Year Two of the James River Riparian Stewardship Program and our New Seasonal Stewardship Assistants!

The James River Stewardship Program (JRSP) hired four new Seasonal Stewardship Assistants to complete year two of the program! The James River Association (JRA) and other partners of the Upper & Middle James Riparian Consortium (Consortium) created the JRSP in 2022. Stewardship of riparian forest buffers is consistently noted as a priority, but most cost-assistance programs lack sufficient support for maintenance that is key to a forest buffer’s success. JRA, the Virginia Department of Forestry (DOF), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), along with input from over a dozen partners of the Consortium Implementation Team, developed the JRSP to protect the investment in riparian forest buffers, ensure positive examples of the practice through stewardship to increase adoption, and provide technical assistance through summer internships. This year, the JRSP expanded to include four assistants in two regions!

Over a 12 week period during Summer 2023, four Seasonal Stewardship Assistants assessed over 400 acres of riparian forest buffers. Assistants Matalin Collins and Mary Hays Scott were based out of the Lexington NRCS office and covered forest buffer projects in Rockbridge, Bath, and Allegheny counties. Assistants Lauria McShane and Lyndsey Weeks were based out of the Charlottesville DOF office and covered forest buffer projects in Albemarle, Nelson, and Fluvanna counties. The Assistants looked at overall success of the buffer with special focus on native tree and shrub establishment rate and invasive species cover, which will inform a recommendation report. These will be used to prioritize needed maintenance activities with a goal of performing invasive species management and replanting on ~200 acres from November 2023-April 2024.

Meet our 4 Seasonal Stewardship Assistants for Summer 2023!

Lauria McShane, Charlottesville: I am Lauria McShane, and I am from Temecula, California. I graduated last year from Sweet Briar College with a Bachelors of Science in Biology. I have always been interested in the ways that communities interact with the environment and mending relationships between the two. This position with JRA has given me the opportunity to gain hands-on field experience while also helping landowners protect our waterways! Plus, I get to spend plenty of time in the woods with trees. In the future I plan to return to college to get my masters in ecology. I also hope that in the future I get to work with communities to foster healthy relationships with the environment so that we can tackle issues as a collective. My favorite river activity is either nature photography or searching for macroinvertebrates! 

Lyndsey Weeks, Charlottesville: I am Lyndsey Weeks, and I am from Powhatan, Virginia. I am a senior at Virginia Tech and am majoring in Forestry. My passion for conservation, restoration, and protecting native ecosystems is what drew me to this position. I’ve spent my life in and around the James and enjoy playing an active role in protecting it! Although I’m not exactly sure what I want to do in the future, I plan to continue working on restoration projects. I enjoy seeing a positive change and impact made to the whole ecosystem. My favorite river activities are kayaking and river clean-ups!

Matalin Collins, Lexington: I am Matalin Collins, and I am from Prince George, Virginia. I got my undergraduate degree from the University of Rochester in Environmental Studies, and I recently graduated from Virginia Tech with a Masters in Agricultural Life Science. I have always been interested in water quality and conservation, beginning when I learned about the stress the Chesapeake was under due to eutrophication. This position helps the Bay by helping the rivers that feed into it, and it also gets me some field experience! In the future, I would like to have a biologist position somewhere near the tidewater region to continue with stream and river conservation. I love kayaking and looking for wildlife in the river! 

Mary Hays Scott, Lexington: I am Mary Hays Scott, and I am from Charlottesville, Virginia. I am currently attending Longwood University where I am studying Integrated Environmental Science. This position interested me because it gives me the opportunity to work closely with local stakeholders and spend time outdoors. As a Virginia native and an environmental science student, improving water quality and supporting native habitats around the commonwealth is very important to me. This position also provides valuable experience in the field and an opportunity to work with a partner who shares common goals. Once I graduate next May I would like to gain more experience working in the field while saving up for my masters. My favorite river activity is swimming!

 What did their office look like for the summer? Check out these photos from a few of their site visits.

 For more information about maintenance and stewardship of riparian forest buffers visit

This initiative is made possible thanks to funding by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government or the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and its funding sources. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government, or the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation or its funding sources.