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Tips to Be Stream Wise

Stream Wise assessments are in full swing this summer! We have been visiting streamsides, meeting with landowners and stewards, talking stream health, and drafting reports nearly every day for the past few weeks.

What is Stream Wise?

Stream Wise is a program for streamside landowners. Franklin County NRCD is partnering with the Lake Champlain Basin Program and other watershed organizations to bring Stream Wise to streamside property owners across Vermont. Stream Wise encourages landowners to adopt practices that stabilize stream banks, prevent pollution, and protect fish and wildlife habitat.

The Franklin County NRCD serves as the Stream Wise resource for streamside landowners in Franklin County, offering site visits and evaluations, technical advice, and assistance at no cost to landowners.

The summer is a great time to observe stream health. Changes are constant, revealing new insights to the health of the stream and its natural communities. You may observe new species along the stream flowering, changes in the stream flow and banks, and macroinvertebrates such as caddisfly larvae and dragonfly nymphs in the stream.

Being stewards for our streams and improving stream health is important in many ways. Healthy stream buffers improve water quality by providing bank stability, reducing erosion, and promoting infiltration of runoff. Diverse vegetative buffers increase biodiversity and support stream ecosystems. Vegetated stream buffers with canopy cover maintain cool water temperatures that support fish, invertebrates, and amphibians living in and along the stream.

What can you do to support our streams? If you are a landowner and steward with a stream that you care for, here are some of our suggestions.


Widen Your Stream Buffer

If you currently have a property with a stream flowing through it, we suggest maintaining a buffer of at least 30 to 50 feet wide, or if possible, even wider! This may mean limiting mowing near the stream, planting native trees and shrubs, and letting the existing native vegetation grow.


Create Multi-Layered and Diverse Buffers

Diverse stream buffers with a combination of ground cover, shrubs, understory trees, and mature canopy cover trees can create functional and resilient ecosystems. Planting for diversity creates complex root systems that help infiltrate water and stabilize stream banks, creates habitat niches, and supports a wider array of animal species including beneficial insects, pollinators, and birds.


Minimize and Plan Paths

Streams are a great place to recreate, whether it's cooling off on a hot day, fishing, or just settling in to listen to the stream flow and reflect.

If you have a favorite streamside spot, we suggest that you minimize your access to it to a designated path. Minimizing and planning your paths reduces impact to the stream buffer by limiting erosion and impact to plants in the buffer. Depending on the topography of your site and the current conditions, a path might be as simple as a mown or cleared path, or may require some construction to limit erosion and promote water infiltration.


Divert, Slow, and Capture Runoff

Impervious surfaces such as decks, roofs, and driveways, and semi pervious surfaces such as lawn can increase runoff into the stream. During rain events, runoff that is not diverted, slowed, and infiltrated can contribute to flooding and erosion. Developing methods to support infiltration of runoff and reducing channelized flow before it reaches the stream is important for supporting overall stream health. These methods can include creating vegetated berms and swales, constructing infiltration trenches and dry wells, and creating rain gardens to capture runoff. These methods can be beautiful and support wildlife in addition to improving water quality!


Leave Woody Debris in the Stream

Fallen branches and downed trees help to slow water flow, reducing the erosive forces of water and allowing silt and suspended solids to settle. This can improve downstream water quality, and reduce channelization which can lead to fast flowing water that can take out infrastructure and destabilize banks. Additionally, downed woody debris add habitat for fish, amphibians, and macroinvertebrates in the stream!

If you have a stream on your property and are interested in an assessment, visit to schedule an evaluation.

Want to know more about Stream Wise? Visit

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FCNRCD is hiring an Agricultural Programs Specialist

Job Title: Agricultural Programs Specialist               Supervisor: District Manager Job Classification: Non-exempt                              Salary: $22-25/hour Effective Date: 1/19/2024     


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