Rapid Bio-Assessments (RBA) are conducted on a sub-basin scale, while most of our projects are developed on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood, or creek-by-creek basis. We believe that long-term ecological change must be grounded in local values. Landowners are contacted by phone for permission to conduct a snorkel-based Rapid Bio-Assessment (RBA) at the sub-basin scale. Next, we convene neighborhood meetings to share results and learn more about local watershed dynamics from landowners. Over the past five years, this approach has allowed us to partner with more than 200 landowners to eliminate 30 fish passage barriers, re-establish 60 acres of riparian plants, and enhance floodplain quality and connectivity along 12 miles of cutthroat trout streams in four sub-basins of Marys River.
The intent of the RBA is to describe the current distribution and relative abundance of multiple age classes of cutthroat trout and to compare this with channel characteristics, current land use and summer stream temperatures. Summer stream temperatures are assessed by deploying thermometers at multiple locations to log hourly temperatures throughout the summer. The information about physical habitat conditions, fish distribution and temperatures are assessed to improve our understanding about how cutthroat are currently using stream habitats in the sub-basin. Understanding these relationships leads to recommendations for enhancing or restoring aquatic conditions to benefit native cutthroat and to initiate a trend toward improving overall stream function.