or of a right to its use. Thus, legal protections for riparian areas and any recommendations for changes in their management must account for both the property interests in the relevant waters and lands and the fact that most riparian areas are linear features that cross ownership/jurisdictional boundaries. An example of this complexity is the Interior Columbia River Basin, which contains 74 separate federal land units, including 35 national forests and 17 BLM districts, as well as significant private, state, and tribal holdings—all of which must be taken into account when formulating a joint, comprehensive management plan.

Protection of riparian areas has been approached in a variety of ways (Table 4-1). One approach, exemplified by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)—and comparable laws in some states—is to require identification and analysis of adverse environmental effects that would be caused by federal actions, along with consideration of less environmentally damaging alternatives. Such an approach is not specific to riparian areas, nor does it require their protection, but it does ensure attention to their environmental values if they would be potentially affected by a proposed federal action. Examples in which environmental impact statements have focused on riparian values are discussed in this chapter.

A second approach is to place special limitations on activities in riparian areas on publicly owned lands. For example, in the Pacific Northwest logging and other activities are restricted in riparian reserves that have been established on federal lands in order to protect salmon. Many of the benefits provided by riparian areas—wildlife habitat, water quality protection, channel stability, and maintenance of fisheries—are public in nature.

A third approach is to regulate activities on private riparian areas. Such regulation must necessarily protect the legal rights of property owners while limiting those land uses deemed unacceptably harmful to public interests. Protec-

TABLE 4-1 General Approaches for Riparian Area Protection



1. Required impact identification Environmental Policy Acts

National Environmental Policy Act and State

2. Special management areas on public lands

Northwest Forest Plan

3. Private land development/use regulation

State and local stream buffer requirements

4. Financial incentives, technical assistance, education

Farm Bill programs

5. Public/nonprofit purchase of private riparian lands or interests in lands

Greenway programs, conservation easements

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement