Owning Land on the Farmington River - Vol 3

THE RIVER ROUNDUP – FRCC’s River Stewardship News Vol #3: 12/30/15

campground pool

Do you own land along the Farmington River? One of the most important decisions you can make is how you manage the buffer zone between your land and the river, also known as the riparian buffer zone.

These riparian zones are usually very diverse and dynamic. They include the land that not only abuts the water, but sometimes is also under water. Riparian buffer zones serve several very important functions. First, they protect water quality by 'filtering' runoff before it enters the river. Runoff could contain contaminants including oil from streets, salt or fertilizers. Second, riparian buffer zones also reduce erosion. Not only is this important to keep river banks intact, but when soil is washed into the river it can have negative effects. Large amounts of fine sediment in the water causes it to become more opaque. This is a condition called turbidity. Turbid streams and rivers often have fewer organisms living in them. Once the situation gets extreme, sunlight has a hard time penetrating the water, affecting plants that live underneath. This sediment also can settle, usually in slower moving water areas. This changes the depth of the river bed and can have other effects such as ruining the sandy bottom where fish like to spawn. Riparian buffer zones also protect against flooding. Vegetation keeps the banks from becoming eroded and slows the pace of the water near the shore. Lastly, these buffer zones are also used by up to 90% of the wildlife species found in the northeast.

So what should you do if you own land on the river? There is no simple answer. Each case will be slightly different. However, the first thing you will want to look at is what type of cover is closest to the river. Hopefully your property has some type of forest growth, ideally a canopy that overhangs the water. Studies have shown that the shade trees provide in the summer months can keep the water temperature lower, which is good for fish and vegetation. A slight temperature change makes a big difference. Alternatively you may have new growth - small trees mixed in with bushes. This is OK too. You do not want to have to make any changes on the land immediately bordering the water. If your property has been mowed all the way to the river, or the vegetation has been washed away due to heavy rain/flooding, you need to restore your riparian buffer zone. This needs immediate attention. To prevent further streambank or river damage, please contact either myself or the FRCC for guidance.

One suggested management technique of your riverfront property is to use what are called multi-layered buffer strips. Having two or three different 'strips' of vegetation is a great way to support the riverbank and filter out contaminants before they get into the water. Here is one example: Starting with your trees that are closest to the water, leave this area untouched. This strip should be a minimum of 30'-50' wide. Next would come a 12' wide strip of shrubs. Lastly would be a minimum 20' strip of high grass that is not mowed. Much of what dictates what you can and should do is determined by how much land you own and what kind of buffer zones exist on adjoining properties. Most of the privately owned land along the wild and scenic Farmington River is comprised of smaller land tracts. Making the forest canopy along the river match your neighbors is fairly important in helping to create continuous chunks of forest for wildlife, not to mention aesthetics.

Did you know that your choice in leaving certain types of forest growth, bushes and grass can attract different types of wildlife? Learn how to make your property attractive to specific types of birds, fox, other mammals and reptiles by contacting me.

In addition to being the Farmington River Steward, I am also an active Coverts Project Cooperator. What does that mean? Every Cooperator has completed at least 25 hours of training in forest and wildlife ecology, and stewardship. We have a database of information available to us that can help you make informed decisions about your property. If we do not know the answer to your question(s), we can surely point you in the right direction, often in contact with the DEEP forester managing this part of the state. Here are a few of the things I might be able to assist with:

  • Discuss your personal forest related interests, and start to focus on the stewardship that will work best for you
  • Get help finding local sources of professional forestry and wildlife assistance
  • Learn about financial assistance and tax benefits available to forest owners
  • Get in touch with other people in the area who have successfully implemented a forestry management plan on their own property (they do not necesarily have to be riverfront owners)
  • Learn how to attract certain types of wildlife onto your land with different types of forest cover

If you have any questions about how to manage your riverfront property, please do not hesitate to contact me.

POSTED ON: Wednesday, 30 December 2015

BY: River Steward