Penobscot River Watershed Chosen as Habitat Focus Area

Penobscot River Watershed Chosen as Habitat Focus Area
Penobscot River/Photo Peneobscot River Restoration Trust.

The Penobscot River watershed in Maine and the Choptank River complex in Maryland and Delaware have been chosen by NOAA as the next “Habitat Focus Areas” under the agency’s Habitat Blueprint.

The Habitat Blueprint is NOAA’s strategy to integrate habitat conservation throughout the agency, focus efforts in priority areas, and leverage internal and external collaborations to achieve measurable benefits within key habitats such as rivers, coral reefs, and wetlands.

Habitat Focus Area goals include:

  • Sustainable and abundant fish populations
  • Recovered threatened and endangered species
  • Protected coastal and marine areas and habitats at risk
  • Resilient coastal communities
  • Increased coastal/marine tourism, access, and recreation

Penobscot River Watershed, Maine

The Penobscot River is New England’s second largest river. It provides habitat for 11 sea-run fish species, including 3 listed under the Endangered Species Act, Atlantic salmon, Atlantic sturgeon and shortnose sturgeon. The river is host to the largest run of Atlantic salmon in the United States. It also is home to the Penobscot Indian Nation. Despite its low population density and forest-lined banks, dam and culvert construction, water pollution and overfishing have degraded the watershed. Many sea-run fish species are no longer abundant, which has impacted commercial, recreational and sustenance fisheries that target them.

NOAA selected the Penobscot River watershed as a Habitat Focus Area for several reasons. Federal, state, and local organizations already are collaborating to protect and restore habitat and study fish populations. As a result, there is abundant monitoring data (pre- and post-dam removal) to inform future work. NOAA’s investments include large-scale projects like the removal of the Veazie and Great Works dams. However, endangered Atlantic salmon and other wildlife can still benefit from the removal of smaller dams that block their access to historic habitat.

Next steps for the Penobscot River watershed and the Choptank complex include developing implementation plans for each area. NOAA will also begin the selection process for the next Habitat Focus Areas in other U.S. regions.