the shoreline.

 

“I just ran to the measuring tape because we were going to measure and release for the Catch and Release Program with MassWildlife, but then we realized just how big it was. So we grabbed our scales and weighed it.”     “State Record!” said Vinny.

 

Val said that this once in a lifetime fish will be mounted.  Usually it is either catch & release for them or her mom and grandparent will eat what they catch.  Neither she nor her dad eat fish.

 

It was brought to B & A Bait and Tackle in West Boylston, MA, a shop right next to Wachusett Reservoir, was weighed and an affidavit filled out. She then brought it to the MassWildlife Field Headquarters on the next day where Todd Richards, Assistant Director of Fisheries, certified that it was a white perch and he weighed it.

 

Val is 28 years old and she has been fishing with her dad since she was 3.    Val and Vinny  – what a great team.  May they fish together for many more years to come.

 

Incidentally, in case you are wondering, anyone who may have a state record fish must bring it to a MassWildlife office for a fisheries biologist to identify and weigh.

 

 

IDPA Steel Rimfire rifle match  

The International Defense Pistol Association invites you to bring your rimfire or centerfire (9mm up to .45) pistols or revolvers to use at the upcoming match on November 5 at the Lee Sportsmen’s Association from 1:00 to 4:00 PM.  Rifles must be bagged or boxed with empty chamber indicators in place and .22LR rimfires only. You should bring 5 magazines if possible, 150 round count (No magnum loads).  These are safe shoots with a safety officer standing next to the shooter.  Shooting will take place under the canopy, so rain is no problem.  Cost is $7 and Cold Range Rules apply.  There will be a safety briefing at 12:45PM.  Contact Shawn Sullivan for questions ssullee@icloud.com.

 

PCB Cleanup

It seems like some progress is finally being made on the removal of PCB’s from the Housatonic River.  As you are probably aware, the EPA has recently announced its plan to clean up the “rest of the river”. And it is anticipated that GE will appeal the decision.  What’s new there?   Berkshire Eagle reporter Clarence Fanto has been on this story for years and has been doing a great job of keeping us informed.

 

You may recall that the EPA and GE finally came up with a consent decree in the year 2,000.  Not bad, it only took 20 or so years to get that far.  After 16 more years of wrangling, and with the input of agencies such as the Massachusetts DEP and F&W, CT DEEP, and others, the EPA came up with a plan to address the PCB’s.  Basically, it would remove them from the hot spots in the river and flood plains from Pittsfield to Woods Pond in Lenox Dale and move them out of state to a licensed landfill.   (See Fanto’s October 25, 2016 Berkshire Eagle entitled” EPA’s cleanup plan is final” for more details of the plan.)  So after all these years, it turns out that the shovel and wheel barrel technology prevailed.

 

It does more dredging than I like to see and not enough for those who advocated for a more thorough clean-up.  And GE will undoubtedly appeal it.  But it seems to be the most reasonable plan, one that doesn’t destroy the river but removes a good chunk of the PCBs.  It is a plan that appears to be acceptable to fisheries and wildlife biologists and area sportsmen.  The Berkshire County League of Sportsmen has always advocated for an environmentally sensitive cleanup.  Good luck if you think you will get rid of all the PCBs there or anywhere in the world.

 

So will the cleanup begin tomorrow?  Hah!  It will probably take 5 years before all of GE’s appeals have been resolved.  Who knows, maybe the EPA’s plan will be scrapped.  Let’s hope the EPA hangs tough and will not allow the PCB’s to be placed in dumps anywhere here in the Berkshires.  Even if GE agreed to the plan and started cleanup tomorrow, it is projected to take 13 years to complete.

 

Some years ago while discussing the proposed cleanup with my neighbor; I said that we would probably never see that cleanup (and accompanying environmental damage) in our lifetimes.  His reply was, “I hope I never do”.  He may get his wish.

 

Wildlife habitat improvement grants available

 

Sporting clubs with an interest in wildlife habitat management may want to apply for grant funding from MassWildlife. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has provided $300,000 for a habitat management grant program that will fund private and municipal efforts to manage conservation lands which benefit native wildlife and related recreation. The MassWildlife Habitat Management Grant Program is managed by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife). In its second year, the program provides financial assistance to private and municipal landowners of conserved lands to improve and manage habitat for wildlife in greatest conservation need and for game species. The projects will also expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, and other outdoor recreation, and complement ongoing habitat management efforts on state lands.

Eligible applicants include owners of private or municipal conserved lands. Conserved land is defined as property protected in fee or by a Conservation Restriction, land enrolled in Chapter 61,61A/B, or has a current Landowner Incentive Program covenant. Examples of habitat management practices include: Mowing, brush hogging, heavy chipping, tree clearing, contract grazing,  invasive species control, fencing for habitat protection, prescribed burning, woodland improvements, tree planting of species beneficial to wildlife, nest site structure, creation and installation, and more.

Applicants may apply to receive between $10,000 and $50,000 per grant towards their approved habitat management projects. State and federal lands are not eligible. For more information click onto  mass.gov/dfw/habitat-grant.  Applications must be postmarked by November 15,2016.

HVA improving riparian buffer

Eversource manages a transmission right-of-way in Hinsdale which crosses the Old Mill Trail and the East Branch of the Housatonic River, a state designated healthy cold water stream. The strip of land adjacent to the river under this transmission line will be the site of a restoration project to be coordinated by the HVA thanks to funding received from Eversource and the Central Berkshire Fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.

Eversource’s maintenance of vegetation under transmission lines is designed to keep vegetation from growing into the overhead electrical lines. Where transmission lines cross a river, this can greatly reduce the amount of river shading which is important for keeping stream temperatures cool. Cool temperatures are especially critical for native brook trout, whose population in recent years has declined considerably.  The East Branch of the Housatonic River still has a healthy native brook trout population. When members of the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited expressed concern to HVA about this stretch of river under the transmission line along the Old Mill Trail and its potential impact on the native brook trout habitat, HVA responded and drafted a restoration plan.

With permission from Eversource and the Hinsdale Conservation Commission and necessary funding, the process to create a much healthier riparian buffer has begun. This fall, invasive plants such as Japanese knotweed, barberry and multi-flora rose will be treated or removed.  Later on selected native plants will be planted with assistance from Wahconah High School students.

This improved riparian buffer will provide shade, better stabilization of the river bank and also intercept surface runoff thereby trapping any sediment and pollutants before they enter the river. The leaf litter from the vegetation naturally deposited into the stream will provide food for many of the aquatic invertebrates which in turn will provide food for trout and other fish.

In cooperation with the new landowners, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, HVA will ensure future trail management includes manual removal of any woody seedlings that could interfere with the transmission lines. Manual maintenance of this stretch of vegetation under the transmission line could eliminate any need for future herbicide applications between the Old Mill Trail and the river’s edge. Over time, the improved riparian buffer and elimination of invasive species will enhance the wildlife habitat in and along the river.  For more information about this restoration project, contact the HVA at 413-394-9796.

Unfortunate cancellation of Big MOE

The Massachusetts Outdoor Expo, (Big MOE), started out with a group of sportsmen and women who wanted to create an opportunity for kids to learn more about outdoor skills, wildlife and conservation.  They approached the Hamilton Rod and Gun Club in Sturbridge to host the Expo, due to its central location and facilities.  Shortly thereafter, members of the Outdoor Expo group approached FAWNS,   (Facts About Wildlife & Nature Society), a non-profit group founded in 1998 to promote the connection of people to the outdoors.  They were also interested in promoting educational experiences focusing on the outdoors and a partnership was formed with FAWNS being the organizing entity.

For 19 years the Big MOE continued to operate as a free family event. Its key function was to offer a first, safe, step into the outdoors guided by the certified instructors who oversaw the hands-on activity stations.  It provided its participants with the tools to learn about and connect with the many education programs, sporting clubs, and other community pathways to learning more about outdoor activities.  The event annually drew several thousand visitors and about 45 activity stations.

This year, with just a few days before the big event, they were unable to secure the necessary liability insurance to protect all involved. Even though it had a perfect, incident free record for the past 19 years, the insurance companies deemed the event a high risk. Consequently, the event, which was scheduled for last Sunday, had to be cancelled.  As one organizer said, “Sadly, this is now a reflection of where our society is heading unless we all make an effort to change this attitude”.

Fortunately, they were able to get the word out about the cancellation in time and only 30 cars had to be turned away.  People were disappointed but they weren’t angry.

FAWNS is determined to continue Big MOE next year.

Where is your fishing nook?

Many years ago poet Edgar Albert Guest wrote a poem entitled Fishing Nooks.  It goes as follows:

 

‘Men will grow weary,’ said the Lord, ‘Of working for their bed and board. They’ll weary of the money chase And want to find a resting place Where hum of wheel is never heard And no one speaks an angry word, And selfishness and greed and pride And petty motives don’t abide. They’ll need a place where they can go To wash their souls as white as snow. They will be better men and true If they can play a day or two.’ The Lord then made the brooks to flow And fashioned rivers here below, And many lakes; for water seems Best suited for a mortal’s dreams. He placed about them willow trees To catch the murmur of the breeze, And sent the birds that sing the best Among the foliage to nest. He filled each pond and stream and lake With fish for man to come and take; Then stretched a velvet carpet deep On which a weary soul could sleep. It seemed to me the Good Lord knew That man would want something to do When worn and wearied with the stress Of battling hard for world success. When sick at heart of all the strife And pettiness of daily life, He knew he’d need, from time to time, To cleanse himself of city grime, And he would want some place to be Where hate and greed he’d never see. And so on lakes and streams and brooks The Good Lord fashioned fishing nooks.

 

So where are these fishing nooks?  And how far must you travel to find one?   Are they hidden in undisturbed cool glens tucked away somewhere in the forests, away from all sounds other than that of chirping birds and the rippling of a stream?

 

Or are they any places where your heart is at ease and where you can “play a day or two” as Guest suggests.  Perhaps it’s a lake in the middle of a city.

 

That’s where Thomas Evangelisto, of Pittsfield, found his nook on May 12 while fishing Silver Lake in the heart of Pittsfield with his nephew Chris Obrien.

 

They were trying to catch carp but Chris immediately caught a 2.5 lb bass on just a piece of night crawler.  A little while later, Tom thought he had hooked a common carp but it wasn’t putting up much of a fight. He knew it was something big. When he landed the fish they both were stunned to realize this was no common carp at all, but a goldfish!  (Actually, a goldfish is a kind of carp.)  Tom said that they both looked at each other and started to laugh.  They estimated the goldfish weighed approximately 4.5 pounds and was amazingly thick. They couldn’t believe that there were goldfish in there, but the fact that Tom caught one was even more surprising to them.

 

They continued fishing after that and Tom caught another large goldfish on a piece of worm.  They also caught several more bass of good size, as well as perch, rock bass, crappie and sunfish.

 

They released all of the fish for they undoubtedly have traces of PCB’s in them and shouldn’t be eaten.  (Probably they should be disposed of in a toxic waste dump.)  Although there was a clean-up of the lake a couple of years ago, it is believed that PCB’s are still entering the lake from a nearby retention pond.

 

But never-the-less, it still is a neat little nook for city residents to enjoy some catch and release fishing without traveling too far.

 

Crane Land Donation

Wow!  811 acres donated and preserved in perpetuity.  That’s how many acres the Crane Company has donated to the Berkshire Natural Resources Council this past year.  The most recent donation was a 126 acre parcel known as Jericho Woods located between Hinsdale and Dalton.  A couple of miles of the East Branch of the Housatonic River, which provides excellent trout fishing, flows through that parcel.  Dennis Regan, Manager of the Berkshire district of the Housatonic Valley Association, and his group of volunteers recently developed the two mile Old Mill Trail which runs adjacent to the river.   It truly is a treasure to be enjoyed by residents and visitors of the Berkshires.

 

That parcel and the 685 acre Crane donation of a piece of land located in Pittsfield, Dalton and Lanesborough, known as the Boulders, is all open to the public.  What wonderful donations by the Crane Company.

 

Take a youth fishing!

On Tuesday, August 23, from noon to 2:00 PM, MassWildlife is celebrating Youth Outdoors Week at the Burbank Park Fishing Pier on Lake Onota in Pittsfield.  It is hosting a free, family-friendly, learn-to-fish event for anglers with little or no experience.  Bring your fishing equipment, or borrow theirs (equipment and bait will be provided).   MassWildlife staff will be on hand to provide instruction. For more information, contact Jim Lagacy at jim.lagacy@state.ma.us.

 

 

2016 spring turkey harvest totals are tabulated

MassWildlife’s Wild Turkey Project Leader David Scarpitti reported that preliminary harvest figures indicate 3,054 wild turkeys were taken by licensed hunters during the 2016 spring hunting season. According to Scarpitti, this represents the second highest spring season wild turkey harvest since turkey hunting began in the Commonwealth in 1980.  The highest spring season harvest occurred in 2009 when 3,085 turkeys were harvested. This year, 83 turkeys were reported during the one-day youth season, and 2,971 turkeys were reported during the regular four-week season. Some 346 were harvested in Berkshire County and 577 in the Western District.

Above average brood production in 2015 was likely the biggest factor influencing the near record harvest. In addition, winter conditions in 2015-2016 were quite moderate compared to the previous two winters, which likely further enhanced juvenile turkey survival and recruitment.

The 2016 fall turkey season is October 24 through November 5 statewide (except Nantucket) and open to all hunters possessing a valid hunting or sporting license and a wild turkey hunting permit, provided they didn’t harvest their season limit of two in the spring. More turkey hunting information and regulations are posted on the Wild Turkey Hunting page.

August is the last month to participate in the Wild Turkey Brood Survey where all turkey sightings are listed, including jakes and toms. After August 31, completed forms should to be mailed to: Brood Survey, MassWildlife Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see many birds in June, but lately they came on like gangbusters and I am seeing large broods everywhere, some with very small poults for this time of year.

Antlerless Deer Hunting Permits

Hunters who applied for an Antlerless Deer Permit by the July 16 deadline must return to the MassFishHunt licensing system to try to win a permit. The Instant Award Period began on August 1 and continues through December 31. This is NOT a first-come first-served system.

Finding out if you won one is a bit complicated:

Log into the MassFishHunt system with your last name and customer ID, click the Enter Sales button, then click Accept in the Customer Electronic Signature dialog box, then choose Hunting Permits and Stamps from the main menu, then choose Add next to Antlerless Deer Permit, the zone for which you previously applied will appear on the next screen, then click Select to check whether you won a permit.

One of two messages will appear, either “Congratulations! You have been awarded an Antlerless Deer Permit and click check out to purchase it”, OR “Unfortunately you did not win”.

If you won, an Antlerless Deer Permit will be placed in the shopping cart, and you may proceed to check out to complete the $5.00 purchase. These permits will remain in your shopping cart until purchased or expired. Winners should print their permits upon completion of the transaction. All permits expire on December 31.

If you don’t have a computer, visit a MassWildlife office, or a license agent location.  Staff at these locations will help you.

Forest Tours

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) foresters will be leading pre-harvest forest tours of prepared timber sale areas, discussing forest management techniques, providing a view of the trees designated for harvest, and explaining how harvest operations will take place.  A detailed silviculture prescription for each harvesting operation will be provided to attendees.  These tours culminate a public process that included public meetings and a written comment period on each project.

 

The tours will be conducted rain or shine as indicated below.  Attendees are encouraged to dress for the weather and to wear sturdy shoes.  For additional information about the tours and DCR forest management on State Forests, Parks, and Reservations, please contact William Hill, Management Forestry Program Supervisor, at 413-545-3891.

 

Two tours are scheduled for the Berkshires as follows:

 

Pittsfield State Forest, August 16 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. DCR Forester Kevin Podkowka will lead a tour of the 97 acre planned timber sale in a northern hardwood forest.  Meet at the parking area in front of the gate, 1 mile south of Rt. 43 on Potter Mountain Road.  Potter Mountain Road is accessed by taking Rt. 20 west past Hancock Shaker Village to Lebanon Springs, NY.  From Rt. 20 in Lebanon Springs turn right and take Rt. 22 north to Stephentown, NY.  From Rt. 22 in Stephentown turn right and take Rt.43 east for approximately 2.8 miles and Potter Mountain Road will be on the right.  Follow Potter Mountain Road for approximately 1 mile south and the parking area will be on the left.

 

Sandisfield State Forest, August 17 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. DCR Forester Jeff Martin will lead a tour of the 75 acre planned timber sale in a northern red oak forest type.  Meet at the York Lake Day Use Area, from where tour attendees will carpool to the site.  The Day Use Area is .3 miles east from the intersection of Route 183, New Marlborough-Sandisfield Road and East Hill Road in New Marlborough.  The tour of the timber sale will require an approximate 20 minute non strenuous walk to reach the project area.

 

Basic Hunting Course

All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course. A course will be taught at the Becket Town Hall, at 557 Main Street, on September 12 and 14 from 5:00pm to 9:00pm, and on September 17 from 7:00am to 5:00pm.  Attendance is required at all classes.

 

Questions/comments:  Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com.   Phone:  (413) 637-1818.

Four honored at BCLS Conte Banquet

 

About 160 people packed the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club banquet hall last Saturday evening for the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen’s (BCLS) Silvio O. Conte Memorial Awards Banquet. Award recipients were the late Christopher Porter of Pittsfield, Al Buck of Adams, Steve Bateman of Pittsfield and DCR Deputy Director Matthew Sisk, of Braintree, MA.  The banquet was dedicated in memory of the late Chuck Jones of Dalton.  All were selected by the various sportsmen’s clubs which make up the BCLS.   Their individual feats were highlighted in a prior column.

 

In acknowledging Chuck Jones, emcee and former League president Mark Jester said that Jones was instrumental in getting the Friends of NRA here in the Berkshires and every club, including the BCLS, benefitted from the work he and his staff did over the years.   Chuck’s widow, Evelyn, thanked the League for the banquet dedication in Chuck’s honor.  She read a touching poem of remembrance.

 

Steve Bateman has raised over $25,000 through his fishing derbies for Dana Farber Cancer Institute.  He was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award which acknowledged “his achievements all while enhancing the image of sportsmen in our community”.  On receiving the award, he thanked all those who helped along the way.

 

Al Buck was recognized for his work with the sportsmen and Adams Outdoor for Youth by receiving the John Zuber Award “for his unwavering dedication to introduce and perpetuate the ideals of sportsmen in Berkshire County.”  He thanked the League and the many people who helped him over the years.

 

Fish & Wildlife Board Chairman George “Gige” Darey presented the Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award to Matt Sisk.  Darey noted that there were thousands of acres of local state forests that were not accessible to hunters.   That was until Matt became Deputy Director of DCR.  Upon hearing of the problem, he immediately came to the Berkshires, checked out the situation and got the access issues resolved.  The award was “ in recognition of his sport dedication and oversight to the preservation of open space and wildlife.”  In accepting the award, Sisk said that he was really honored and proud and that the award means a lot to him.  “If it wasn’t for Fish & Game Commissioner George Peterson, Darey and DFW Director Jack Buckley”, he said, “ this wouldn’t have happened.”

 

In presenting the Sportsman of the Year Award, Jester noted that the late Chris Porter should have gotten this award years ago. He was very involved in the sports level and was very helpful, usually behind the scenes.  “We want his memory to live on.” he said.   The award was, “in recognition of his lifelong dedication and leadership of sportsmen and youth of Massachusetts.” Chris’ son Ryan accepted the award on behalf of his family.  He thanked the League and related some shooting experiences that he had with his dad.

 

During the banquet, Mark Jester recounted how he became a BCLS delegate when he was 23 years old.   He mentioned how the late US Congressman Silvio O. Conte always made it a point to attend the raccoon dinners that the Lakewood Sportsmen’s Club put on.  At one dinner, he suggested that Mark become involved with the BCLS. The rest is history, with Mark serving as a delegate for 34 years and 18 years as its president.   Having recently stepped down, he took the opportunity to thank all of the delegates and sportsmen and women who have helped him over the years.  He said that he has developed many close friends that he never would have met were it not for the League. *****

 

The following waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week:  Deerfield River  in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Walker Brook in Becket and Chester, Goose Pond Brook in Lee and Tyringham, Greenwater Brook, Beartown Brook and West Brook in Lee; Little River, Bronson Brook and West Branch Brook in Worthington; Yokum Brook in Becket, West Branch Brook in Chesterfield, Wahconah Falls Brook in Dalton, West Brook in Great Barrington, Little River in Huntington, Factory Brook in Middlefield, Mill Brook in Plainfield, Larrywaug Brook in Stockbridge, Depot Brook in Washington and Westfield Brook in Windsor. *****

Vernal pools are unique wildlife habitats best known for the amphibians and invertebrate critters that use them to breed.   They usually dry during summer which prevents fish from establishing   populations.  That is critical to the reproductive success of many amphibians and invertebrates that rely on breeding habitats free of fish predators.

If you want to learn more about vernal pools, join the Wild & Scenic Westfield River exploration at noon April 30, at the Becket Town Hall in Becket.  After an hour presentation by Berkshire Environmental Action Team specialist Jane Winn, there will be on-site training to learn how to identify and certify a vernal pool. The presentation is free and open to the public and the site visit requires registration.  For more information, call Meredyth Babcock @ 413 623-2070.