The information contained in these web pages has not been
verified for correctness. Some of the information contained herein is hearsay and may not
be correct. Use the information from these pages only at your own risk!
Quality management of land near the stream is critical to protect water quality and
habitat for beneficial wildlife. Inadequate near-stream management has reduced salmon and
trout populations, increased the costs of domestic water treatment, increased livestock
diseases, increased sediment in irrigation, increased algae growth, and reduced downstream
scenic and recreational values. Appropriate near-stream management benefits water quality
by reductions in water temperatures, erosion, sediment, and bacteria in streams.
Land near streams should be managed wisely to avoid two primary problems; lack of
ground cover and lack of shade. Without ground cover, runoff carries soil, bacteria,
pesticides, and fertilizer into the stream. Without shade, stream water gets warmer. Warm
water can not hold enough dissolved oxygen for salmon or trout. Warm water promotes growth
of bacteria and algae.
Benefits of Effective Near Stream Management:
- Keep soil, sediment, chemicals, heat, manure, and other pollutants from entering a
- Prevent degradation of land by excessive erosion.
- Allow more productive use of fertilizer and pesticides.
- Improve land appearance.
- Improve habitat for desirable trout, salmon, songbirds, and other wildlife.
- Protect water quality for all users.
- Increase forage production.
- Conduct no activities within 35 feet of the normal stream waterline which may result in
soil, manure, or other solids entering a stream.
- Establish grass or another appropriate vegetative buffer at least 35 feet wide bordering
streams. Maintain the vegetative cover to provide thick ground cover, soil stabilization,
and to filter runoff. Plant shrubs and trees to shade the stream to keep it cool for
fish, and to reduce algae growth.
- Avoid using this area for construction, barnyards, feedlots, or other uses which may
cause soil, waste, or chemicals to be washed as runoff into a stream.
Establish a vegetated buffer at least 35 feet wide beside streams to reduce erosion and
- Plants - Surface or shallow ground water can carry
fertilizer, bacteria, soil, manure, or pesticides toward the stream. A thick grass ground
cover can slow this movement, capture some problem materials, and protect water quality.
Wider buffer strips will increase filtering benefits. Shrubs and small trees have long,
strong roots which stabilize streambanks, reduce erosion from the stream current, and
capture more nutrients. Shrubs and trees planted in the buffer area can shade the stream
keeping water temperatures cooler. This helps trout and salmon and reduces bacteria and
algae. Trees and shrubs also provide habitat for desired birds which eat insect pests.
- Pasture - The basic guidelines are that pastures
near streams should be managed to keep the grass at least 3 inches high. Livestock grazing
should be monitored and animals moved to another location before the grass gets lower.
Rest the pasture until forage regrows to 6 - 8 inches. Providing off-stream watering with
troughs, piped water, or animal powered "nose pumps" will help keep animals from
abusing the near-stream area with overgrazing, manure, or by trampling vegetation and
compacting soil. Proper water placement can promote more uniform pasture utilization and
increased forage production.
- Fertilizer - On all fields and pastures, care must
be taken with fertilizer or manure applications to protect both stream and well water
quality. Apply materials at rates and times to benefit plant growth while protecting water
quality. Application rates should be determined by soil tests and nutrient analysis of the
fertilizer or manure. No fertilizer or manure should be used within 25 or more feet
of streams, drainage ditches, or tile inlets, regardless of soil tests, except for initial
- Animals - Livestock holding areas should be kept
as far from streams as possible, with a dense plant cover maintained near the stream.
Areas near streams should not be used for paddocks, feedlots, or stalls.
What can be done?
- Establish a buffer strip at least 35 ft. wide from the streams water line. Use a thick
cover crop of grass to control erosion and filter runoff. Good pasture grasses for
streambanks include orchardgrass, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue. Native grasses
adapted to our area include Arlington and Elkton. These are recommended varieties of
native blue wildrye which have recently become available in many northwest seed stores.
Where no livestock will use the area, wild lily of the valley, sword fern, or small
fruited bulrush are good native species ground covers.
- Shrubs have strong root systems, give more protection from streambank erosion, provide
shade to the stream, and their roots capture fertilizers and other pollutants. For
planting near streams, good native small shrubs include Salmonberry, Nootka Rose,
Twinberry, Douglas Spirea, Salal, Snowberry, Kinnikinnik, or Oregon Grape.
- Shrubs growing over 10 feet tall provide more shade and have stronger root systems for
more erosion control and nutrient capture. Taller native shrubs include: Red Osier
Dogwood, Indian Plum, Pacific Ninebark, Oceanspray, Elderberry, Vine Maple, Western
Crabapple, Sitka and Pacific Willow, and Cascara.
- Avoid planting large trees near streams where future erosion may cause them to fall and
tear out the streambank. Good trees that generally stay under 60 feet, grow well in damp
soils, and which have strong root systems include Oregon Ash, Quaking Aspen, and Western
- If the near-stream area is used for pasture, manage grazing so grass is never less than
three inches high to control erosion, and filter runoff. This may require streambank
fencing. Keep livestock off all pastures while they are water saturated. This forage is
often poor quality. Grazing on saturated ground compacts soil, reducing both water
filtering capacity and forage production.
- Provide off-stream watering for livestock using "nose-pumps", troughs, or
- Protect wetlands and streams through careful waste and nutrient management. Match
application of fertilizers or manures to plant needs determined by soil testing. Do not
apply these materials near streams, or elsewhere when runoff may carry them to the
- Follow labeled safety guidelines carefully when using pesticides. Pesticides in
streams kill insects fish use for food, and accumulate in fish tissue to kill fish later.
Bats and birds can eat over 600 insects per hour. Installing bird and/or bat houses can
help reduce insect problems. Plans and guides for building bird or bat houses are
available from Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife in Clackamas at (503) 657-2000 Ext.
221, the Audubon Society, or commercial bird supply stores.
- Communicating for Agriculture is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the needs of
America's farmers and ranchers. They can be contacted at: http://www.cainc.org
This page was last updated on
November 15, 2002