A Discussion with Rick Kauvar,
Left Hand Creek Resident, Board Member & Steward
One of the main objectives of this Handbook is to show landowners what they can do to be good stream stewards. Many landowners are already doing things to care for the stewardship of their streams. Rick Kauvar, who is an LWOG board member, is a prime example what a good stream steward can be. Rick has lived along Left Hand Creek for over 30 years and has taken a hands-off approach to stream stewardship. In this way, he has striven to “Give Nature a Chance.” As a result, his property had the ability to beautifully rebound from the flood of 2013. Because Rick’s property has generally been left to progress ‘naturally’, the 2013 flood was simply a natural occurrence for it.
Rick has backgrounds in environmental, population and organismic biology (more commonly known as EPOB biology) and real estate/development. He has a deep understanding of, and interest in, the biological and ecological benefits of healthy stream systems. The longer that he has lived on his property, the more this interest has grown and led him to become engaged with LWOG. In addition to being an LWOG board member, Rick is also engaged with his community. With permission, he is happy to welcome visitors to visit his property to better understand what it means to be a good steward.
Rick’s main philosophy for stream stewardship/ streamside property management is that ‘less is more.’ As landowners, you can give nature a chance to create its own forms of resiliency in the floodplain/riparian corridor. The less man-made encroachment into the floodplain, the less damage can be done and the less recovery work will be required. Streams and rivers naturally flood and have their own ways of stabilizing banks, re-aligning channels and moving sediment. If landowners are able to give a stream enough space to perform these actions naturally, there will be far less recovery work that they need to do after large floods.
He also understands that dead wood serves valuable roles in the ecosystems and that woody material should not be automatically cleared away. Rather, a lot of woody material can and should be left in place as a carbon/nutrient source and a great habitat for animals. While dead woody material doesn’t generally fit into a manicured landscape, he believes that floodplain and riparian areas should serve as a riparian buffer between the stream and manicured landscape areas like lawns. While Rick maintains a more typical manicured lawn outside the floodplain near his house, he uses the floodplain area as a buffer for the creek.
Letting nature work on its own will also decrease how much ongoing stewardship a landowner will need to do. However, one exception to this is invasive weeds. Rick says that this is “the one big thing that I have to continually maintain on my property.” Invasive weed management is a key to good stream stewardship and is discussed in more detail in the ‘Vegetation’ section of Chapter 2.
In combination with letting nature take its own course, Rick makes an effort to stay familiar with his property. Knowing your property includes being familiar with the vegetation, wildlife and the actual stream that runs through it. As discussed in the ‘Know Your Watershed’ section in Chapter 1, you can use hydrographs and your own observations to become familiar with typical seasonal high and low flows. In Rick’s case, this allows him to know what areas will be typically flooded during normal flows, while also providing setbacks for larger events. Along with this, he has accepted that another flood will happen and he must be prepared for it to happen. Another aspect of knowing your property is understanding the geology and geography of your site. This is necessary not only to understand where water may go, but also to know which vegetation will do best on your property.
During the 2013 flood, Rick saw flood waves move through his property, but his house was not affected and the property surrounding the creek was minimally affected or damaged. Today, it is difficult to recognize that a major flood recently swept through the area. For recovery, Rick has hardly taken any recovery actions. Overall, Rick has only spent about $250 to repair his property from the 2013 flood.
We can learn several things from Rick’s approach to being a good steward:
You can enjoy your property without doing a lot of work or spending a lot of money.
Passive management can often be the best management.
Structures and encroachment in the floodplain put properties at higher risk during flood events.
Untouched floodplains generally provide a better ecosystem.
Woody material provides many benefits and should not be automatically removed.
Nature will take its own path, including flooding and recovery.
Floods will happen.
Invasive weed management does require ongoing work and is important.