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Riparian areas are lands adjacent to creeks, streams and rivers where vegetation is strongly influenced by the presence of water. According to the Wyoming Riparian Association, riparian habitats comprise less than 4 percent of Wyoming’s land area and provide habitat for over 80 percent of all vertebrate species in the state.Riparian systems also provide fish habitat in the form of overhanging vegetation and undercut stream banks.Cooler water temperatures and high quality water also benefit fish populations.
Improper livestock grazing of these highly productive areas can be detrimental. Degraded riparian areas have little vegetation to protect and stabilize stream banks. This ultimately lowers water tables and the saturation zone, thus reducing summer stream flows. Wildlife and fish are greatly reduced, as well as the amount and quality of livestock forage. Other activities also affect riparian areas, such as straightening or diverting sections of the stream channel, operating vehicles or heavy equipment in riparian areas, cultivating to the edge of streams or rivers, removing beaver and allowing over populations of big game animals.