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Penobscot River Resortal

The Resource

The Penobscot River. For more than 10,000 years, the Penobscot Indian Nation has lived at the heart of this great river’s watershed. The largest watershed in Maine and the second largest in New England, the Penobscot drains 8,570 square miles of forests and wetlands. For most of that 10,000 years the Penobscot tribe navigated the river by birch bark canoe completely unobstructed by dams on a wild free-flowing river. They traveled up and down the river to and from the mouth of the Gulf of Maine. As well, eleven species of native fish migrated and spawned throughout the river system. Today, the Penobscot Reservation is made of the islands, riverbed, and waters above Milford Dam.

The Problem

Penobscot Restoral Project at Orvis

The Great Works dam, above, is one of two dams that will be taken down in this project.

Dams. Since dams were first placed nearly 200 years ago, the life that once pulsed through the Penobscot River and its region has been significantly changed. The dams do not allow the Penobscot tribe free river travel. They also adversely affect angling and paddling opportunities, and diminish the tribe’s and other local communities’ ability to thrive as successfully as they might otherwise. The fishery the Penobscot Indian Nation once depended on has been all but decimated. Runs of tens of thousands of Atlantic salmon, American shad, alewife, rainbow smelt, sturgeon, striped bass, and nearly half a dozen more native species of fish that once migrated from the Gulf of Maine into the river are all but gone. The tribe’s Penobscot Restoraltreaty-reserved fishing rights and many sacred traditions are inextricably linked to the health of the river. The river’s restoration is critical to their cultural survival and a key step in allowing their traditions to continue, and native species to once again migrate and spawn in it.

Partnering for a Solution

The restoration of the Penobscot River is an historical large-scale effort to remove both the Great Works and the Veazie Dams and to decommission and build a state-of-the-art fish bypass around Howland Dam. Prior success of dam removal was accomplished before through an Orvis project with the removal of Edwards Dam on Maine’s Kennebec River. Dozens of private, business, and government entities, often at odds in their vision of river ecosystems, have come together with the goal to regain the tremendous benefits to biological and human communities along the river that a healthy free-flowing river offers. As a result of the Penobscot project, for the first time in nearly 200 years, hundreds of miles of habitat along the Penobscot and its tributaries will be re-opened for unobstructed travel on the river. A restored Penobscot River will renew tribal, angling, paddling, business, and social opportunities, and create connections to the river sure to foster future conservation efforts. The restoration will have the largest positive impact on the Penobscot Indian Nation, whose historical ties to the Penobscot go back more than 10,000 years.

Your Participation is Urgently Needed

Help us restore the Penobscot River for the sake of the communities that once thrived in its watershed, to bolster and enrich the lives of those who live along the river and those who visit it, and to help bring back the many species of fish that need this ecosystem to survive.

During 2008, your contribution was matched by Orvis and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, tripling your donation.

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