Warner River Watershed Conservation Project

The 149-mile Warner River Watershed encompasses parts of the towns of Bradford, Goshen, Hopkinton, New London, Newbury, Salisbury, Sutton, Warner, Washington and Webster. It drains portions of Mount Sunapee, Mount Kearsarge and several rolling hills in the Dartmouth-Sunapee region of New Hampshire. There watershed has an estimated 210 miles of flowing rivers and streams before flowing into the Contoocook River.

In partnership with the Basil W. Woods, Jr. Trout Unlimited Chapter, the Warner Conservation Commission, and several local residents, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is working to develop and implement conservation strategies to protect wild brook trout, aquatic ecosystems, and water quality within the Warner River Watershed. Baseline fish distribution studies indicate wild brook trout are found in about two-thirds of the rivers and streams within the Watershed.

Over the last four years, a great deal of information has now been collected from electrofishing, habitat studies, and road-stream crossing surveys. Volunteers have graciously donated over 1000 hours in helping with these assessments and promoting the results. The results describe a high quality watershed that is well worth preserving. However, this watershed is predicted to face growing pressures – The Warner River is within the Contoocook River Watershed. This area has been identified in the USDA Forest Service Report Private Forests, Public Benefits: Increased Housing Density and Other Pressures on Private Forest Contributions as one of the most likely areas to suffer from water quality degradation by a loss of woodlands from future development. This projection signifies the need to be proactive and plan to address land use alteration practices that impair both water quality and the resiliency of wild brook trout populations. We will continue to promote the results of our efforts to local communities to increase the awareness of the value of sustainable populations of wild brook trout. They appreciate and depend on good water quality as much as we do.

This blog will include information from the 2016 Stream Crossing Assessment & Outreach Campaign wherein the project partners seek to engage with the landowners and general public in order to promote good stewardship and identify conservation actions. We will publish updates periodically throughout the course of this project so those interested can read about the status of the project and learn about volunteer opportunities.

This project has four goals:

  • Protect – This project seeks to ensure the sustainability of wild brook trout by fostering local landowner and citizen stewardship and implementing sound conservation measures.  Potential brook trout protection opportunities will be identified and result in a list of parcels where landowners are supportive of various protection projects on their property.  Through landowner site visits, subsequent reports and local conservation education we will increase landowner awareness resulting in a higher level of appreciation of brook trout, cold-water stream habitat and water quality.  Landowners will be encouraged to designate riparian areas of streams into some form of protective easement.  The Warner Conservation Commission has complimented these efforts by initiating the process to nominate the Warner River into the state’s Rivers Management and Protection Program.
  • Reconnect – This project works to identify stream crossings that function as fish (and other aquatic species) barriers throughout the watershed.  The collected data will be coupled with fish data to prioritize stream crossing replacements.  This information will be promoted to relevant staff at the town level.
  • Restore – This project will identify potential restoration opportunities and will result in a list of parcels where landowners are supportive of various restoration and enhancement projects on their property.
  • Sustain – This project will result in enhanced wild brook trout habitat and as more sustainable Warner River Watershed. By exposing, educating and engaging landowners, community members and students in our activities, we will sustain the benefits of cold water fisheries conservation.