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Riparian Management Strategy


What is it?

A Riparian Management Strategy provides a long term vision for the future of riparian area protection, restoration, and management by a municipality. Riparian Management Strategies identify the key goals and objectives on which implementation measures will be based. A Riparian Management Strategy outlines the importance and value of riparian areas, and directs the alignment of policies regarding riparian areas across sectors and across the region. Ultimately, a Riparian Management Strategy directs the development of priorities, programs, actions, and regulations needed to implement the strategy’s vision.

How can municipalities use it?

Through developing a Riparian Management Strategy, a municipality can set targets and guide actions that conserve riparian areas. A Riparian Management Strategy can provide the framework needed to guide implementation of both higher and lower order plans and policies such as Municipal Development Plans, Area Structure Plans, Land Use Bylaws, and riparian protection bylaws. These plans in turn can guide the taking of environmental reserve that include important riparian areas. Further, Riparian Management Strategies can align with and strengthen other strategies that impact riparian areas, such as stormwater management strategies.

What are the advantages?

The advantages of a Riparian Management Strategy include:

  • Strengthens the municipality’s commitment to maintaining functioning riparian areas through setting of specific goals

  • Can efficiently communicate riparian area values to community members and municipal staff

  • Provides the framework that guides municipal staff during implementation of policies, bylaws, and action plans

What should you watch out for?

No tool is a silver bullet. When developing a Riparian Management Strategy, a municipality should consider:

  • A municipality’s riparian planning must align with the applicable regional plan in order to ensure strategic goals are met at the watershed level

  • A number of provincial and federal legislation and policies applicable to riparian areas must be aligned with (Water Act, Alberta Land Stewardship Act, Public Lands Act, and the federal Fisheries Act)

  • Strategies such as this do not guarantee implementation of actions

How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?

Riparian areas are an important asset of the natural infrastructure system, which provide important functions and benefits when well maintained. However, riparian areas are vulnerable to impacts from some land use practices. As such, a municipality needs to create strategies to manage land use and reduce the impact to riparian areas, as well as to restore riparian areas that have been degraded or destroyed. A Riparian Management Strategy provides the necessary framework to carry out successful policies to accomplish these goals while aligning with other municipal, regional, and provincial requirements.


Stepping Back from the Water – A handbook for the best practices used to minimize impacts and risks associated with development near water bodies in Alberta.

City of Calgary Riparian Strategy: Sustaining Healthy Rivers and Communities – Calgary’s 2013 Riparian Strategy outlined a high level framework with a vision, principles, and strategies for protecting our river areas. This has been followed up with a more detailed action plan, called the Riparian Action Program.

A wetlands and riparian areas conservation and management plan for Cochrane Alberta - The Town of Cochrane Strategic Plan states that the Town will investigate, monitor and implement environmental standards / codes of practice for wetland and watershed management. The document has been expanded to include riparian areas and is not restricted only to wetland enhancement but to all aspects of wetland and riparian area conservation and management.

Protecting Riparian Areas: Creative Approaches to Subdivision Development in the Bow River Basin. A Guide for Municipalities, Developers and Landowners – Designed to assist municipalities and those thinking of developing rural land in the Bow River Basins, this document includes an overview of watershed and riparian issues, benefits and challenges is presented, along with tools and techniques that can be used for landscape conservation planning and protection of riparian areas.

Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, Surrey, BC – developed in 2014, this strategy aims to preserve biodiversity in the City of Surrey, recognizing biodiversity as a key foundation of a health, livable and sustainable community. This document includes recommendations for management of riparian habitats.

Did we miss something?

If you know of a resource that should be on this list - or your municipality has a sample or case that should be here, please let us know!

Thanks for helping us out!

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