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Working Ranch April/May 2016

the best way to protect surrounding land from erosion and fl ood water. Because each riparian area has unique characteristics, working with team members who bring different types of expertise to the project helps thoroughly assess the area. Thompson’s expertise in fi sheries and aquatic biology allows him to assess the quality of habitat for fi sh in a riparian setting. “Landowners who like to fi sh may notice declining fi sh numbers, fi sh size or fi sh species,” Thompson says. “That could be a sign of an altered stream channel, changes in water temperature or increased sediment which can lead to a lack of aquatic insects to feed the fi sh. Interested landowners can collect aquatic insect samples from year to year to track available food resources. Water samples DR. CLINTON SHOCK, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY With its pinkish-red fl owers and feathery leaves, Tamarisk is an invasive species that can be found along the West’s riparian areas. It has an extensive root system which can grow as much as 100 feet long. Cavity nesting birds that generally utilize deteriorating cottonwoods and other softwoods are especially at risk in areas where tamarisk has displaced native riparian trees. can be analyzed to detect water quality issues, too.” Maintaining healthy riparian areas certainly benefi ts landowners. However, everyone upstream and downstream from the area profi ts when fl ood waters quickly dissipate and water quality and availability is stable. Down cutting the channel in one riparian area means larger volumes of high-energy water fl ow downstream, potentially damaging that area. “There’s great incentive for everyone to properly manage riparian areas,” Thompson suggests. “Sometimes there’s little a landowner can do if a neighbor doesn’t use effective management practices. However, sometimes a problem can lead to an opportunity to work with your neighbor for everyone’s benefi t.” Marking a specifi c point in the riparian area with a fencepost makes it possible to obtain photos and document conditions at that point on an annual basis. Creating “photo points” allows a land manager to document changes in riparian condition over time, sometimes over decades. Photos are easy to obtain, inexpensive and can provide numerous details about riparian function. Documenting the presence, type and condition of vegetation, soil, and signs of wildlife activity provide a valuable information baseline that can help verify any changes observed over time. “It’s helpful to look the same direction each year to take photos,” Thompson says. “Depending on the length of the stream, you might select several photo points along the stream. To gather additional information, BLM sometimes establishes a transect to measure the stream channel cross-section. When streams widen, the water becomes shallower and there are fewer pools where fi sh can hide. A widening channel is a red fl ag that there are likely problems in the riparian area. “Maintaining riparian area health means keeping the riparian area as productive as possible,” Thompson adds. “A few simple steps can help maintain a healthy functioning condition. Once a riparian area completely loses its ability to accommodate high fl ow events, it takes a lot of time, money and effort to restore it.” APRIL / MAY 2016 I WORKING RANCH I 35


Working Ranch April/May 2016
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