Little Tennessee Native Fish Conservation Partnership: Aquatic Conservation on a Landscape Scale
Andrea Leslie, Erin McCombs, and Fred Harris
Abstract.—In 2015, the Little Tennessee River basin became the nation’s first native fish conservation area. Watersheds designated as native fish conservation areas are managed for the conservation and restoration of native fish and other aquatic species, allowing compatible uses. The Little Tennessee River basin spans three states (Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee) and features a diversity of aquatic habitats that include high-elevation coldwater trout streams, warmwater rivers, and large human-made reservoirs. Although this basin is home to a biologically diverse aquatic community, streams have been impacted by a host of stressors, including logging, dams, agriculture, industrial pollutants, piscicides, and development. Some streams impacted in the past now offer restoration opportunities, and numerous efforts are underway to restore native fish and mussels to streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on U.S. Forest Service land, on the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and on private lands. More than 20 organizations, including federal and state agencies, industry, and nongovernmental entities, form the Little Tennessee Native Fish Conservation Partnership. The partnership supports work already underway by partners by providing additional funding, technical and educational resources, and a mechanism for collaboration. Perhaps most importantly, the partnership provides a forum to plan and implement watershed conservation on a landscape scale. Partners developed an online conservation mapper, which houses data, maps threats, identifies focal areas for restoration and protection, and ultimately serves as a conservation plan for the watershed. Current efforts to identify habitat restoration and protection projects are underway.