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Bring Back Muskie – Goal of Western NC River Restoration Project

Muskie are apex predator fish native to the French Broad River that runs through western North Carolina. (Conserving Carolina)
Muskie are apex predator fish native to the French Broad River that runs through western North Carolina. (Conserving Carolina)
March 9, 2020

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- This spring, a project to restore more than 100 acres of low-lying ground surrounding the French Broad river in western North Carolina will commence. Conversationists say the effort will help boost the population of the large native fish, the muskie.

Scott Loftis, habitat conservation biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, said muskie are critical for the local recreational fishing economy.

"It's a game fish that is probably one of the largest in North America," Loftis said. "We have a strong group of muskie anglers that focus their efforts on the French Broad River, so I think this conservation project is wide-reaching in terms of it's benefits."

He added that for decades, as the French Broad River's waters have become increasingly polluted, muskie numbers have dwindled. And he said the effort will help restore the species' spawning habitat.

The restoration work will also help mitigate the effects of climate change, according to David Lee, Natural Resources Manager at Conserving Carolina. He said this is the first time an attempt to convert a floodplain back to its natural state has been attempted on the French Broad.

"We're going to be sequestering carbon by reintroducing all of these plant species and enhancing wetlands, and we're also going to be mitigating potential damage from flood and rain events," Lee said. "Because by allowing the French Broad River to access its floodplain, we're essentially giving the river a place to flood. And that mitigates the flood potential downstream."

Plans also include the creation of a wetland to support endangered bog turtles, reforestation along the river, and meadows for bees and other pollinators.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC