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Riparian Areas: Functions and Strategies for Management
better understood by the layperson if there is to be a shift in society’s management of these vitally important areas.
Conclusions and Recommendations on Riparian Education
Riparian education needs to reach broad and diverse audiences if it is to succeed in effecting positive change in riparian management. It needs to include formal educational institutions and reach out directly to policy makers, natural resources personnel, government officials, developers, landowners, and the public at large. Natural resources professionals need to expand their perspectives beyond their formal background and training.
Riparian education should strive to be inclusive. It should avoid using jargon, acronyms, and single-perspective approaches. The public’s aesthetic appreciation of waterbodies is already high. This appreciation should be harnessed to further public stewardship of riparian areas.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
As noted by the Federal Interagency Working Group (1998) in its report on stream corridor restoration, water and other materials, energy, and organisms meet and interact within riparian areas over space and time. Riparian areas provide essential life functions such as maintaining streamflows, cycling nutrients, filtering chemicals and other pollutants, trapping and redistributing sediments, absorbing and detaining floodwaters, maintaining fish and wildlife habitats, and supporting the food web for a wide range of biota. The protection of healthy riparian areas and the restoration of degraded riparian areas relate directly to at least five national policy objectives: protection of water quality, protection of wetlands, protection of threatened and endangered species, reduction of flood damage, and beneficial management of federal public lands. The following conclusions and recommendations are intended to bring national awareness to riparian areas commensurate with their ecological and societal values.
Restoration of riparian functions along America’s waterbodies should be a national goal. Over the last several decades, the nation (through both federal and state programs) has increasingly focused on the need for maintaining or improving environmental quality, ensuring the sustainability of species, protecting wetlands, and reducing the negative impacts of high flow events—all of which depend on the existence of functioning riparian areas. Unless an ambitious effort to restore the nation’s riparian areas in undertaken, it will be difficult to achieve the goals of the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, wetland protection, and flood damage control programs. There is a clear need for legal guidance at the federal, state, and local levels that explicitly recognizes the im-