Stakeholders eager to learn from new riparian education programBy Leslie Lee
With notebooks, water and cameras in hand, about 65 landowners and stakeholders explored a riparian floodplain near Plum Creek on a warm June day, all in the name of learning how to better manage land for riparian and stream ecosystem health.
“I walked in knowing little, and now I understand wetlands, upland plants and how to look at my land differently,” said Caldwell County landowner Elizabeth Wymer.
The first Texas Riparian and Stream Ecosystem Education Program workshop was held in the Plum Creek watershed June 25 in Lockhart, said Nikki Dictson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service program specialist for Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) and riparian program coordinator.
Texas has more than 200,000 miles of riparian areas — the green vegetation zones along streams, rivers and lakes — that provide economic, social, cultural and environmental value to the state.
“Stream and riparian ecosystems are critical to many water issues facing Texas,” Dictson said. “Through this educational program, landowners and other citizens can better understand and improve their management of riparian and stream ecosystems, reducing nonpoint source pollution and providing tremendous ecosystem benefits and direct economic benefits to communities.”
This workshop included indoor classroom presentations by representatives from TWRI, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas A&M Forest Service and Guadalupe-Blanco River Land Trust. The educators covered the basics of what elements make up a riparian area, watershed and riparian management practices, stream processes, riparian vegetation and hindrances to healthy riparian systems.
“Attendees received an overview of basic stream processes and practices that will protect and improve the management of riparian and stream ecosystems and the many benefits that healthy systems provide,” Dictson said.
For the outdoor educational presentations, the group ventured over to the Plum Creek Wetland Mitigation Site north of Lockhart. Personnel from AgriLife Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, Nueces River Authority and Plum Creek Watershed Partnership discussed feral hog control, agricultural best management practices and incentive programs, plant identification, riparian and floodplain functions, erosion and healthy stream indicators during field presentations.
“I really walked away with some good knowledge, and I know this program is going to have a positive impact on my land,” Wymer said.
This program is managed by TWRI and is funded through a Clean Water Act grant provided by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The next riparian workshops will be held Sept. 12 in Gatesville, Sept. 17 in Seguin and Oct. 16 in Junction. For more information on riparian areas, this program and upcoming trainings, visit texasriparian.org.