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WWRC 86-05m
Managing Riparian Stream Habitats


Upon settling this great nation, European man soon recognized the potential of using the vast rangelands for livestock production. Cattle were initially stocked in the early 1500's with sheep arriving later. Animal numbers, however, did not peak until four centuries later. By the 1930's, livestock grazing was so heavy that many of these lands and the streams draining them were in poor condition. Since livestock are attracted to riparian areas adjacent to streams and lakes, that portion of the range was also heavily used.

As the land management agencies and private range owners implemented improved grazing practices after the 1930's, rangelands began to improve. Busby (1978) states that rangeland conditions today are far better than the denuded, deteriorated ranges that existed in the early 1900's. I agree that rangelands have improved greatly, but contend, however, that studies leading to the interpretation of the improvement were based primarily on data collected from drier upland sites, and often did not take into account the condition of riparian areas (Platts 1979). Riparian areas may have recovered to some degree since the 1930's, but not nearly to the extent of other rangeland types. The reason for this is that we were not concentrating on managing riparian habitats-we were managing conditions on a large scale.

Riparian habitats are productive and quite resilient Even degraded habitats, under good management, can soon recover and contribute valuable multiple rangeland resources to the nation. The possibility exists to manage the nation's rangelands to increase fish populations by one order of magnitude during the next several decades. This article briefly, and in a generalized fashion, describes the past and present situation in riparian-stream management and offers some suggestions of methods to move toward better riparian management

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