Handbook Overview

The purpose of the Stream Stewardship and Recovery Handbook is to create an educational resource for private landowners to better understand their streamside properties in the context of the larger watershed, what they can do to practice good stream stewardship and when/how they should engage outside help for stewardship or recovery projects.

— Mission Statement, developed by the Handbook Steering Committee

Why a Landowner Handbook on Stream Stewardship?

The idea for this handbook grew out of the recovery efforts after the 2013 Colorado flood and federally declared disasters. The Lefthand, Big Thompson, Little Thompson and Saint Vrain watersheds were all heavily impacted by the 2013 flood. All four watersheds have since been involved in numerous stream recovery and stewardship projects, many of which were funded by the state of Colorado through the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) disaster recovery program. The projects included private landowners, government agencies, funding administrators, watershed coordinators, engineers, environmental scientists, landscape architects and river constructors.

Through the course of these projects, everyone involved learned valuable lessons about how streams function during and after a record-breaking flood, as well as how landowners can be good stewards of the stream system. From these lessons, the idea of a Handbook meant specifically for private landowners living along streams was born. DOLA funded the project, with the Lefthand (LWOG), Big Thompson (BTWC), Little Thompson (LTWC) and Saint Vrain (SVCC) Watershed Coalitions making up the Handbook Steering Committee.

Handbook Organization

The Handbook is organized into chapters that can be read individually, or all together. Although all of the chapters connect to each other, each one can serve as its own educational resource. In this way, you can choose to read just a chapter or even just a section at a time.

The chapters also have a progression of technical information, with the earlier chapters being more general in nature. As you progress through the Handbook, the information will become more specific and more technical. The chapters will also start to focus more on assessing your property and coming up with projects that fit on your property. Following this, the Handbook will teach you about working with outside help – professional engineers, environmental consultants and scientists, landscape architects and river constructors. You will also learn about many free services and resources that are available to you as a landowner. For those of you who wish to learn even more technical information about how streams function and how professional consultants plan recovery efforts, Chapter 5 discusses two of the most widely-accepted stream classification systems and how they can relate to your property. The final chapter in the Handbook looks at five real-world sites and how the Handbook can be used to plan for the property. The sites are privately-owned properties in the Lefthand, Big Thompson, Little Thompson and Saint Vrain watersheds. Each one has its own unique history, setting and opportunities and constraints.

One of the recurring messages you will notice in this Handbook is the advice to reach out to your local watershed coalition, your neighbors, nonprofit organizations and even professional consultants and constructors when you are unsure of how to proceed. While the aim of this Handbook is to empower and teach you as a streamside landowner, there are certain things that you will need help to complete.

It is also worth mentioning that stream corridors are complicated networks of inter-connected pieces that can change at any time and with very little warning. Many professionals spend their entire career working to better understand how these pieces are connected and how to best protect and restore them. However, they all started by learning the basics and built their knowledge on this foundation.

From the authors: We hope that you find this handbook to be an interesting read and a useful resource. We are a group of landscape architects, engineers, environmental scientists, river constructors and graphic designers who care deeply about Colorado’s streams and rivers. We are passing on our knowledge in the hopes that you too, will use these tools to be a good steward of your community’s streams and rivers.