Androscoggin River Watershed conference to cover history to future use

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Kayakers visiting from New Mexico paddle on the Androscoggin River between Bethel and Newry last summer.

NEWRY — The Androscoggin River is home to a host of recreational activities and events. Over the past decade, recreation throughout the watershed has increased significantly. The 23rd annual Androscoggin River Watershed Conference will bring people with a wide range of interests in the river and the watershed together to learn about all that is happening both on the river and within the watershed region.

The Androscoggin River Watershed Council’s annual conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, May 3, at the Summit Hotel at Sunday River Ski Resort. In addition to covering recreational opportunities and events, the conference will also present sessions on the ecology of the region.

Anyone can register at www.androscogginwatershed.org or call 207-754-8158. Registration covers all sessions, continental breakfast and lunch. Businesses and outfitters that would like to showcase their offerings are also welcome and should call the watershed council for details.

The conference will have six sessions: the history and ecology of the rivers and streams; current recreation activities on the Androscoggin River; use of GPS and GIS resources for resource inventory and stream improvement; recreational activities in the watershed; climate change impacts on fish, wildlife and infrastructure; and highlights of the Watershed Council’s work on recreation, water quality and brook trout habitat.

Businesses, municipal officials and individuals interested in the river and recreational opportunities throughout the region will gain a better understanding of current activities and the significant potential of the river and watershed to support growth in the region.

The session on the history and ecology of streams and rivers will feature Dr. John Field, who will show participants how rivers and streams have changed extensively since early development. Merry Gallagher from Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will examine those changes and their impacts on brook trout as well as current brook trout issues.

Kayakers visiting from New Mexico paddle on the Androscoggin River between Bethel and Newry last summer.

Presenters in the river recreation session will provide examples of changing activities and events from Lake Umbagog to Merrymeeting Bay and provide insight on the increases in use that have occurred over the past decade. Participants will come away with ideas that may be transferable to their area of the river.

The session on land-based recreation will feature speakers from two of the watershed’s land trusts: the Mahoosuc Land Trust and the Western Foothills Land Trust. It will also feature developments in the Bethel area promoted by Mahoosuc Pathways.

The session on GIS and GPS will have two components. Alex Abbot, representing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will show participants how Maine Stream Habitat Viewer can be used to assist with stream and local fish management efforts. The session will also show how field data can be collected by citizen scientists on their smartphones or tablets for use in conservation efforts. Municipal officials will also find this session useful; municipal staff and residents can now collect data on a variety of subjects without significant expenditures on equipment.

After lunch, the conference will feature a session on climate change, focusing on the impacts on fish, wildlife and human infrastructure. Municipal officials can learn more about the impacts of severe weather events and steps that can be taken to mitigate impacts. Planners and developers and other conservation interests can learn how development can impact infrastructure, fisheries and wildlife and what can be done to mitigate the impacts so land use is sustainable into the future.

FMI: go to www.androscogginwatershed.org.