Riparian habitats are those plant communities supporting woody vegetation found along rivers, creeks and streams. Riparian habitat can range from dense thickets of shrubs to a closed canopy of large mature trees covered by vines. Riparian habitat provides riverbank protection, erosion control and improved water quality, as well as numerous recreational and aesthetic values.
Riparian systems are one of our most important and most neglected renewable natural resources. These systems also supply food, cover and water for a diversity of animals and serve as migration routes and stopping points between habitats. Riparian vegetation stabilizes streambanks and resists the flow of floodwaters, while increasing the time available for water to infiltrate into the soil recharging groundwater and alluvial aquifers.
Riparian habitat provides important food, nesting habitat, cover, and migration corridors. Over 135 species of California birds such as the willow flycatcher, yellow-billed cuckoo and red-shouldered hawk completely depend upon riparian habitats or may use them preferentially at a particular stage of their life history.
The California Riparian Habitat Conservation Program (CRHCP) was created within the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) by legislation in 1991. The Program’s basic mission is to develop coordinated conservation efforts aimed at protecting and restoring California's riparian ecosystems.
The goal of the CRHCP, as noted in its enabling legislation, is to protect, preserve, and restore riparian habitats throughout California. Typical riparian projects include, but are not limited to:
- Restoration of riparian vegetation and re-establishing floodplain connectivity.
- Removal and control of non-native invasive plant species to restore (actively or passively) native riparian vegetation.
- Installation of fencing along the riparian corridor to manage livestock or wildlife and reduce impacts to streams or riparian vegetation.
- Reconfigure degraded, incised, or undefined streams to restore natural hydrology and encourage reestablishment of native riparian habitat.
Grantee or landowner must maintain protected and restored habitat in perpetuity for conservation easements, and typically for 25 years for all other implementation projects. A long-term management plan is a requirement of any funded project.
Grantee must complete environmental review for their project as required by state and federal laws and obtain all required environmental permits.
A contribution of either cash or in-kind services is recommended for all projects; partnerships are strongly encouraged.