[Riparian Management Area Guidebook Table of Contents]


This guidebook is provided to help managers, planners, and field staff comply with the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act and to set and achieve the management objectives for riparian management areas (RMA) specified in operational plans. It provides guidance on planning and conducting operations within the RMA and fisheries- and marine-sensitive zones. It should be used in conjunction with other guidebooks such as those developed for forest development plans, biodiversity, managing identified wildlife, and range use.

Riparian areas occur next to the banks of streams, lakes, and wetlands and include both the area dominated by continuous high moisture content and the adjacent upland vegetation that exerts an influence on it. Riparian ecosystems contain many of the highest value non-timber resources in the natural forest. Streamside vegetation protects water quality and provides a "green zone" of vegetation that stabilizes streambanks, regulates stream temperatures, and provides a continual source of woody debris to the stream channel. The majority of fish food organisms come from overhanging vegetation and bordering trees while leaves and twigs that fall into streams are the primary nutrient source that drives aquatic ecosystems. Riparian areas frequently contain the highest number of plant and animals species found in forests, and provide critical habitats, home ranges, and travel corridors for wildlife. Biologically diverse, these areas maintain ecological linkages throughout the forest landscape, connecting hillsides to streams and upper headwaters to lower valley bottoms. There are no other landscape features within the natural forest that provide the natural linkages of riparian areas.

The RMA consists of a riparian management zone and, where required by regulation, a reserve zone (Figure 1). Within the management zone constraints to forest practices are applied. The width of these zones is determined by attributes of streams, wetlands or lakes, and adjacent terrestrial ecosystems. Inventory information as well as clarification of these guidelines may be obtained from the appropriate resource agencies.

Lakeshore management areas and wildlife habitat areas will frequently be associated with riparian management areas. In that situation, the guidebook that affords the greatest protection should be considered the authoritative document.

While marine-sensitive zones and fisheries-sensitive zones do not require classification they should be identified in operational plans. This document provides guidance on management strategies adjacent to these features.

This document applies to the entire province. Cases where a guideline is specific to either the coast or interior of British Columbia have been indicated.

RMA objectives

The identification, riparian classification, and mapping of streams, wetlands, and lakes and the description of appropriate practices is the responsibility of the proponent of the operational plan. This guidebook describes and refers to standard approaches and methodologies that can aid in developing prescriptions for riparian areas. In the absence of government approved permits and plans, the approaches and guidelines described here will be used by government to assess riparian classification, management, and mapping.

Riparian management area objectives are implemented:

To achieve riparian management area objectives, forest practices within the management zone should:

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