Gainesville, GA-- The Georgia Back-the-Brookie Partnership was honored by the U.S. Forest Service Southern Region as an exemplary example of Partnerships and Community Engagement in Atlanta on November 7. The award was among 15 categories of exemplary employees and projects honored for their accomplishments and dedication in supporting the spirit and mission of the agency in 13 southern states and Puerto Rico.
Since 2007, the Georgia Back-the-Brookie Partnership has been working to restore native brook trout on the Chattahoochee National Forest. The Forest Service has worked closely with partners including the Georgia Council of Trout Unlimited and Georgia Department of Natural Resources, which have provided funding and other resources.
The Southern Appalachian brook trout no longer exists in much of its native range, and is only present at greatly reduced levels in Georgia. Through the partnership, biologists have a better understanding of remaining brook trout populations, and the species is more secure in the southern portion of its range than it has been in recent years.
The Back-the-Brookie project has included intensive monitoring, genetic analysis, youth education, stocking of fish, and other practices to benefit native brook trout such as placing barriers to prevent non-native trout from invading the native trout habitat. To date, partners have improved 80 miles of 32 streams through the placement of large woody debris. Treated areas have increased adult trout by 37 percent and young trout by 17 percent.
"This alliance of passionate and dedicated people is making a real difference here in Georgia in the preservation of this important native species," said Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests Supervisor Betty Mathews. "Anglers are some of our country's greatest conservationists, and we are proud to be seeing that in action here."
While a big brook trout in Georgia is about 7 inches, it remains popular for those wanting to catch a native trout. Through habitat enhancement work the partnership has increased brook trout fishing opportunities in Georgia.
Contributions to the project by members of the Georgia Council of Trout Unlimited have also been recognized in Field and Stream magazine and by Trout Unlimited nationally.
Accepting the Partners and Community Engagement Award on behalf of the group at the Regional Forester's Award ceremony in Atlanta on November 7 were (L to R) Leon Brotherton, GA DNR; Jerry Wood, USFS; Betty Mathews, USFS; Kevin McGrath, Trout Unlimited; Mitzi Cole, USFS; Alex Watson, Trout Unlimited; and Mike Joyce, USFS.
The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests provide the finest outdoor recreation opportunities and natural resources in Georgia. Featuring nearly 867,000 acres across 26 counties, hundreds of miles of clear-running streams and rivers, approximately 850 miles of recreation trails, and dozens of campgrounds, picnic areas, and other recreation activity opportunities, these lands are rich in natural scenery, history and culture. The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests is part of the Southern Region, with the Forest Supervisor's office in Gainesville, Georgia, managing four District units in Blairsville (Blue Ridge District), Lakemont (Chattooga River District), Chatsworth (Conasauga District), and Eatonton (Oconee District). Additional information is available on the web at www.fs.usda.gov/conf.
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Contact: Judy Toppins