Hand-Built Structures for Restoring Degraded Meadows in Sagebrush Rangelands: Examples and lessons learned from the Upper Gunnison River Basin, Colorado

USDA, State of Colorado, NRCS – Range Technical Note No. 40 May 2018

By Jeremy Maestas, Shawn Connor, Bill Zeedyk, Betsy Neely, Renee Rondeau, Nathan Seward, Teresa Chapman, Liz With, Rachel Murph

Gully erosion and channel incision are widespread problems reducing the function and resilience of wet meadows and riparian areas. The loss of natural water storage capacity in these systems is of concern in low-precipitation areas where wet-mesic areas represent a small fraction of the landscape but are disproportionately important to wildlife and livestock. This technical note provides conservation practitioners with information on simple yet effective “Zeedyk” restoration techniques. The emphasis here is on structures that can be built by hand to address shallow headcuts or small incised channels (< 4 ft deep) impacting meadows and low-to-moderate gradient (< 3% slope) intermittent/ephemeral drainages in sagebrush rangelands. The note provides examples and lessons learned from partners in the Gunnison Climate Working Group who have been implementing a landscape-scale project using these techniques in the Upper Gunnison River Basin, Colorado. The note provides information and references to help practitioners identify opportunities, prioritize treatments, and design projects in similar watersheds across the West.