Habitat conservation has become a significant component of the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program's efforts to maintain viable populations of freshwater mussel and fish species. Threats to these species and their habitat include: misuse of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, toxic chemicals from point and non-point sources of pollution, habitat degradation from erosion and sedimentation, competition from exotic species and impoundment of free flowing streams and rivers. The pages below offer recommendations for the management of landscapes to help reduce impacts from these threats.
Make a selection below to learn more about management recommendations for freshwater mussels.
The removal of trees on land immediately adjacent to streams leaves aquatic habitats vulnerable to increases in water temperature and sedimentation, weakens the integrity of stream banks by reducing extensive, near-shore root networks and reduces the diversity of plant materials necessary for energy flow, nutrient cycling and structure within aquatic habitats.
In 1998, Champion International Corporation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (Champion MOU) (82kb PDF) to help conserve its woodland in the upper Tar River Basin. An associated support document (100 kb PDF) was prepared by Ann Prince with the NC Natural Heritage Program. The conditions of the Champion MOU are summarized below. These recommendations should be used in association with the draft forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs) manuals being developed by the NC Division of Forest Resources. The draft forestry BMP manuals can be acquired from the NC Division of Forest Resources at 919-733-2162. The mailing address is P.O. Box 29581, Raleigh, NC 27626-0581.
A forested riparian buffer should be maintained a minimum of 200 feet in width on each side of a stream. Within that buffer there should be a no-harvest zone that extends from the stream edge to a distance of 50 feet or to the top of the first levee, whichever is greater. The remaining buffer, approximately 150 feet, should be selectively harvested according to the provisions described below:
To further enhance wildlife habitat suitability, additional recommendations are provided:
The overland movement of soil from farm fields into streams is one of the primary impacts to aquatic habitats from crop production. Contamination of water from misuse of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers is another serious impact. As with silvicultural activities, the removal of trees on crop and pastureland immediately adjacent to streams leaves aquatic habitats vulnerable to increases in water temperature and sedimentation, weakens the integrity of stream banks by reducing extensive, near-shore root networks and reduces the diversity of plant materials necessary for energy flow, nutrient cycling and structure within aquatic habitats. High levels of nitrogen and bacterial contamination are impacts associated with livestock and confined animal operations. Direct access for livestock to streams also leads to erosion of stream banks.
A forested riparian buffer should be maintained a minimum of 200 feet in width on each side of a stream. Within that buffer there should be a no-harvest zone that extends from the stream edge to a distance of 50 feet or to the top of the first levee, whichever is greater. The remaining buffer, approximately 150 feet, can be selectively harvested according to the provisions described below:
Several programs are available through your NC Soil and Water Conservation District Office to provide technical and financial assistance for implementing Best management practices such as forested buffers. The following information is reproduced from the United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/.
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) - This program allows you to establish certain conservation buffer practices on cropland and marginal pasture and enroll the land in the CRP at any time. Filter strips, field borders, grassed waterways, field windbreaks, shelterbelts, contour grass strips and riparian (streamside) buffers are all examples of conservation buffers. In addition to being common-sense practices, financial incentives make conservation buffers economically attractive.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) - This program provides technical, financial and educational assistance in designated priority areas, with half of the resources targeted to livestock-related natural resource concerns and the remainder set aside for other significant conservation priorities.
Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) - This is a voluntary program for landowners who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat on private land. It provides both technical assistance and cost sharing to help establish and improve fish and wildlife habitat.
Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) - This voluntary program helps landowners restore and protect wetlands on private property. It provides an opportunity for landowners to receive financial incentives to enhance wetlands in exchange for retiring marginal agricultural land.
Stewardship Incentive Program (SIP) - Teamed with the Forest Stewardship Program, SIP provides cost sharing for improved management of private forest land through multiple practices, including planning, tree planting, wildlife and fish habitat, recreation, riparian restoration, soil erosion control, and forest improvements.
Some private organizations are making financial assistance available as well, particularly for wildlife habitat enhancements. We recommend you contact your NC Division of Soil and Water Conservation District representative (http://www.ncagr.gov/SWC/commission/CAC.html) for information on Best Management Practices associated with agricultural activities.
Roads are considered essential for the economic and social well-being of all modern communities. In general, easy access to well maintained major interstates, state highways and smaller secondary roads is considered essential infrastructure by most governments. The construction and maintenance of roads and bridges have major impacts on aquatic ecosystems. Sediment, hydrocarbons, various other toxic substances and increased stormwater flows are usually associated with roads. In most cases, these impacts to aquatic ecosystems can be dramatically reduced during all phases of road and bridge construction and maintenance activities.
Stormwater Management Associated with Roads
The focus of most stormwater management systems in the past has been the rapid transfer of water from roads to ditches with ultimate discharge directly to nearby draws, streams, creeks and rivers. Such a system increases driving safety for citizens; however, it increases sediment and toxicant loading to streams and increases scouring of stream banks and substrates by increasing stream flows above normally expected levels. Theoretically, all existing roads associated with aquatic endangered species habitats should be retrofitted as quickly as possible to significantly reduce stormwater transfer directly to waterbodies. However, such a process would cause undue economic hardship. Instead, during maintenance activities along roadways, whenever possible and practical, road maintenance crews should divert stormwater into the local landscape. Particularly along streams and creeks with flat riparian habitats, such actions would significantly reduce peak flows, increase infiltration, and reduce the introductions of toxicants. For new construction activities, such stormwater diversions should be required project actions.
Bridge Maintenance and Replacements
Over time, bridge structures age or become damaged and must be repaired or replaced to ensure public safety. Such a process can be accomplished with a nominal impact on the associated aquatic habitats and with reasonable cost modifications. Whether the project is a local bridge maintenance project or a major replacement project, it is essential that adequate communication, planning and design, and implementation occur at appropriate times during the life of the project. The following recommended protocols summarize strategies used in North Carolina to conserve aquatic endangered species' habitats. These recommendations represent more than 10 years of consultations among state and federal governmental agencies. These strategies were developed with full cooperation from numerous biologists, engineers, landscape professionals and other personnel from various state and federal agencies. In general, N.C. Department of Transportation personnel have taken great pride in their abilities to complete required construction activities while conserving extremely important aquatic habitats.
Recommended Protocol for Bridge Maintenance Projects
Recommended Protocol for Bridge Replacements
On the surface, these suggestions appear extensive; however, with proper planning and implementation, these recommendations often have nominal impacts on project costs and, on occasion, reduce overall project costs. This is particularly true when the number of bents can be reduced.
Recommended Protocol for Other Road Projects
In areas associated with aquatic endangered species habitats, all other road maintenance and construction activities should follow Best Management Practices required for the conservation of High Quality Waters.
Traditional land uses, such as silviculture, generally appear to provide the necessary stream buffers and hydrologic conditions to protect aquatic habitats. As North Carolina changes from a rural agricultural economy to a modern industrial center, extensive development is likely to change the current land and water use patterns. The cumulative and secondary impacts of development, including impacts from increasing numbers of bridges and culverts, numbers of wastewater spills and amount of impervious surfaces, can result in stream bank instability and other stream morphology changes, increased sediment loading, changes in substrate characteristics, modified aquatic food resources, changed stream temperatures, increased nutrient loading, increased toxicant loading, changed fish communities and reduced complexity of benthic habitats. These anticipated changes are known threats to sensitive aquatic species, such as freshwater mussels. Protective land and water use recommendations need to be implemented to reduce changes in aquatic ecosystems.
Wastewater Treatment Facilities and Infrastructure
Water, Gas, and Other Underground Utilities
Above Ground Utilities
Sediment and Erosion Control