Protecting Riparian Areas With Vegetated Buffers

Zoning Practice — September 2016

By Suzanne Rhees, AICP


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Lakes, streams, rivers, and wetlands are not uniform in character; they differ in function, water quality, and activities they support. However, there is no question that all water bodies can benefit from a border of natural vegetation along their shorelines, known as a riparian or shoreland buffer. Many states and local jurisdictions require or encourage such buffers along watercourses and waterbodies to improve water quality and provide habitat.

This issue of Zoning Practice reviews a selection of state programs, model codes, and local ordinances in an attempt to identify effective regulatory approaches to protecting riparian areas with vegetated buffers. While it primarily focuses on the more comprehensive statewide programs and the local ordinances that fall within their purview, it also highlights a number of innovative ordinances that local governments have adopted on their own.


Page Count
Date Published
Sept. 1, 2016
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American Planning Association

About the Author

Suzanne Rhees, AICP
Suzanne Sutro Rhees, AICP, has worked across many facets of the planning field for over 30 years.  With a Master's in Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, she has worked in the public and private sectors as a project manager, lead planner, writer and editor, with a focus on urban design traditional neighborhood zoning. In her current position as Special Projects Coordinator for the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, she works to develop and launch programs and initiatives that support climate mitigation, landscape resilience, and soil health. She's especially excited about her work with many partners advancing peatland restoration as a natural climate solution.