Trout Unlimited: Adapting the Riparian Areas and Water of the North River

Trout Unlimited New England is working with partners to implement a series of actions to help riparian forests and coldwater streams adapt to climate change.

Project Area

This collaborative project is focused on the North River Watershed, a subwatershed of the Deerfield River basin. The North River Watershed includes 193 miles of streams and 93 square miles of land along the border between Vermont and Massachusetts. The land in the watershed is 83% forest, 13% agricultural lands, and 4% urban development. Several properties are involved in this project, including the H.O. Cook State Forest, managed by the Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, and multiple conserved parcels owned by the Franklin Land Trust or private individuals.

Management Goals

There are multiple properties participating in this project, each of which has a different set of management goals and objectives. At the same time, there are many shared interests, including:

  • Maintaining healthy and productive forests
  • Maintaining and improving the integrity of the waters in the North River Watershed
  • Improving stream connectivity and improving habitat to benefit trout and other aquatic organisms
  • Increasing the ability of streams and infrastructure to accommodate extreme precipitation events.

Climate Change Impacts

Poster on the Forests for Fish project.
For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
Warmer air temperatures, which would lead to increased water temperatures.
Changes in seasonal precipitation, with projected increases during the cold-season and possible decreases in the summer months.
Increases in extreme events, particularly storms with high rainfall.

Challenges and Opportunities

The North River Watershed has experienced severe erosion, bank destabilization, and loss of instream fish habitat because of increasingly frequent and intense storms over the past five years. The watershed sits within the larger Deerfield River Watershed and is one of the main rivers contributing cold water input and wild fish stocks to the Deerfield River. Climate change will have important impacts on this ecosystem. Temperature-sensitive fish like brook trout, mottled sculpin, several species of dace and darters may be forced to migrate to thermal refugia that provide cold water in warmer summer months or become extirpated. The increased frequency and intensity of large storm events may further homogenize in-stream habitat and remove large woody material that is key habitat for fish, turtles, and several semi-aquatic mammals. Warmer winters are likely to facilitate the spread of invasive flora and fauna that threaten riparian forest buffers that shade much of the watersheds, such as the hemlock woolly adelgid.

Adaptation Actions

After considering the effects of climate change on the North River Watershed, staff from Trout Unlimited identified adaptation actions that will target the following four issues:

  • Stream warming and species’ access to thermal refugia
  • Invasive species infiltration and associated tree mortality
  • Geomorphologic instability and associated sedimentation
  • Loss of road-stream infrastructure due to undersized hydraulic capacity

Trout Unlimited and local partners have received a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund to improve the ability of the North River Watershed to cope with changing conditions. As part of this project, high-priority sites that are vulnerable to further destabilization and disturbance in future flood events were identified. Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to identify restoration and adaptation activities for implementation across these sites (see table below). Outreach materials for foresters, land trusts, and municipalities will also be developed in addition to the implementation of on-the-ground actions.


Riparian forests
1.3. Maintain or restore riparian areas.
2.1. Maintain or improve the ability of forests to resist pests and pathogens.
9.2. Establish or encourage new mixes of native species.
Implement forest management practices to reduce the long term effects of hemlock woolly adelgid and maintain stream shading.
Design a “Foresters for the Fish” program for foresters, land trusts, and private landowners.
1.2. Maintain or restore hydrology.
7.1. Reduce landscape fragmentation.
Install large wood additions into streams to improve habitat structure, increase stream complexity, and maintain or improve thermal refugia
Stabilize banks along the main stem of the North River to prevent further erosion and sedimentation
Infrastructure at road-stream crossings
1.2. Maintain or restore hydrology.
7.1. Reduce landscape fragmentation.
Replace undersized culverts with more appropriately-sized culverts, arches, or bridges to accommodate larger flows, reconnect coldwater habitat, and improve aquatic organism passage.
Develop resources to help municipalities improve infrastructure in the watershed and surrounding areas.


Trout Unlimited, with the assistance of Cole Ecological, Inc and graduate students from Antioch University New England, has established sediment cross-sections, placed thermal loggers to monitor in-stream temperature, conducted a macroinvertebrate survey, and photo log of the project sites. Temperature loggers will continuously record stream temperature once an hour for at least two years post construction. Sediment cross-sections and photo logs will be updated twice a year in the fall and spring. A macroinvertebrate survey will be conducted once a year. Additional fish and wildlife surveys will be conducted prior to construction and for at least two years post construction.

Project Documents

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Maria


Flooding, Insect pests, Lowland/ bottomland hardwoods, Fish habitat, Infrastructure, Refugia, Restoration, Water resources

Last Updated

Wednesday, May 10, 2017