June 3, 2024

Trout Stream Buffer Legislation Pending Before the North Carolina Legislature

Article Contact: Conner Barker,

Why It Matters: Preventing sedimentation in streams is critical to protecting habitat for trout and other aquatic organisms. Streams with less sedimentation have better water quality, and vegetated buffers provide shade that helps regulate water temperatures for trout and other cold-water species that require cool, well-oxygenated waters to survive. Better fish habitat supports healthier fisheries and, in turn, provides better experiences for anglers.  


  • In April of 2023, North Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Member Senator Bill Rabon, along with Caucus Members Senator Buck Newton, Senator Tim Moffitt, Senator Tom McInnis, introduced legislation to protect trout streams in the Tar Heel State.
  • Last year, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Energy and Environment favorably reported Senate Bill 613, and the Senate subsequently passed the bill 47-0.
  • As part of the two-year session, Senate Bill 613 is still up for consideration and has been assigned to the House Committee on Finance where it awaits further action.

According to a recent report, trout fishing in North Carolina has an annual economic impact of $1.38 billion. Additionally, trout anglers are among North Carolina’s over 1.4 million paid fishing license holders that generate over $28 million in fishing license sales and $13 million in matching federal funds. To support this resource, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission maintains a cold-water stocking program that raises one million brook, brown, and rainbow trout annually to be stocked in North Carolina’s trout streams.

Stream buffers help conserve riparian zones that are critical components of healthy aquatic ecosystems. In addition to promoting bank stabilization, habitat connectivity, and reducing flood risk, stream buffer zones significantly reduce erosion and sedimentation. Trout can only survive in a narrow range of cold-water temperatures that are dependent on low sedimentation rates and abundant shade, both of which are provided by sufficient stream buffers. In the absence of stream buffers, uncontrolled erosion and sedimentation can threaten North Carolina’s trout fisheries.

Senate Bill 613 would require that new agricultural operations maintain a 25-foot stream buffer zone along waters classified as trout waters by the Environmental Management Commission. The proposed legislation would only impact new agricultural operations. The exemption from stream buffer requirements for already existing agricultural lands would remain intact.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) encourages the North Carolina House of Representatives to send Senate Bill 613 to Governor Cooper’s desk before the end of the short session. CSF appreciates the leadership of the bill sponsors and will continue to work with the North Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and partners to advocate for policies that support trout conservation and angler access in North Carolina.

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