Riparian Areas

Riparian areas are the lush vegetated lands adjacent to streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands, where the vegetation and soils are strongly influenced by the presence of water. Although they make up only a small fraction of the land, they are among the most productive and valuable of all landscape types.

Alberta's Settled Region

In the settled area of Alberta, it is primarily private land that borders rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands, although many parcels of public land exist which are grazed through lease agreements. Public land managers work with private landowners and lessees to manage riparian areas so that the landscape and ecological functions and values they provide are maintained.

A number of programs have been established through partnerships that promote the sustainable use and health of riparian areas:

  • Cows and Fish Program

    The Cows and Fish Program was developed to promote riparian land management and to assist landowners with strategies to effectively manage the use of riparian lands. Many tools and publications are available to landowners in planning effective strategies to maintain or restore riparian areas in a healthy state.
  • Riparian Health Assessment

    On public rangelands, the Rangeland Management Branch of the Lands Division in partnership with the Cows and Fish Program has developed a number of tools to assess the general health of riparian areas next to streams and lakes.

Alberta's Forested Region

In forested regions of Alberta, all the land is Crown owned, including the beds and shores of all water features. Most approved land uses require users to maintain riparian buffers between operational areas and the banks and shores of water bodies.

A number of guidance documents have been established, including the Timber Harvest Planning and Operating Ground Rules, which specify that buffer areas must be maintained next to water features. See the Operating Ground Rules section at:


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Updated: Jan 16, 2018