Trout Brook Valley Wildlife Survey

We conducted a wildlife survey and forest management plan at Trout Brook Valley to better understand the flora and fauna that exists there.  A survey of wildlife had never been conducted within the 1,009 acre preserve and helped us to better understand how to manage the property for wildlife and our human visitors.  Funding for the wildlife survey was provided by a grant from the Connecticut Land Trust Challenge Fund administered by the Land Trust Alliance in partnership with the Connecticut Land Conservation Council.  Funding for the forest management plan was provided by the Environmental Quality Improvement Program administered through the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

To read the Wildlife Survey's full report, click here.

To watch a video of the diverse wildlife of Trout Brook Valley, click here.

For the latest updates from the wildlife biologists conducting the Wildlife Survey, click here.

Questions and Answers about the TBV Study

For a better understanding of the Trout Brook Valley Conservation and Management Plan, we (ALT & CT Audubon Society) have prepared this short question and answer page, based on excerpts from the report itself.

1. What were the objectives of the CAS research?
The objectives were to describe the physical and biological characteristics of Trout Brook Valley; identify threatened, endangered or at-risk species; and identify sensitive habitat areas. The plan describes strategies that can be applied to best protect these species and habitats, and it provides a framework of adaptive management actions and monitoring steps to evaluate whether the strategy is successful.

The goal is to allow Aspetuck Land Trust to maintain Trout Brook Valley in a natural state, balancing the need for conservation with the commitment to provide opportunities for passive recreation.

2. What were the key findings?
The study area hosts a remarkable array of species across multiple taxa, especially among birds and reptiles/amphibians. The survey identified key species of conservation concern among all the habitats. Priority habitats include mixed hardwood forest interiors, riverine upper perennial watercourses, seasonal pools, talus slopes, palustrine forested wetlands, palustrine scrub/shrub wetlands, the Orchard, and early successional habitats.

3. How will the report's findings shape the future of TBV?
Aspetuck Land Trust will begin implementing a variety of habitat improvement projects on the property to increase and benefit wildlife diversity. Through coordinated efforts between stakeholders, stewards and maintenance staff, existing habitats within the preserve will be improved or enhanced to benefit avifauna either in conjunction with timber harvest, or as separate conservation measures. These include planting native shrubs that bear fruit and mast beneficial to avifauna, and selecting for timber with high wildlife value during forest management. An important aspect of matrix improvement is to assure that not only is food available for the species of conservation concern but also that the following is considered:

• A variety of food types are present supplying all feeding guilds (e.g., insectivores, granivores, frugivores, nectarivores, carnivores, etc.) with sustenance.

• Food items such as fruits and mast are available at varying times throughout the seasons.

• Food items present a variety of nutritional options for consumers, and

• Food plants are located in areas where they are able to maximize their production without being outcompeted by low value invasive competitors.

Please see the complete wildlife study (link at top of page) for more information.

4. What are the priorities for balancing conservation and passive recreation?
Conservation and management actions will involve strict protection of the preserve’s wetlands and their critical upland buffer zones. Mixed hardwood and evergreen stands will be preserved and monitored using indicator species to assess their biological functionality. Habitat management areas will be maintained in an open, early successional state and may be expanded to improve their wildlife habitat value.

5. How does ALT need to proceed specifically with TBV users such as equestrians, trail bike riders, dog walkers and others?

Aspetuck Land Trust will be improving signage on the property to inform visitors about new policies and educate them about the unique conservation value of the preserve. As a result of the wildlife study, Aspetuck Land Trust has established the following new policies:

Beginning April 1, dogs will be required to be leashed throughout the property under their owners control and to remain on designated trails at all times to better protect the environment and preserve the abundant but fragile wildlife diversity that exists. Off-leash dog walking will be allowed, however, on a two mile trail loop in the Crow Hill section of Trout Brook Valley and will be accessible by four public parking areas.

Hundreds of dogs can visit Trout Brook Valley on a busy weekend. The cumulative impact when dogs go off trail can be harmful, according to the Connecticut Audubon Society’s research. The Crow Hill section of Trout Brook Valley was designated for off leash dog walking partly because it has no vernal pools which are particularly delicate environments.

Other measures approved by ALT’s board of directors included:

Posting signs prohibiting horses and mountain bikes (except for July, August and September) at both ends of the Red/Black trail in order to protect local habitats

Closing the yellow trail to all uses except foot traffic, posting no dogs, horses or mountain bikes at both ends of the trail

Closing a small section of the orange trail that bisects a tributary stream and a vernal pool

 6. What unknowns or information gaps remain to be studied and determined?

The species richness of the area is expected to be even greater than what was detected, as some species and faunal groups are cryptic, nocturnal, ephemeral, live underground or exhibit a combination of these behaviors and thus pose detection and identification challenges.

The currently known butterfly fauna of Trout Brook Valley Preserve represents mostly widespread and common species along with a few unexpected vagrants.  Additional surveys targeting specific microhabitats are recommended to further investigate the potential presence of uncommon species.

All of the wetlands surveyed were tremendously affected by the weather conditions in the winter and spring. Vernal pools were evaporating at a much faster rate than usual because of decreased precipitation and increased temperatures in comparison to normal levels. Future surveys in more climate-typical seasons may reveal additional amphibians in terms of both quantity and species diversity across Trout Brook Valley.

Fifteen species of mammals were confirmed. Systematic surveys likely will reveal the presence of many more. Approximately 40 mammal species are expected to occur within many of the habitats of the preserve.

Targeted surveys for moths, spiders or other invertebrates can be very rewarding. A wide variety of mushrooms was observed during site visits, but no organized inventory of the local species has been attempted. The aquatic habitat variety and quality warrants a detailed survey for crayfish and freshwater mussels, several of which are excellent habitat quality indicators and include state-listed species. In short, the Trout Brook Valley Preserve offers tremendous potential for future biological inventories.

7. What kinds of public education should ALT focus on to best manage TBV?
It is recommended that Aspetuck Land Trust expand its outreach and education program to improve communication of conservation and management goals. An expanded outreach program should use a combination of approaches to reach the widest audiences. Notices or articles regarding the goals can be communicated via social media, blog posts, newsletters, listserves, direct mailings, trail side signs, and lecture series.

Once the public begins to understand the value of ecosystem services, they are likely to contribute to its preservation, or at least to respect the natural resources rather than exploit them.

8. How will ALT know its Trout Brook Valley management efforts are successfully working?
Feedback from the public could be one measure of success. Feedback can be solicited through response forms attached to or incorporated in newsletters, brochures, or e-mailings. Reduction in the number of complaints issued by stakeholders in response to preserve management decisions might be another measure of success.

Hard data collected as a result of any monitoring efforts that may be implemented within the preserve could measure the success of restoration efforts. Surveys could be generated and circulated to stakeholders to solicit feedback on restoration efforts.

Sightings data collected from birders could also be used as a measure of success. Data could be monitored over time to determine species richness trends across or within seasons, document occurrences (frequency and duration) within the preserve and illustrate trends.

 

 

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