Riparian and Aquatic Ecosystem Strategy


The Forest Service stewards more than 20 million acres of land and water in the Southwest, including 37,900 acres of lakes, 2,750 miles of streams, and a majority of the headwaters that have provided life here for generations. We share stewardship of these precious resources with many partners, communities and tribes who all value the importance and unique role of these systems. We do this as neighbors who bring world-class science, a passion to partner and build deeper relationships, and practical experience to help restore and maintain these treasured resources for - and with - the communities that rely on them.You can find out more by reading the full Riparian and Aquatic Ecosystem Strategy document

Riparian Pool Restoration in forest

Why is a strategy needed?

Water is the most precious resource in the arid Southwest; riparian and aquatic ecosystems are the vital places that provide for favorable flows of water. Growing human demand for limited water supplies creates an urgency to protect these riparian and aquatic ecosystems on the National Forests and Grasslands. Ensuring water flows necessary to sustain riparian and aquatic areas is becoming more difficult in the face of changing climate and increasing demands to develop water resources for other uses.

Riparian Sample Collection

What is the purpose of this strategy?

The purpose is to guide actions to conserve and improve riparian and aquatic ecosystems that will result in achieving desired conditions which address ecological, social and economic considerations. The strategy is built on a framework where the Forest Service manages riparian and aquatic ecosystems collaboratively with partners, such as local, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, tribes, universities, and more.

What are the goals of the strategy?

The strategy contains seven goals that will inform the work of Forest Service staff supporting riparian and aquatic ecosystem restoration for the foreseeable future.

  • Goal 1. Ensure quality information exists including inventory, monitoring, and assessments to support project work.
  • Goal 2. Prioritize work in riparian and aquatic ecosystems by identifying the right work in important places with the biggest possibility of success.
  • Goal 3. Set performance expectations by clearly defining desired conditions and measuring progress towards achieving them.
  • Goal 4. Provide training to build local capacity in restoration using internal and external expertise.
  • Goal 5. Integrate work across disciplines at multiple levels, look for opportunities for synergy among program areas.
  • Goal 6. Work with partners within and across Forest Service boundaries, build and strengthen relationships with those working toward compatible goals.
  • Goal 7. Communicate the value and benefits of riparian and aquatic ecosystems, generate enthusiasm and funding for projects.

Mary Nichold ARS talking about Gigapan for Riparian Photography

How can you get involved?

The Forest Service wants to forge and deepen communication and collaboration with communities and partners to exchange information and address shared priorities.  We also believe in sharing success stories to encourage support for riparian restoration, and know that many groups have already been doing this kind of work. Please reach out to Roy Jemison for more information. 

Message from Regional Forester Cal Joyner

The Forest Service, as stewards of headwaters and natural water systems, values conservation of natural resources including species and their habitats so they are available for future generations’ new and traditional uses of the land.  Healthy riparian systems create physical, cultural, social, and economic safety for people and long-term resilience of ecosystems.  Resilience supports diversity amongst all biological beings; in waters like lakes, streams, and ponds and communities. The Forest Service recognizes we are all interdependent on each other and the land, no species or community exists in isolation. We are all neighbors and our actions affect our neighbors, therefore we are in service to each other and the lands we steward. Our riparian and aquatic ecosystem strategy strives toward mutually beneficial solutions by working with partners and other landowners for conserving and improving these important ecosystems.