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Natural Systems

NS1.1

Protect Riparian Zones

Riparian zones reduce soil erosion into our rivers and streams and improve air and water quality and quantity. Preserving, repairing, and enhancing riparian zones is important to the quality and quantity of our water in the Flint Hills. Contact the Flint Hills Regional Council to get started on this work.

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Tool Information


Goals

  1. Conservation
  2. Water
  3. Awareness

Description

This tools highlights educational information, examples, and resources for riparian buffer restoration. A comprehensive, regional approach to how the Flint Hills landowners address the health of their riparian zones can result in enhanced water quality for the region. Utilizing existing programs through the Kansas Water Office, USDA and NRCS to establish buffer zones, stabilize banks, and increase the health of habitat that slows and cleans surface flow to the streams and rivers provides an important transition between the terristrial and aquatic environment with soils that are rich in nutrients and have the capacity to hold much water and recharge groundwater sources. Healthy riparian zones also provide protection from flooding. Encroaching on this ecosystem is harmful not only to the plant and animals but also to the quality and quantity of water available to people in the watershed. 

Image from Soil Restoration Technologies website

Background

Stormwater runoff from agricultural uses and developed land pollutes our streams and rivers with increased sediment, increased levels of nitrogen from fertilizers, oil byproducts from roads and vehicular traffic, and other pollutants that can make these bodies of water unable to support life and detrimental to our region's watersheds and aquifers for clean water supply. Riparian buffer zones can reduce soil erosion and improve air and water quality as well as reduce incidence of flooding and recharge the groundwater sources throughout the region if property owners agree to work together on enhancing the health of these areas on their property.

Additional Information

Kansas Wetlands and Aquatic Resources Plan Framework

The purpose of the Wetland and Aquatic Resources Plan Framework is to identify the existing status of wetland and aquatic resource protection and make recommendations on the development of a state plan including goals and policies for the future of Kansas. This WARP Framework was developed as a part of Kansas State Conservation Commission –Wetlands, Streams, and Riparian Areas cooperative agreement with the US Environmental Protection Agency. The WARP was developed with the assistance of the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams (KAWS) and a multi-agency and multidisciplinary team.

Natural Resources Conservation Services - Riparian Zones

A description of the ecosystems services provided by riparian zones as well as specific strategies to increase the health and function of these zones, including establishing a protected buffer, repairing eroded banks and replanting bank stabilization plants, controlled burning and controlled grazing.

Riparian Reservoirs of Diversity

The USDA's website describing the benefits of riparian zones and their programs designed to assist in implementing best practices in riparian zones. Some of the most notable USDA programs that offer specific assistance for riparian areas on private lands are the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP), and the Stewardship Incentive Program (SIP).

The Kansas Water Office

The Kansas Water Office, the state's comprehensive water planning agency, has programs targeted to erosion in riparian areas and conducts assessments using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and stream water quality monitoring data in the watersheds above water supply reservoirs. As assessments are completed, results are shared with Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) Stakeholder Leadership Teams (SLTs) and other agencies to guide prioritization of streambank restoration to reaches where erosion is most severe.

KState Research and Extension Services

Environmental Programs water conservation and water quality advocacy, education, and networks provide additional support and information to private land owners.

Implementation Strategy


Champions and Partners

Kansas Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS)

Kansas Water Office

Kansas Natural Resources Conservation Services - Landscape Intiatives

Some riparian zones contain wetland systems. These have additional programs and protection measures:

Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism (KDWPT). Manages the threatened and endangered species program for the state, including wetland issues. Collects data on stream systems.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) - Water Management Section. Manages the water quality monitoring network and provides reports on
status and trends annually. Includes the WRAPS program listed above.
Division of Conservation, Kansas Department of Agriculture (DoC). Administers financial and technical assistance programs to improve, protect,
enhance and restore watershed districts.
Kansas Biological Survey (KBS). Performs wetland research and assessment including special projects across EPA Region 7. Maintains database of
findings.

Kansas Land Trust

Timeframe

Medium (3-8 years)

Cost

$$

Cost Details

For property owners or conservation easement managers:

  • Consultant or state agency assessment of health and function of riparian zones to create the prioritized list of actions and programs that will increase their health.
  • Establishment of protection zones through fencing or other barriers to cattle and horses.
  • Stream bank stabilization engineering and implementation
  • Ongoing habitat and stream restoration in riparian zones

Funding Sources

Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism (KDWPT). Responsible for management of state owned land. Acquisition of additional lands to be held in public trust.

Kansas Land Trust

Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). Oversees financial assistance programs to protect, enhance and restore land associated with Watershed Restoration
and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) programs. Responsible for 401 certifications for proposed impacts to wetlands during land alteration activities.

Division of Conservation, Kansas Department of Agriculture (DoC). Administers financial and technical assistance programs

Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams - Grant list for all related programs and 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. Utilize state resources and research to identify impaired riparian zones and/or other ecologically-important ecosystems and prioritize from most impaired to least impaired..
  2. Identify and contact land owners or managers of the high priority zones to understand current initiatives to enhance the zones, as well as next steps and gaps in funding or assistance needed.
  3. Inventory how local activities inter-related with those riparian zones and ecologically important zones, and chart out 3-6 actions to improve the interrelation, with task, responsible party, and deadline OR join a KAWS Alliance.
  4. Provide land owners and easement managers in priority zones access to additional resources, funding assistance, and potentially labor sources to implement riparian zone protection and enhancement measures.
  5. Mobilize volunteers to work on weekend restoration projects through local environmental group(s), along with non-workday educational tours.

Case Study


Verdigris River Riparian Project

The Verdigris River Riparian Project  in Greenwood County Kansas was highlighted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife as an exemplary process involving a collaboration of several landowners, public agencies, and educational institutions. This project protected quality oak riparian stands from overgrazing, protected endangered wildlife, and monitored water quality along 50 acres of the Verdigris River.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Kansas website

Relevance

This case study illustrates one example of the types of complex partnerships that can work together to enhance the land and water quality and quantity of a region, project by project.