2020 NRCS WLFW Low-Tech Riverscape Restoration Workshop

2020 Virtual Workshop

August 11-14, 2020 - Anywhere with Internet - Completed

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Module Materials.


Thanks to the generous support of the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Working Lands for Wildlife, and a grant through Pheasants Forever to Utah State University’s Restoration Consortium and Joe Wheaton’s ET-AL lab are able to deliver a free virtual workshops to NRCS conservationists and their partners. This series was envisioned by Jeremy Maestas (NRCS) and is possible thanks to partner matches by various local organizations in each state (see each state page) and matching funds from Utah State University. This grew out of the successful 2016 Enhancing Mesic Habitat Resilience in Sagebrush Ecosystems Workshop at Utah State University and the 2018 and 2019 workshop series.

Odd 2020 Opportunity

With COVID-19, we have all had to make adjustments to how we work. Unfortunately, this has required us to cancel our popular field workshop series this summer on Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration of Riverscapes. However, with challenges come new opportunities. We reimagined our workshop (normally capped at 50) in order to offer a virtual version open to all! Thanks to NRCS’ Working Lands for Wildlife partnership, this is being offered for free to you.

Virtual Workshop Description

This virtual workshop will introduce conservationists to ‘low-tech’ process-based approaches for restoring streams and their associated riparian areas (riverscapes) to benefit fish, wildlife, and working lands. Participants will learn principles guiding low-tech process-based restoration and become familiar with simple, hand-built tools, including Beaver Dam Analogues (BDAs) and Post-Assisted Log Structures (PALS), intended to mimic and promote specific ecosystem processes. Participants will gain basic skills in the planning, design, and implementation phases of project development. Course content is supported by a published Design Manual.

Overview - Pick and Choose

To make participating remotely and/or from home more manageable, we have spread our curriculum out over four days with lots of time for breaks and self-paced exercises. There is no substitute for the field experience, but we will try our best to simulate some of that virtually. Everyone should take Module 1, but after that you can take all the modules, or just the ones relevant to you. All workshop materials, exercises and presentations will be available online for a self-paced delivery by module at any time, but the virtual workshop gathering will provide pacing, panel discussions and engagement with other professionals and participants.


  • Module 1: Introduction to Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration - Day 1 - August 11 (3/4-day)
  • Module 2: Underlying Science & Case Studies for Low-Tech - Day 2 - August 12 (half-day morning)
  • Module 3: Planning Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration - Day 2 - August 12 (half-day afternoon)
  • Module 4: Designing Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration - Day 3 - August 13 (3/4 day)
  • Module 5: Implementing Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration - Day 4 - August 14 (half-day morning)

For a more detailed draft agenda, to help you plan which modules you might want to participate in, see here.


Registration was free, but is now closed. Participation was limited to 1000 participants.

Course Materials

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Slides & Handouts

Module 1 - Intro
Slides , Recorded Lectures and Exercises
Module 2 - Science
Slides , Recorded Lectures and Exercises
Module 3 - Planning
Slides , Recorded Lectures and Exercises
Module 4 - Design
Slides , Recorded Lectures and Exercises
Module 5 - Implementation
Slides , Recorded Lectures and Exercises

Workshop Textbooks

Mandatory Texts - A hard copy of both the manual and pocket-guide will make your participation in the virtual workshop webinars easier, but free digital versions are available below. If you do not have hard copies, please have a PDF open in the background.

For the workshop, we rely on the a Design Manual and the Pocket Guide, which free electronic versions are below. Print copies of manual are available for ~ $60 on Amazon or on BookBaby and waterproof versions of the pocket guide can be purchased here.

Note, thanks to Working Lands for Wildlife, the first 100 NRCS invitees to register were sent a free copy of manual and pocket guide by mail!

More Background

Through SGI 2.0, NRCS has committed to work with landowners and partners to help protect and restore mesic habitats, such as riparian and wet meadow areas, to benefit sage-grouse. While a variety of mesic conservation strategies exist, relatively simple and low-cost alternatives are a potentially important part of toolbox for restoration at scales relevant to sage-grouse.

Over the last decade, a renewed recognition of the role of the once widespread beaver has revealed insights about how this ecosystem engineer greatly impacts riparian function and accelerates recovery of degraded systems. Drawing upon lessons learned about how nature heals systems, Beaver Dam Analogues (BDAs) have emerged as a low-cost restoration tool designed to mimic beaver activity to restore hydrologic function and ecological processes in incised channels. BDAs are becoming an increasingly popular bioengineering technique employed by partners across the West and early results show promise for rapidly achieving a variety of riparian goals.

Purpose & Need

There is a need to convene key interdisciplinary staff to evaluate low-cost, low-risk techniques that can be implemented across large scales to meet mesic habitat restoration goals. These workshops will discuss how to restore hydrologic processes that promote riparian resilience and mesic vegetation, identify opportunities for restoration, and examine how BDAs can be applied as a bioengineering technique to achieve SGI mesic habitat goals. Participants will gain knowledge and skills needed to design and implement appropriate low-cost practices and foster technology transfer within their respective work areas.

Instruction Team

Mark Beardsley4


Stephen N. Bennett1,2,3

Ecologist, Adjunct Professor

Nicolaas Bouwes3,2,1

Aquatic Ecologist, Adjunct Professor

Ben Goldfarb

Author, Environmental Journalist, & Beaver Believer

Jeremy Maestas5


Scott Shahveridan2,1

Fluvial Geomorphologist

Colin Thorne6

Professor of Physical Geography

Nick Weber2,3,1

Fish Ecologist

Joseph Wheaton1,2

Associate Professor of Riverscapes

Instructor Affiliations








The target audience for the virtual field workshop is any one interested in improving the health of riverscapes with low-tech PBR. We anticipated this was likely to include practitioners, land or resource managers, scientists, land owners, regulators, conservationists and students. Below is where the registrants were from.

When it is taught as a field workshop.

The target audience for the field workshop series was primarily NRCS staff, and key partners. NRCS SGI states will select key representatives involved in mesic restoration to participate. Anticipated NRCS participants include state/area/local specialists (biologists/engineers) and select field staff. States may also opt to invite key partners who are invested locally in helping get mesic conservation on the ground. The overall goal is to build a cadre of staff in each State to evaluate the technique and serve as local sources of expertise across the range. To keep the hands-on exercises effective, we limited invitation only enrolment to roughly 45 participants per workshop.

Make it Count

Participation in the workshops is free. However, participants can earn University Credit or Continuing Education Units from Utah State University’s Restoration Consortium. Online courses will be offered Fall 2020 Semester, and participation in this virtual workshop can count towards those courses (assessed assignments required as well).

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