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WWRC 89-25
Economic Value of Riparian Zones in Differing Channel Conditions in Wyoming


Riparian habitat in the western United States represents a small percentage of the land area, yet the benefits provided by this habitat type are numerous (Thomas, et al, 1979 and Meyer, 1985). Many uses are dependent upon and influenced by riparian habitat, such as: fisheries, wildlife habitat, livestock grazing, recreation, and water quality (King, et al, 1978). Public land managers are aware that these areas are important and justify more intensive management. However, it is difficult for managers to prioritize these areas when dollar values for the benefits resulting from special management practices have not been quamtified.

Because economic values for riparian areas are strikingly absent from the literature, there exits a need to study riparian areas to:

  1. determine and elucidate the economic benefits of riparian areas in semi-arid western rangeland.

  2. determine how economic values may change with differing riparian zone conditions.

  3. determine the economic viability of managing riparian areas for increased vegetation production, improved water quality, or changes in the timing of the flow regime.

  4. develop a method for applying dollar values to the measurable physical, chemical, and biological parameters associated with riparian areas.

A logical approach in addressing these needs was to conduct a review of the literature regarding dollar values reported from previous water research studies that could be applied to specific uses of riparian zones. The dollar values could then be applied to the parameters measuring the various uses of riparian areas in the western United States. The following study objectives are addressed by this paper and presentation:

  1. Determine the economic benefits of riparian areas located in cold desert shrub zones characteristic of the central Rocky Mountain Region using values published in previous water research studies.

  2. Determine if economic benefits vary with stream channel conditions and their associated riparian zones by applying appropriate per unit values to vegetation, water quality and ground water storage measurements.

  3. Determine the cost effectiveness of using instream structures as a method to change stream channel conditions and their associated riparian zones.

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