Our state is home to some of the healthiest and most resilient watersheds in the eastern U.S. Maine rivers form a 75,000-mile network and support biodiversity along our riparian arteries, providing habitat for many rare, threatened and endangered species.
Aging dams and inadequate road crossings constrict these courses. In addition to dividing critical habitat for native species, they put human communities at increased risk of flooding from climate change. By restoring free-flowing rivers and streams, we will increase the resilience of these networks and foster one of the most connected, intact river systems in the nation.
What We’re Doing to Restore Rivers
Properly designed fish-friendly road crossings reduce flood risk, improve transportation safety and help minimize short-term repairs cost. That’s another reason why The Nature Conservancy in Maine is working with partners to remove barriers to sea-run fish and promote healthy, free-flowing rivers all around the state.
Continuing to Reconnect the Penobscot Watershed
We are collaborating with state and federal agencies, the Penobscot Indian Nation, and private and municipal dam owners in restoration efforts throughout the watershed, with a focus on critical headwater habitat. The Crooked Brook Flowage/Baskahegan Dam Fishway will reconnect almost 96 miles of upstream habitat and may increase the alewife run to 2 million fish.
Restoring the Skutik (St. Croix) River
At the request of tribal, federal and state partners, TNC is now engaged in a major restoration effort on the mainstem of the river. The watershed covers about 1,600 square miles in the U.S. and Canada and is the heart of Passamaquoddy ancestral homeland. The watershed represents the largest opportunity for alewife restoration in the North Atlantic, with potential returns estimated at 20-30 million fish.
Better Road-Stream Crossings for Fish and People
In Maine, thousands of roads constrict waterways and prevent fish and other aquatic organisms from reaching critical habitat. We partner with tribal, state, federal, nonprofit and private landowners to plan for and carry out needed upgrades. Our freshwater program works with communities on upgrading infrastructure to ensure fish passage and reduce flood risk.
Engaging Community Scientists to Monitor Smelt
In partnership with other nonprofits and Maine’s Department of Marine Resources, we are engaging community scientists along the coast in monitoring smelt populations in coastal rivers. Since smelt are highly sensitive to shifts in water temperature, information about their location will indicate how our coasts and coastal rivers are changing in response to the climate crisis.
Wolastoq (St. John) River Collaboration
TNC Maine is supporting the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians (HBMI) and partners to restore connectivity at a watershed scale to hundreds of river miles in a 5-million-acre portion of the Wolastoq-St. John River basin in Aroostook County, the homelands of the HBMI and Mi’kmaq Nations. The project supports tribal priorities and will open the door to unprecedented federal funding to make these river networks more resilient and road networks safer.
What River Restoration Success Looks Like
By restoring free-flowing rivers and streams, we will increase the resilience of these networks and foster one of the most connected, intact river systems in the nation. As part of our Join Maine campaign, we are working to ensure these critical successes by 2024:
of Maine rivers and streams are protected and reconnected.
sea-run fish return to Maine’s rivers each year.
To achieve these goals, we are working to raise $10 million specifically for our work in this area, including $8 million in support from people like you and $2 million in public and partner funding. Learn more about our conservation goals and Join Maine.