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Natural Systems


Draft Model Riparian Buffer Legislation

Learn how to get started on drafting model legislation that provides riparian buffers. Connect to the FHRC to get started.

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Tool Information


  1. Water
  2. Stewardship
  3. Conservation


Counties and cities across the country are protecting their valuable river and stream corridors by drafting model legislation for that calls for limiting construction and other damaging practices specific distances from riparian zones. Comprehensive strategies utilize in-field, edge-of-fieldd, and streamside buffers based on classification of water bodies and soils. Buffers are often considered one of the most important factors influencing non-point source pollutants entering surface water. In addition, buffers can stabilize stream banks, affect local fauna, moderate flooding, help recharge underground water supplies, and provide land owners with valuable biomass, timber, and nut crops.


Encroachment into riparian corridors and areas continues to add to habitat loss and encourage the spread of invasive species by depleting natural systems. Supporting riparian zone conservation and habitat restoration is a focus of Kansas Water Office, as well as Kansas Forest Service, USDA, Kansas Wildlife Parks and Tourism and numerous non-profit organizations and concerned citizens. Non-point source pollution control programs of this magnitude and potential benefit from a common set of rules to guide landowner actions. A collaborative of all involved organizations and governmental agencies could draft the legislation together for a regional set of strategies that can be adopted county by county.

Additional Information

KState Forestry Report

Kansas Forest Service - Streamside Best Management Practices

USDA NRCS Kansas - Landscape Initiatives

Kansas Water Office - Water planning, policy, marketing and coordination for the State of Kansas


Implementation Strategy

Champions and Partners

Kansas Water Office - Water planning, policy, marketing and coordination for the State of Kansas

Kansas Department of Health and Environment - Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy

USDA NRCS Kansas - Landscape Initiatives Grant programs

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism


Short (1-3 years)



Cost Details

The hosting agency for convening the collaborators and drafting the legislation could be either the Kansas Water Office or the Department of Health and Environment as part of the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS). The tasks would require experienced outreach and facilitation, legal assistance on land rights and legislation writing, and advisory connections to Kansas legislators, as well as the technical knowledge of partner agencies and research institutions to provide guidance on describing the comprehensive best practice strategies for enhancing riparian zones.

Funding Sources

The primary partners listed above and hosting agency, as described in the cost explanation, would provide funding for a staff member and legal counsel. The minimal cost of this endeavor which is directly related to the mission of each partner organization would be covered by each partner agency's normal annual funding sources.

Implementation Details

A brief outline of the first few steps necessary for implementation are provided. The steps outlined here are provided only as a suggested starting point and other approaches are certainly valid.

  1. Select host agency.
  2. Formalize an MOU for partner agencies contributing to the process of drafting legislation.
  3. Convene Flint Hills regional and state water agencies, non-profits, research institutions, and county representatives.
  4. Determine whether there is enough support and committment to enact riparian buffer legislation from assembled counties.
  5. If well-supported, hire legal council to advise on next steps and confer with other regional councils who have successfully created ordinance.
  6. Confer with advisors from Kansas legislature body to navigate challenges of political will.
  7. Draft language and reconvene Flint Hills regional and state water agencies, non-profits, research institutions, and county representatives to review and weigh in.
  8. Revise and provide legislation and streamlined instructions/toolkits for counties to enact.

Case Study

Mid America Regional Council - Stream Setback Ordinance, Independence, MO

Over the past few years, the city of Independence has worked to adopt and implement a stream buffer ordinance. As part of the effort, the city used funding available from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to create the two new stormwater tools listed below. These tools helped the city educate staff, local area developers, stormwater professionals and residents about the new regulations and provided a roadmap for riparian corridor management planning.

1. Tool Kit for Implementing Stream Buffer and Setback Regulations

This tool kit educates municipalities interested in adopting or modifying a stream buffer ordinance, provides guidance for preserving natural resources in stream corridors, and describes experiences and lessons learned from Independence and others. (See website for pdfs to download)

  1. Construction inspection checklist
  2. Plan submittal checklist
  3. Post-construction checklist
  4. Developer questionaire
  5. Sample buffer plan

2. Stream Corridor Protection and Adaptive Management Manual

The Stream Corridor Protection and Adaptive Management Manual (See website for pdf)

  • Provides guidance for corridor maintenance and management in all settings, regardless of ownership.
  • Prescribes short and long-term planning strategies for conservation and restoration of riparian corridors.
  • Helps city staff and citizens understand the importance of stream corridors.
  • Provides education on how streams function.


Independence, MO is one example of a local government choosing to enact stream setback ordinance, coordinated by their regional council, to meet many community needs and address many issues beyond stormwater management, including the reduction of liability, protection of citizens, and improvement of the quality of life in their community.