Tag Archive: restoration

Looking upstream

Looking upstream

That’s right, I know you are all pouting and say, “Jacque, where have you been?” Well, I

This little guy os growing from our green logs where the creek disappears under a newly created natural bridge.

This little guy os growing from our green logs where the creek disappears under a newly created natural bridge.

have no really great story where I get chased by some wild animal or get lost deep in the forest (we wish right?). All I have is the fact that I have been running around crazy.

Looking downstream

Looking downstream

I thought you all would absolutely love the fact that I am working in a confidential area making guess what….? Ditches! I know you guys understand I believe in a lot of crazy stuff….but…NOT DITCHES.

So, I have taken it upon myself to team with my buddy and boss, Matt to stop the madness. We have begun designing what a dear friend Michelle Sims calls “conveyances”. I call them unditches.

So the basic idea is that we disguise a nasty and boring ditch or gully as a small stream segment. We give it character, habitat, shape, form, and a better function in the landscape. The bugs and fish already love it. I love it. Guess what? I got a sweet surprise birthday visit from 10-20 DEP reps.

The fish will love this pool.

The fish will love this pool.

Now, most folks hate it when they see a pack of DEP nerds coming but I get all excited. I LOVE THEM! There’s nothing like watching them tromp around in the woods downstream in the preservation

and all over the site. The smiles, questions, suggestions, and interest were fun! I love sharing what we do and why….especially with people who care just as much as I do.

This natural system will benefit from more care in the connection design.

This natural system will benefit from more care in the connection design.

We study them to make sure they behave!

When you’ve been doing this as long as we have the way we have, you sort of forget that you are actually practicing science/art! In the beginning, we worked hard to read until our eyes bled. We wanted to know what other scientists had found that worked. We wanted to absorb the data, feel the methods, develop hypothesis…then, we went out on our own and began to attempt to regurgitate it all out into the world.

It was amazing what we found that didn’t work. It sounded so sure on paper. It was cool what did work – some of it just intuition. I think we mostly have more water and mud in our veins than blood and now we think and breathe streams. We can walk up, smell the mud, catch some bugs, have Josh look at the fish, and know which ones need us the most.

Sometimes we go through a lot!

Most people have no idea what we do. What we do is, in Jacque talk, very simple. We study streams. We see what’s wrong and we prescribe a sort of medicine for them so that they function better and make the world a better place. I like to tell people that, not so many years ago, it was normal for some company to have a guy drive a backhoe in a wiggly line and then let the water meander. That was stream restoration in the past.

We found all those wiggly ditches. Companies spend millions of dollars fixing them now because they don’t work right. That’s what we do – fix wiggly ditches and make them act like proper streams (or as near as we can) and we don’t build streams with backhoes much anymore. We like to do things a little differently.

So, here’s my attempt to explain some of the ways we do things.

We start by studying real pristine streams of all kinds. We study them to death. We live them, breathe them, smell them, taste them and generally go to sleep with them until we are them! We take what we learn and literally build streams that will look just like them. We fix sick streams to act more like the proper ones.

Things that should be there.

Don’t beat me up all you nay sayers….we don’t put back microbes and every grain of frigging soil….this is reality! We aren’t god…

We put things in the streams that should be there so the living things can be there too. We help simulate many years of flow that would have carved a new stream. We try to mimic as much of what nature gives to make a new stream! We can’t do it all, but every day we try to give more and more.

We watch the baby streams and the streams we’ve fixed. We make sure that they are behaving and not acting up. We fix them more if need be. We count things like bugs and plants and trees. We take out nasty things that could ruin the place. We love them, nurture them, care for them, are proud of them, and hope that one day – you will too.

That’s what we do. And it’s really cool – and we love it!

Is this natural?

This adventure story has a beginning but it really doesn’t have an end. I hope you have the stamina to stick with us until it does. If all goes well, that will be NEVER!! The funny question so many ask is, “Why?”. Why do we do what we do? I thought about it while working in the wilds with Kristen yesterday and I think I have some vague idea of how to answer that question finally.

When we started, we began with a sense of purpose. We were going to make a difference. We were going to create beauty from ugly. We were going to be part of the solution – not run from the problem. In other words, we wanted to make the world look more natural by studying what is natural and then using that information (Kristen’s beloved data) to design “nature” after it was destroyed. Not destroyed as is the end of the world!! Destroyed by development, mining, grazing, farming, and a million other things.

Florida Dragline

What happened you ask? Well, we did that. We helped make some beautiful places out of mud. We made a clear flowing stream out of mine tailings. You know what we discovered. What looked like mass destruction sometimes was actually giving us the opportunity to fix something that was already really messed up. All of the times we looked at an old pasture and thought how awful it was that they were going to mine it – we discovered, after much nerdy study, the mining was allowing us to fix a problem that no one knew was there!

You see, there are about a gazillion things that can ruin a landscape. We can’t go into all that now, perhaps we can do a mini series. “Normal” people (cause God knows we aren’t normal anymore) look at the landscape and think it’s cute. IT’S NOT!! It’s severely affected by ditching, clearing, grazing, farming, compaction and those other millions of things. When they mine it – we can come back in and make it pretty! It didn’t feel so bad once we realized we weren’t helping to destroy the land – but, rather, to make it better.

Once we realized that we weren’t the bad guys and that the mining companies weren’t the bad guys, it made what we do much easier every day. Now I look at a dragline with a totally different mindset. It doesn’t make me want to grab a sign and campaign for them not to destroy habitat – that happened 50 years ago!! They will mine it – give us the resources we need to eat – and we can come in and design the world as it should be!

One day, it is our sincere hope, that you and yours will stand next to a flowing creek, remark at how nice it is that they didn’t mine this land, and we will be hiding in the woods (not in a scary way mind you) and smile knowingly  – because THEY DID MINE IT!!

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